Giant Food Inc. recalled 10,000 boxes of its private label dishwasher detergent yesterday, saying that the product left glassware streaked and caused excessive suds that sometimes resulted in machine overflow.

Officials of the chain, which operates 121 supermarkets in the Washington metropolitian area, promised a full refund to customers who bring back Giant Automatic Dishwasher Detergent in the 35-ounce, 50-ounce and 65-ounce size boxes. The 20-ounce box is not included in the recall.

We will give a complete refund for opened or unopened boxes purchased between Feb. 21 and April 15," said Barry Scher, a Giant representative.

Customer complaints prompted Giant to halt sales Wednesday and notify Purex, which manufactured the detergent for Giant.

Purex vice president Fred Thatcher said the problem occurred because his company received a mixture of a detergent base that actually contained low-foam and zero-foam ingredients, rather than the usual zero-foam base. BASF Wyandotle Corp. of Parsippany, N.J., manufactures the base.

"It looked like zero-foam," Thatcher said. "It smelled like zero-foam. But it wasn't zero-foam."

Wyandotte representatives confirmed the mix-up, but couldn't explain how it occurred. "We are investigating," said R.G. Thoma, a Wyandotte spokesman. o

Officials said that the mixup does not pose any health hazard. "There is no danger of toxicity or anything like that," they said.

Purex manufactured about 120,000 boxes of detergent with the wrong detergent foam before the error was discovered, company representatives said. They said that all of the detergent packaged was packaged for private label sales.

In the Washington metropolitan area, the detergent was sold only under the Giant brand name.

Most of the consumer complaints about the detergent originated in the Washington area. "We are processing 23 complaints; 18 of them are from Giant customers," said Don Miller, a Purex official.

He said the customers lodged complaints after their dishwasher overflowed and repairman were summoned. "They thought something was wrong with their machines, but the repairmen told them it was the detergent rather than the machine," said Miller.