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Cascade vs. Finish: Which Dishwasher Detergent Is Better?

Cascade and Finish are two award-winning dishwasher detergents that come in various forms and scents.

But which is better?

In this comparison of Cascade vs. Finish, you’ll learn how their dishwasher detergents stack up in terms of options, effectiveness, ingredients, price, and more.

Plus, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about both brands.

By the end, you’ll have the facts to decide which detergent is better for your dishwasher.


Use the link below to navigate the article:


Product Offerings

While Cascade and Finish offer products for dishwashers exclusively, including detergents and boosters, they have slightly different offerings.

Cascade provides more versatility in its dishwasher detergent choices. Finish products focus more on dishwasher maintenance and water treatment.

Cascade Products 

Cascade has four core products: ActionPacs, additives, gel detergents, and powder detergents.

Their products come in the following scents: fresh (original scent), lemon, and citrus breeze. In addition, Cascade offers a Free & Clear formulation that’s free of phosphates, bleach, and dyes (one version is also fragrance-free).

Cascade ActionPacs

These compact, water-soluble detergent pacs are designed to dissolve and release their cleaning power during the cycle. They’re a convenient alternative to gel and powder detergents.

Cascade Complete ActionPacs
Cascade Complete ActionPacs

Here is a list of ActionPacs products:

  • Cascade Platinum ActionPacs – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Platinum ActionPacs – Lemon Scent
  • Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + OXI
  • Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner Action
  • Cascade Complete ActionPacs – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Complete ActionPacs – Lemon Scent
  • Cascade Original ActionPacs – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Original ActionPacs- Lemon Scent
  • Cascade Free & Clear ActionPacs – Lemon Scent

What’s the difference between Cascade Complete and Platinum? I explain in detail in this comparison, but the short answer is that Platinum is a stronger, more effective (and more expensive) formula.

Cascade Additives

These products are designed to ensure clean rinse cycles or keep your dishwasher clean by eliminating limescale, grease, debris, and odors.

Products include:

  • Cascade Power Dry (liquid)
  • Cascade Dishwasher Cleaner (gel pac)

Cascade Gel Detergents

These thick, liquid formulas are designed to scour and cleanse dishes. They’re the best option if you prefer liquid to ActionPacs or powder.

Cascade gel detergents, like the ActionPacs, have multiple options depending on your preferences for cleaning performance and scent.

You may choose from:

  • Cascade Complete Gel + OXI – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Complete Gel – Citrus Breeze Scent
  • Cascade Complete Gel – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Original Gel – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Original Gel – Lemon Scent
  • Cascade Original Gel + OXI – Fresh Scent
  • Cascade Free & Clear Gel – Lemon Scent
  • Cascade Free & Clear Gel – Unscented

Cascade Powder Detergents

Finally, Cascade makes dishwasher detergent granules designed to scrub and clean dishes. The powder detergent is the original offering from Cascade, which was patented in 1987 by Dennis Weatherby while working for Procter & Gamble.

Cascade powder detergent
Cascade powder detergent

While Cascade Complete with Dawn in Fresh Scent is the easiest to find, there is limited availability of the same formulation in Lemon Scent and Citrus Breeze Scent on Amazon.

To learn more, check out Cascade’s complete lineup on CascasdeClean.com or Amazon.

Finish Products

Finish was created in 1953 by the United States-based Economics Laboratory (now called Ecolab), but now it’s owned by the consumer goods company Reckitt.

Finish comes in three scents: fresh (original), lemon, and orange, and has four core products in its lineup: detergents, rinse aids, dishwasher cleaner, and booster agents.

Finish pods are filled with either liquid, liquid with a detergent tablet, or a combination of gel, liquid, and powder detergent. Cascade only offers a combination liquid/powder detergent pod.

Finish Detergents

With Finish, you have a choice of dishwasher pods, pod/tablet combinations, gel detergent, and dishwasher powder.

Finish detergent tabs
Finish detergent tabs

Products include:

  • Finish Powerball Quantum Detergent Pacs – Fresh Scent
  • Finish Powerball Max In 1 Detergent Pac/Tablets – Fresh Scent
  • Finish Powerball Deep Clean Detergent Pac/Tablets – Fresh Scent
  • Finish Gelpacs – Orange Scent
  • Finish Gel Detergent – Lemon Scent
  • Finish Gel Detergent – Orange Scent
  • Finish Dishwasher Powder – Lemon Scent

Finish Rinse Aids

Finish offers two rinse aids: Finish Jet-Dry Rinse Aid and Finish Jet-Dry Hard Water Rinse Aid.

Cascade versus Finish rinse aids
Finish rinse aid (left), Cascade rinse aid (right)

Rinse aids are great for boosting the results of whatever dishwasher detergent you choose. They help reduce spots (even if you have hard water) and support drying.

Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

Unlike Cascade, Finish has a liquid and tablet-style dishwasher cleaner.

Finish dishwasher cleaning products include:

  • Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Liquid
  • Finish In Wash Dishwasher Cleaner Tabs

Finish Booster Agents

Finally, Finish offers an additional product to improve the effectiveness of its detergent: Finish Detergent Booster.

The lemon-scented powder specifically removes:

  • Hard water stains
  • Spots, residue, and beverage stains (like coffee or tea)
  • Mineral buildup in your dishwasher
  • Odors

To learn more, check out all FinishDishwashing.com products or on Amazon.

Performance

Now that you understand what each brand offers, let’s get straight to the most important question: which dishwashing detergent performs better?

Although I’ve tested Cascade and Finish on at least a dozen loads, every dishwasher is different.

So, to provide a fair review, I took a look at what some trusted product testing outlets had to say about Cascade and Finish based on their testing results.

Here’s what those outlets had to say about Cascade and Finish’s cleaning power:

Good Housekeeping performed tests in its cleaning lab to determine the best dishwasher detergent products available. They used greasy stuck-on foods, allowing everything to bake in or dry for two hours before adding them to the wash cycle. Cascade Platinum ActionPacs claimed the spot as Best Overall Detergent. In fact, it is the detergent of choice in Good Housekeeping kitchens for its cleaning ability. Finish came in third as the Best Value Detergent, and Cascade Complete Gel + OXI was named the Best Dishwasher Detergent Gel.

The Spruce tested various dishwasher detergents in many forms: gel, powders, pods, and tablets. The conclusion? Cascade Complete ActionPacs are the Best Overall Detergent. But the accolades did not stop there. Cascade Original Gel was named the Best Budget Detergent, and Cascade Complete Gel earned the honor of Best Gel Detergent. Finish didn’t rank for its detergent but grabbed top honors for its dishwasher additives. Finish Jet-Dry was chosen as the Best Rinse Aid, while Finish Hard Water Booster was named Best for Hard Water.

Food Network tested liquid and pod-style dishwasher detergents in the Food Network Kitchen and chose Cascade and Finish as two of their top three picks. Finish Powerball Quantum delivered excellent results: sparkling streak- and spot-free dishes. Cascade Platinum Plus ActionPacs also cleaned dishes beautifully, although they criticized the strong scent.

After testing multiple brands, Business Insider selected Finish Quantum Max Powerball tablets as the Best Overall Detergent and Cascade Complete Powder as the Best Powder Detergent. Finish tackled baked-on food and hard water with an economical waste-free design. Cascade left dishes spot-free, performing just as well as the gel formula.

TechGearLab researched over 30 top dishwasher pods, putting them head-to-head against some of the greasiest, caked-on dishes possible. Cascade Platinum Plus ActionPacs came out on top as the Best Overall Dishwasher Pod. It expertly removed food particles and left a spot-free result with almost zero residue. Cascade Complete ActionPacs ranked seventh on the list. Finish Powerball was ranked second and named Best Bang for the Buck for its ability to remove dried-on food for a low price. The Finish Quantum Powerball was last on the list for delivering a nice clean but leaving too much residue.

Finally, Consumer Reports ran several tests on dishwasher detergents and recommended the following products: Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with Dawn, Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + OXI, Cascade Free & Clear ActionPacs, and Finish Powerball Quantum. These products ranked as excellent for cleaning ability and final results.

Ingredients

Let’s explore just how these dishwasher detergents deliver on cleaning promises. What are the ingredients that make their formulas work so well?

The ingredients work together to clean your dishes. On a molecular level, some ingredients attract and some repel. That back and forth movement, in conjunction with the functions of your dishwasher, helps get dishes clean.

If you want a deep dive on Cascade and Finish ingredients, both brands are transparent. Each product listing on their websites links to SmartLabel (Cascade SmartLabel, Finish SmartLabel), where you can view the full ingredient lists.

Cascade Gel and Pod Ingredients

Here’s what’s inside Cascade Platinum ActionPacs:

  • Trisodium dicarboxymethyl alanite: cleansing agent
  • Sodium carbonate: cleanser that optimizes PH levels
  • Sodium carbonate peroxide: oxygen bleach facilitating stain removal
  • Isotridecanol ethoxylated degreaser
  • PEG/PPG/propylheptyl ether: degreaser
  • Sodium sulfate: processing aid; optimizes PH levels
  • Copolymer of acrylic and sulphonic acids: cleansing agent; repels food from dishes
  • Polyvinyl alcohol polymer: water soluble film for ActionPac; holds cleansing formula
  • Dipropylene glycol: cleansing agent; fights grease in dishwasher
  • Water: processing aid; delivery system of soap
  • Fragrances: provide scent profile for product
  • Subtilisin: cleansing agent; dissolves food particles
  • Amylase enzyme: cleansing agent; dissolves food particles
  • Transitional metal catalyst: bleaching agent to fight stains
  • Dyes: adds color

And here are the ingredients in Cascade Original Gel:

  • Water: processing agent; delivery system of soap
  • Sodium silicate: mineral-based cleanser; removes burnt and burnt foods with care
  • Sodium carbonate: cleansing agent; optimizes PH levels
  • Sodium acrylic acid/MA copolymer: keeps food and debris from resettling on dishes
  • Sodium sulfate: processing aid; adds scent
  • Sodium hydroxide: adjusts PH levels
  • Polyacrylic acid: thickens product for a controlled pour
  • Sodium hypochlorite: bleaching agent; stain remover
  • Sodium benzoate: cleansing formula stabilizer
  • Zinc carbonate: prevents etching and clouding on glass
  • Fragrances: adds scent
  • Nitric acid: processing aid; facilitates soap strength

Finish Gel and Pod Ingredients

Here are the ingredients for Finish Gel:

  • Water: processing agent; delivery system of soap
  • Sodium silicate: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Sodium polyacrylate: prevents redeposit of food particles on dishes
  • Sodium sulfate: non-functional additive
  • Potassium hydroxide: adjusts PH levels
  • Acrylic acid homopolymer: thickens product for a precise pour
  • Sodium hypochlorite: bleaching agent
  • Phosphonobutane Tricarboxylic acid: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Zinc sulfate hexahydrate: keeps product fresh; inhibits corrosion
  • Fragrances: adds scent
  • Dyes: adds color

The following is the ingredient list for Finish Quantum Powerball:

  • Sodium bicarbonate: vehicle for formula delivery
  • Sodium carbonate: cleaning agent; binds hard water
  • Polyethylene glycol: binding agent to keep the tablet together
  • Sodium percarbonate: bleaching agent; stain remover
  • Polyacrylic acid sodium bisulfite terminated: prevents redeposit of food particles on dishes
  • TAED: bleach enhancer
  • Trisodium dicarboxymethyl alaninate: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Microcrystalline cellulose: anti-caking agent
  • Polyvinyl alcohol: water soluble film for tablet; holds cleansing formula
  • Alcohol polyglycol ether: removes dirt, stains and odors
  • Citric acid: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Tetrasodium etidronate: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Glycerin: dissolves substances
  • Sodium Silicate: cleansing agent; binds hard water
  • Protease enzyme: helps removes various protein stains
  • Amylase enzyme: helps remove starch stains
  • Magnesium stearate: processing aid to boost product efficiency
  • Zinc acetate: adds carbon atoms
  • Benzotriazole: keeps product fresh; inhibits bacterial growth
  • Tolytriazole: keeps product fresh; guards against corrosion or deterioration
  • C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated propoxylated: removes dirt, stains, and odors
  • Sodium sulfate: non-functional additive
  • Sodium hydroxide: non-functional additive
  • Fragrances: adds scent
  • Dyes: adds color

Additional Ingredient Research

If you search the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database and explore the safety of Cascade and Finish products, you’ll notice that both brands scored “C” or “D.”

That means Cascade and Finish contain chemicals that can be harmful to you and the environment. When using these products, you must follow the safety instructions carefully.

Finish detergent safety instructions
Finish detergent safety instructions

If you want to avoid the risk altogether, EWG recommends products like ECOS and Seventh Generation. Both formulas are safer, plate-based, and have an “A” score for overall personal and environmental safety.

Price

Cascade and Finish dishwasher detergents are priced similarly, but the exact cost depends on where you shop and the formulation you choose.

More complex cleaning formulas tend to cost more because they have additional ingredients. For example, Cascade Original costs less than Cascade Platinum + OXI.

When determining the best value, pay attention to the cost per fluid ounce. Or, if you’re looking at detergent pods, the cost per pod.

To see prices for Cascade vs. Finish dishwasher detergents, view the chart below:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

FAQs About Cascade and Finish

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Cascade and Finish.

How do I use Cascade or Finish gel dishwasher detergent?

First, load the dishes into the dishwasher. Next, add the desired amount of detergent to the dispenser. Wipe up any gel that spills over. Then, close the dispenser. Finally, run the faucet closest to the dishwasher to ensure cooler water is dispersed before turning on the dishwasher.

How do I use Cascade or Finish dishwasher pods?

Using dry hands, place the pod in your detergent dispenser. Next, close the dispenser. Then, run the nearest faucet for a few moments before starting the dishwasher. Doing so ensures the proper water temperature.

Does Cascade or Finish contain bleach?

Many Cascade and Finish products use bleach (sodium hypochlorite) in their formulas to fight stains. For example, Cascade Original Gel and Finish Gel both contain bleach. Some products do not contain bleach. For example, Cascade Free & Clear is bleach-free. If you’re looking for bleach-free detergent, read the ingredient labels carefully. If the ingredient list includes sodium hypochlorite, the product contains bleach. 

Is Cascade or Finish safe to use with a septic tank?

Phosphate-free dishwasher detergents are safe to use in septic tanks. All Finish and Cascade detergents are phosphate-free, and therefore, safe to use.

Is Cascade or Finish packaging recyclable?

Cascade dish detergent packaging is recyclable in most areas. It is made from either carton board with 100% recycled pulp or high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a form of plastic. Not all Finish packaging is recyclable, but the company has a goal to ensure 100% reuse or recyclable packaging in the next few years. Check the package for recycling information.

Are Cascade and Finish safe for baby bottles?

Cascade recommends Cascade Platinum ActionPacs to clean baby bottles and nipples. Finish doesn’t address this issue. When in doubt, look for non-toxic, natural, or plant-based detergents.

Do Cascade and Finish pods expire?

The effectiveness of Cascade and Finish pods can deteriorate over time. Cascade pods can last a year or more. Finish pods have a shelf life of two years.

Who makes Cascade and Finish?

Cascade is a product of Procter & Gamble. Finish is a product of Reckitt.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Cascade or Finish?

Cascade and Finish both offer excellent cleaning power, a variety of products, and have earned excellent reputations.

According to Cascade, it is the number one recommended dishwashing detergent brand in North America by select dishwasher brands.

Finish claims to be the overall market leader, and number one recommended global brand of dishwasher detergent.

So, should you buy Cascade or Finish?

The answer depends on what’s most important to you.

Let’s recap some of the similarities and differences:

  • Both brands offer gel, powder, and pod or tablet-style detergents.
  • Both brands have similar pricing.
  • Both are phosphate-free and safe for septic tanks.
  • Cascade offers more scent options, but some customers complain that the scents are too strong.
  • Both brands are recognized for their excellent cleaning ability, but Cascade won Best Overall Detergent by Good Housekeeping and The Spruce.
  • Only Cascade offers a Free & Clear detergent formulation that is scent and dye-free.
  • Finish has more options for dishwasher cleaning and additives like rinse aids.

Bottom Line — Cascade and Finish are the top two dishwasher detergent brands. And, the truth is, you really can’t go wrong with either. Since every dishwasher is slightly different, my best advice is to test both to determine which works best in your kitchen.

Check out Cascade and Finish on Amazon, where you can read more reviews and compare the current prices:

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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