How to Choose a Commercial Dishwashing Detergent

Choosing the right detergent for your commercial dishwasher is important in maintaining health and safety standards, ensuring the detergent you do choose is compatible with your dishwasher and is effective in producing clean dishes. Oftentimes the dishwasher is only half the solution to clean dishes and the detergent you use is what can have a great impact on the end result of the clean. 

A good quality dishwasher detergent should be able to sanitise, clean and dry your dishes, making them readily available to be used in food service. They should also provide ease of use as detergents should be replaced quickly to avoid a backlog of dishes during the busiest times of food service. Using the wrong detergent will result in the need to rewash impacting the amount of water used and increasing labour costs as a result. 

Factors for Choosing Commercial Dishwashing Detergent

Compatibility with Dishwasher Types

Purchasing a detergent that is compatible with your dishwasher is the first step in finding the right detergent that you can use in your restaurant kitchen. If you buy one that isn’t compatible, you are wasting time, money and contributing to the overall waste created by your business. 

Cleaning Power 

While dishwashers can be powerful tools in your restaurant kitchen, the chemicals you fill it with can increase the cleaning power of your dishwasher. Purchasing the right detergent that delivers powerful cleaning agents is all the difference in reducing the amount of time you and your staff spend dishwashing.

Different kinds of foods served require different strengths of cleaning, things like egg yolk - which can be difficult to wash from plates and cutlery -  require powerful cleaning agents that can break down and remove stains, ensuring the plate is ready to be used again. 

Safety and Health Regulations

According to the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand Act 1991, there are 3 main priorities of food safety practices and general requirements for food serving businesses. These are cleanliness where food businesses must maintain a standard of cleanliness where there is food waste, garbage, dirt grease and other visible matters.

The second requirement is the cleaning and sanitising of specific equipment. This means all utensils used for eating and drinking and food contact surfaces need to be cleaned immediately after coming into contact with food. All food utensils and surfaces must be kept in a ‘clean and sanitary condition’. Sanitising in this setting is defined as the application of heat or chemicals to reduce microorganisms on surfaces or utensils. 

The final requirement made by the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards is maintenance on all fixtures, fittings and equipment that come in contact with food. 

Using the right dishwashing detergent is essential in adhering to these requirements. 

Handwashing vs Dishwashing 

There are two main ways to wash dishes in the food service industry. While handwashing is the less common of the two, it can still have its benefits, like removing stains and food that is stuck to utensils and dishware. When comparing washing dishes by hand and through a dishwasher, there are two main concerns that can help inform you which option is better for your business. Things like the effectiveness of the clean and the impact on the environment should be considered when deciding how to clean dishes and utensils for your restaurant. 

Commercial dishwashers are made to clean and sanitise through use of high temperatures and detergents. Ensuring clean and sanitised dishes is more effective when using a dishwasher as high temperatures can’t be achieved through a hand wash. Meaning that if someone is sick and using your food service equipment, handwashing will not remove microorganisms and germs, making dishwashing more effective in the overall cleaning of dishware. 

When exploring which form of dish washing is better for the environment, the main concern is water use. In a study conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany, a 144 item load for a dishwasher uses 13 litres of water whereas that same load of dirty dishes when washed by hand uses 100 litres. In remaining more sustainable, dishwashers are more effective.

Understanding Different Types of Commercial Dishwashing Detergents

Liquid Detergents

Liquid detergents are formulated to remove dirt and grime from utensils and equipment and is the most common form of detergent used in a commercial dishwasher. Liquid detergents are formulated with three considerations in mind: Heavy duty, hard/ soft water and chlorinated vs non-chlorinated. 

Heavy Duty:

Heavy duty detergents are used to clean various utensils and kitchen equipment. Heavy Duty detergents often have alkaline chemicals which are corrosives that break down the toughest of grime and grease. It’s important to consider that heavy-duty doesn’t always mean it will work on every material and may even damage soft metals. 

Hard Water and Soft Water:

Depending on where your business is located, the water may be hard or soft. The hardness or softness of the water is determined by the mineral content found within (soft water has less minerals than hard water). In the case of dishwashing, hard water can have an impact on your dishware, leaving a chalky residue that can be difficult to remove. Purchasing a dishwashing detergent that has water-softeners is necessary in Australian cities that have hard water. 

Chlorinated and Non-Chlorinated:

Chlorinated liquid detergents are often used for sanitising and bleaching stainless steel equipment and surfaces. As they have the effect of bleach on other materials, non-chlorinated detergents should be used on precious metals. 

Powder Detergents

These detergents are the most similar to tablet detergents and are mostly made up of bleach and enzymes. The bleach in the detergent combats stains while the enzyme breaks down fats and solids to clean the dishes. While dishwasher powder detergents are great at cleaning dishware, they often aren’t the best at sanitising which is required in food service. 


Dishwasher tablets are very similar to powder or dishwasher pods as they are made up of the same ingredients but compacted to fit in a conventional dishwasher. Dishwasher tablets are an all in one product being made up of dishwasher salt, rinsing agents and detergent.

Rinse Aid

Rinse aids are made up of surfactants, a chemical that reduces the surface tension of water, creating thinner droplets that slide off your dishware. This will allow your dishes to dry more quickly and without showing water spots, which is the result of hard water. Rinse aids are commonly used in commercial settings because of the drying time that it cuts out for workers and because of the results that it leaves. 


As we’ve learnt, sanitising is essential in food service to reduce cross contamination and infections. As part of the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards, sanitising is required for all food serving businesses and can be done through soaking items in very hot water or in diluted bleach, saturating items with 70% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol or by using a commercial sanitiser. This is to remove any microorganisms or germs that can infect others when using the restaurant equipment. 

Key Features to Look for in Commercial Dishwashing Detergent

It’s essential to find cleaning products that work for your business, there are a few key features you must look for when sourcing the best dishwasher detergent. 

Degreasing Properties

When sourcing the right commercial dishwashing detergent for your restaurant, you need to make sure the detergent has the right degreasing properties. Degreasers are made up of chemicals that are formulated to remove grease, stains, oils, handling soils and reduce contamination. This is essential to the cleaning performance of your dishwasher which acts as the sanitiser. 


Not all dishwashers can take the same dish liquids, especially commercial dishwashers. Commercial dishwashers need to use specific chemicals that are low sudsing and sanitising whereas a dishwasher used in residential settings doesn’t need to be held to those requirements. Before purchasing your detergent, make sure it’s compatible with your dishwasher. 


Every business needs to consider the environmental impact that their cleaning chemicals can have and so finding a detergent that supports this is essential. Phosphates are often added into dishwashing detergents to soften hard water, which can impact the cleaning performance of detergents and dishwashers. The issue is that using phosphates in large quantities can impact waterways by dissolving oxygen, which in turn kills plants, algae and fish in the water. 


One of the most important parts in deciding on what dishwashing detergent to use in your commercial kitchens is the efficiency of the product. In a busy kitchen, having a lack of clean equipment can impact the whole food running process, delaying chefs and putting pressure on the staff member in charge of washing dishes. This may mean switching to a detergent that combats the hard water in your area or adding a rinse aid to your dishwasher that speeds up the drying process. 


An average load of dishes will typically cost your business about 17 cents. Depending on how often you run your dishwasher it can cost you anywhere from $1,060.80 to $2,121.60 per year in product, electricity and water. This doesn’t include the staff member who is loading and unloading the dishes, who earns $46,000 per year and if you use a poor quality detergent will only increase labour costs. This is why investing in good quality detergents can reduce the cost or dishwashing to your business. 

Finding the best detergent and cleaning chemicals for your business that meets regulations, is sustainable, cost effective and of the highest quality can reduce labour costs, decrease your business’ environmental impact and ensure your kitchen equipment and serviceware is clean and presentable.

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