Consumer reports dish soap

The Best Dish Soap

We spent nearly 60 hours between research and testing in search of the best dishwashing soap. We whittled down the list to 14 finalists and pitted them against each other to find that Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds is the best dish soap available. We found that it cut grease and baked-on foods with ease. The higher price tag is offset by the smaller amount needed to clean and its multiple household uses. For a more cost-efficient approach that’s still eco-friendly, Puracy – Natural Dish Soap is effective and scent-free.

Table of contents

  • How we selected finalists to test
  • Compare the best dish soaps
  • Important features to consider
  • How dishwashing soap works
  • How we tested
  • Best overall: Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds
  • Runner-up natural dish soap: Puracy
  • Budget pick: Ajax – Super Degreaser
  • Other finalists we tested
  • The bottom line

How we selected products to test

Dishwashing soaps come in all varieties. So, in order to determine the best regular soap and the best eco-friendly soap, we first compiled a list of all of the most commonly-purchased dish soaps by looking at ratings and reviews on Amazon, Target and Walmart. By reading a lot of reviews, we found out what people liked or disliked, such as whether it was economical or sudsy enough or efficient or how it smells. We also read the reviews on the EWG site. More on that later.

Next, we researched and learned a bit about how dishwashing soap works so that we would understand and know what to test. Fortunately, there are a variety of online articles and blog posts about how to hand-wash dishes. Did you know you should wash your glassware first?

Through all of this research, we were able to reduce a large group of dishwashing soaps down to a manageable 14. Finally, we donned our rubber gloves and went to work individually testing each one. We looked at how effective and efficient the different brands are, along with their price and appeal.

Compare the best dish soaps

Important features to consider

Cleaning ability: Any detergent is going to cut oil and grease to a degree, but we wanted to make the test more difficult by looking at how well they cut both liquid and solid oils, as well as baked on food. In warm water (110 °F) with a teaspoon of liquid, we expect that oil and grease should dissolve and leave the dish squeaky clean. The soap should also remove dried on food without a lot of scrubbing effort.

Environmentally and health friendly: As awareness grows, more consumers are looking for ways to reduce their personal impact on the environment. Detergents, like dishwashing soap, may have chemicals such as 1,4 dioxane and phosphates that are harmful to our water sources as well as our health. Consumers have also found that certain chemicals used in cleaning products are disruptive to their health, potentially causing asthma, skin reactions, reproductive issues and even cancer.

Appeals to the senses: Let’s face it — washing dishes is a chore. We might as well look for ways to make it more enjoyable. We looked at both smell and feel to provide a helpful guide. Personal taste determines whether these traits are pleasing, as some prefer a clear soap with no fragrance and others prefer something more stimulating to the senses.

Cost per use: Lastly, all things being relatively equal, it comes down to price. These days, we all want to pinch a few pennies, so why pay more if you don’t have to? We calculated the cost per use as an additional testing metric.

How dishwashing soap works

It’s fairly well known that oil (which attracts dirt) and water don’t mix. So, manufacturers use what is known as surfactants to break up non-solubles, like oil and grease. Generally, that means either sodium lauryl ethyl sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These work by solubilizing oils so that they can be rinsed away. More specifically, surfactants like SLES and SLE break up the oil into smaller drops that become water soluble.

A single soap molecule is hydrophobic on one end and hydrophilic on the other. The hydrophobic end repels water and attaches to the oil. The hydrophilic end attracts water. When soap is mixed with the oil in the water, it binds with the dirt and oil, separating it into small drops that are easily rinsed away.

We wanted to make sure we were washing dishes correctly, so we turned to howtocleanstuff.net for advice. When washing dishes, you should fill a sink with water as warm as you can tolerate, but not any hotter. Don’t add all the items to be washed as it will soil the water and could be dangerous if there are sharp items. With the dishes stacked to the side, you should wash the items that have touched your mouth first, starting with glasses.

But, don’t put your hand inside the glass as it could break. Wash in order of least soiled and rinse each item separately with hot water. If the water gets too dirty, don’t be afraid to change it. The most sanitary way to hand-wash dishes is to use the hottest water you can stand coupled with a clean, soapy sponge and then let them air dry.

Hard vs. soft water

Approximately 85% of households in the United States have what is known as “hard water.” Hard water is identified by the number of minerals in the water, specifically calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn). Having hard water can make it difficult to create soap suds and keep dish soap from doing its job. The minerals actually chemically interact with the surfactants in the soap, making it less effective.

If you aren’t sure whether you have hard or soft water, you can easily test it yourself using water test strips. Be sure to test both the hot and the cold water since hot water heaters can produce minerals that lead to harder water. The water strip tests for hardness from 0 to 1,000 ppm (parts per million). The American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the Water Quality Association has a degree of hardness standard that will help you determine if and how you should treat your water.

Washing dishes by hand may reduce allergens

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that families who wash dishes by hand are less susceptible to allergies than those who use dishwashers. There is increasing evidence that a little more exposure to germs can stimulate and benefit the immune system. This is called the “hygiene hypothesis” which speculates that the rise in childhood allergies may be the result of too little exposure to bacteria early in life.

A Swedish research team surveyed over 1,000 families in Sweden with children ages seven to eight. They found that only 23% of children whose parents used hand dishwashing had a history of asthma and eczema, compared to 38% of families who used dishwashers. Yet another good reason to continue washing dishes by hand.

Why not use a dishwashing machine?

Even with the invention of the dishwasher, people continue to wash many of their dishes by hand. Some may not own a dishwasher and others actually enjoy hand-washing. But there are actually some very sound reasons for washing dishes by hand.

According to Good Housekeeping, there are 13 kitchen items that shouldn’t ever be put in the dishwasher. The dishwasher can cause damage, not clean the item thoroughly or could harm the dishwasher itself.

The EWG grade

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to help people live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Among other things, they research consumer products and rate them on their impact to human health and the environment.

They grade commonly used consumer products from A-F. They look at the ingredients to determine any chemicals known to cause skin irritations, asthma, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity and harm to the environment. We have included these grades in our scoring.

How we tested

We gathered up our equipment for the testing. This included white ceramic plates, Scotch-Brite sponges (although we would have enjoyed the top pick in our kitchen sponge review) a thermometer for testing the water and all of the bottles of dishwashing soap. Right away, we noticed that the “feel” or consistency across all of the dish soaps was nearly the same. We originally made the hypothesis that there would be some that were thinner than others. This proved not to be true. So, we removed that from our scoring.

The senses test

We documented the color and fragrance of each dish soap. Adding color and fragrance generally means adding more chemicals. All dish soaps we tested were clear aside from Ajax (yellow), Palmolive (green) and Dawn Ultra (blue). We noticed Ajax uses what they refer to as a natural lemon fragrance, but we still aren’t sure about any added chemicals in that process as they aren’t listed.

Every consumer has their own preferences. Some prefer a soapy clean smell; others prefer a lighter touch or no scent or color at all. Therefore, we did not score these features, but instead, noted them during our testing as additional information.

Suds Test

We then filled a sink with two gallons of water at 110 °F. Next, we added a teaspoon of soap liquid and stirred it up with our hand to create bubbles. We noted the amount of foam created. Surprisingly, there was quite a difference between the different soap varieties. While this may turn out to be a personal preference, we did assign a score to each one. A score of one meant no suds, a score of three meant full sink coverage, but suds only a couple of inches deep. Meanwhile, a score of five meant dense, high suds, four inches high or more.

Dishwashing can take some time so we checked the lifespan of the suds to ensure they all lasted at least 20 minutes. Dishwashing soap suds will break down faster depending on the amount of food and grease introduced. However, no particular brand’s suds seemed to break down faster or slower than another.

Olive oil test

For our third test, we spread a tablespoon of olive oil onto a white plate and submerged it in the soapy water. We let it sit for three minutes without being scrubbed. Then we pulled it out, noting how effective (or ineffective) each soap brand was at removing the oil. Our test theory was that dishwashing soaps should bind with the oil and remove it without any need for scrubbing.

Olive oil is a fairly light oil that stays liquid at any temperature above 21 °F. So it was a bit of a surprise that any dishwashing soap would struggle to remove the olive oil. However, we found that the worst dish soaps did nothing to dissolve it, leaving it on the plate nearly the same as when it went into the water. With the best dishwashing soaps, the oil slid off as we pulled the dish out of the water and the plates came out nearly squeaky clean.

Burned-on food test

For the final test, we smeared a plate with a tablespoon of baked beans and baked it in the oven at 350 °F for 20 minutes, nearly burning the food onto the plate. Our test theory suggested that the burned-on food would require some scrubbing effort, requiring us to measure the amount of effort needed to thoroughly clean the plate.

We actually thought this would be quite the challenge, but most detergents handled it surprisingly well. After soaking for five minutes, most of the larger pieces of food came off on their own. After soaking for 10 minutes, it was quite easy to wipe the rest away. As we suspected, there were a few detergents that required a little more scrubbing with our Scotch-Brite sponge to get the plate clean. These are accounted for in the scores.

Cost per ounce

We went through each dishwashing soap and calculated the cost per ounce for the best price found at either Amazon, Target or Walmart. We found the range to be anywhere from $.05 to $.61 per ounce, so it really depends on the value of the features to the user. Be mindful that prices vary constantly and that this is just a general guide.

We found that some of these Amazon soaps require purchase through Pantry or require minimum purchases for them to even sell it to you, whereas you can get away with paying a shipping fee at Target or Walmart and buy smaller quantities at sometimes better prices.

Best overall: Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds

The EWG loves Dr. Bronner’s – Biodegradable Sal Suds and we do too. The EWG gave it the highest rating of an A grade, with no impact to human health or the environment except for minor concerns about skin irritation and asthma. It does contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), coco-betaine and picea glauca leaf oil which are the only ingredients with a C grade. It contains Siberian fir oil which gives it its nice fragrance and only a B grade. The other five ingredients are all A grades. Overall, it looks like a saint when compared to C grade products, which are often combinations of ingredients with even worse grades.

Frankly, given it’s referred to as a biodegradable soap, we had our doubts about its potency. But Dr. Bronner’s delivered in nearly every category. It handled both oil and food stains like a champ. It has a fresh pine scent, likely due to the Siberian fir needle oil and spruce leaf oil. It didn’t foam as high as some of the other dish soaps but had enough foam to convince us it could do the job.

Top Pick: Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds

A multi-purpose cleaner, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds cuts grease and stuck-on food with ease. Its uses go far beyond washing dishes, and it’s environmentally friendly too.

See Price at Amazon.com

Cleaning dirty dishes is where it really shined. In the three-minute olive oil test, the oil slid right off the plate as we pulled it out of the sink. The plate hardly needed rinsing. And, in the baked-on food test, the food completely dissolved, falling off the plate as it was pulled from the water. The only unfortunate thing we could find is that your dishes will be done before you can read all the great and entertaining information on the label.

Apparently, washing dishes is not the only thing Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds is good for. It can also be used as laundry soap, an all-purpose spray cleaner, window washing spray and a vegetable wash. Because it is biodegradable, it is also the best multi-purpose soap to take camping or backpacking. Check out Lisa Bronner’s “Sal Suds Dilutions Cheat Sheet.”

Runner-up natural dish soap: Puracy

Although Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds wins for best natural dishwashing soap, we wanted to award an honorable mention to Puracy’s natural dish soap. Like Dr. Bronner’s, Puracy also scores an A grade from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). We really liked its light and natural-smelling fragrance and there are no colors added, meaning one less thing to harm the environment or trigger sensitivities.

Runner-up Green Pick: Puracy

A good choice for the eco-conscious that’s scent-free and delivers effecting cleaning power.

See Price at Amazon.com

It was an excellent degreaser, cutting the olive oil easily. It was moderate against stuck-on food, requiring just a slight bit of scrubbing.

Puracy Natural is a good choice for those with skin or lung sensitivities. It received a great score from the EWG in those areas. It’s also one of the least harmful to the environment, scoring well in its potential for aquatic toxicity. The satisfaction you get for its human safety and its low impact on the environment is well worth the extra cost.

Budget pick: Ajax – Super Degreaser

Ajax – Super Degreaser took top honors for the cheapest dishwashing soap we tested.

Budget Pick: Ajax – Super Degreaser

Great value, but with moderate cleaning performance that requires you use more soap to get the job done.

See Price at Walmart.com

We were able to find it for $.05 per ounce. Our average cost per ounce for all the dishwashing soaps we tested was $.21 and the highest price range was Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds at $.61 per ounce.

Low cost was about the only honor we could give it, however. While it foams up nicely, it still required a bit more scrubbing to get the dishes clean, but eventually got the job done. It does have a nice yellow color and lemon scent that are quite pleasing. The scent comes from natural lemon extract, so it’s nice to know the great smell we liked is real. Reviewers on Amazon give it a 4.1 rating out of 5, so it shows many Ajax users are quite happy.

Other finalists we tested

Dawn – Platinum Power Clean

We really liked Dawn – Platinum Power Clean. True to its reputation, it was a terrific grease cutter. In case you didn’t know, Dawn dishwashing soap is what they use to clean the oil from animals impacted by oil spills. It cuts the grease without harming the skin. Since it’s that tough on crude oil, we knew it would have no trouble with food — and we were right.

J. R. Watkins

Like Dawn, we also really liked J. R. Watkins for its ability to cut through grease. Though it doesn’t make a lot of suds, it sent grease sliding off the plate and cut stuck-on food with ease. It had a pleasant fragrance and is quite cost-effective. However, it only scored a C grade with EWG as it is said to contain chemicals that may impact those with skin or respiratory allergies, as well as ingredients known to be toxic to aquatic animals.

Ecover

Ecover – Naturally Derived Liquid Dish Soap scored a B grade by EWG. It scored well with us too, likely because of the high EWG grade and its cleaning efficiency. Like Puracy, it was a terrific degreaser and did fine on stuck-on food. There are no colors added but they did add a fragrance. It is supposed to smell like pink geranium. We weren’t sure what that was but we were certain it shouldn’t smell like rubbing alcohol, which it did. We must be onto something since EWG gave it a D grade for fragrance, saying it contains a certain chemical that are known allergens.

Better Life

Better Life is another reportedly eco-friendly dish washing soap. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find our version in the EWG database, so we gave it the points from a C grade. Other versions of Better Life however received A grades. Regardless, it still scored high with us. Like both Dawn and J. R. Watkins, it tested great for cutting grease and removing stuck-on food. True to its claim to be unscented, we could not detect a hint of fragrance.

The bottom line

Washing dishes by hand is not going to be completely replaced by the machine anytime soon. So, consumers should educate themselves to make sure they find the right balance of performance, pleasure, price and impact.

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Bryan Vu, Editor

Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When it comes to washing dishes by hand, you want a detergent that gets the job done.

However, do you have to pay more to get one that cuts through grease and makes dishes sparkle?

Consumer Reports tested 14 dish detergents to find out which ones work the best.

“We looked at dishwashing liquids from big brands like Dawn, Palmolive, and Joy, and from large retailers,” Celia Kuperszmid from Consumer Reports said.

Those included Kirkland Signature from Costco and Earth Essentials from CVS.

The most expensive product tested was The Laundress dish detergent, which costs close to a $1 an ounce!

To test a dishwashing liquid’s cleaning power, Consumer Reports created quite a mess.

“If you think your dishes are dirty, well, we actually take a mixture of evaporated milk, egg yolks, sugar, and flour; smear it on glass plates; bake the stuff on; and then we try to clean it off,” Kuperszmid said.

Testers pour warm water mixed with dish detergent onto each glass and let a scrub machine go to work.

Because many of the dishwashing liquids claim to be “hard on grease,” testers checked that out too.

They dipped steel plates in lard and left them to harden, then put them in the scrubbing machine.

“All of the brands that we tested performed equally well regardless of price. So, really, the best advice from us is just go buy whatever’s on sale,” Kuperszmid said.

Among the least expensive dish detergents were Kirkland Signature from Costco and Ajax at just six cents an ounce.

Here’s a cleaning tip from Consumer Reports’ experts.

Your soapy dishwater is good only as long as you see suds.

Once the suds are gone, you’ve lost your cleaning power, so you need to start over with new water and dishwashing liquid.

RELATED LINKS

More Consumer News
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Consumer Reports

If your dishwasher has a manual-clean filter, it’s important to clean it regularly. That’s because bits of food end up in the filter, and it’s the filter that prevents food from redepositing debris on clean dishes. Here’s what else to consider.

Skip pre-rinsing. Most dishwashers sold in the past eight years or so that cost $500 or more have a sensor that checks how dirty the water is. The sensor determines the amount of water and time needed to get the dishes clean. But if you pre-rinse your dishes and the sensor detects little food, the dishwasher gives the dishes a lighter wash, which can leave bits of food on dishes and glasses. Do scrape off dishes and pots, however, before you load them in the dishwasher.

Load right. Your owner’s manual will recommend a loading method that works best for your dishwasher. In general, you want to load large items along the sides and back so they don’t block the water and detergent. Face the dirtier side of dishes toward the center of the machine, and don’t let dishes or utensils nest together. Place items with baked-on food in the bottom rack, face down toward the sprays. Rest glasses upside down on prongs so they don’t fill with water. Use the top rack for plastic and delicate items that are dishwasher-safe.

Use a rinse aid. Regardless of which dishwasher detergent you use, if it doesn’t contain a rinse aid, consider using one. Rinse aids prevent spotting and improve drying. That’s because the rinse aid breaks the bond between the water molecules and dishes, causing water to form sheets and slide off.

Dishwashing detergent currently comes in three common forms: tablets, powder and gel. But are there any differences in how they work, or even in the quality of the wash they give? Here’s a quick summary of the three.

Dishwashing tablets

These generally come in the form of small bricks of concentrated dishwashing powder, however some may be half or even completely comprised of dishwashing gel as opposed to powder. They can be placed in the dispenser but can also just be thrown into the main area of the dishwasher.

An increasingly common form of dishwasher detergent, dishwasher tablets are attractive for a number of reasons; one of the main ones being that they come in a pre-measured dosage. They’re also less likely to spill everywhere!

While dishwashing tablets can be more expensive than other forms of dishwasher detergent, they often contain not just detergent, but rinse aids and other additives that can improve the quality of the clean done by your dishwasher.

Dishwashing powder

This form of detergent is what the name implies: a powder similar to laundry powder that is poured or scooped into the dispenser in your dishwasher. It’s generally the cheapest form of dishwasher detergent but it can be messy to pour, and if you over-pour (an easy mistake) then your dishes may be left with powdery residue on them. On the other hand, under-pour (also an easy mistake), and your dishes won’t be cleaned properly.

If you have inquisitive kids or pets, loose powder in a box could also be an easier hazard for them to access.

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Dishwashing gel

Dishwashing gel is similar to the washing up liquid used to hand-wash dishes. Like powder, it is poured into the dispenser in your dishwasher. It’s generally in the middle in terms of price, costing more than powder but less than tablets.

While it presents similar problems to powder in terms of the potential to over or under-pour, due to its thickness it’s a little easier to pour and less likely to spill. While gel is more likely to dissolve than dishwashing powder, it is possible for dishwashing gel to not dissolve completely. If this happens, it can leave water spots or a thin film on your dishes.

It’s worth noting that as mentioned above, dishwashing gel can be bought in tablet form, although this will be more expensive, and the only advantage this provides is a consistent measured dose.

When picking a type of dishwasher detergent to use, it’s important to consider the prices of the different detergents, along with which one will work best with your dishwasher. You may be able to find this information online, or in the user manual/user guide for your dishwasher.

And check out the Canstar Blue dishwasher detergent customer satisfaction results here.

Why Dawn Is The Bird Cleaner Of Choice In Oil Spills

At a warehouse turned bird bathhouse in Venice, La., dozens of bottles of Dawn stand like soldiers behind a row of deep sinks. Elizabeth Shogren/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

At a warehouse turned bird bathhouse in Venice, La., dozens of bottles of Dawn stand like soldiers behind a row of deep sinks.

Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

Dawn dishwashing detergent is used to clean up just about anything covered with oil — from birds to sea turtles to human skin. But what makes Dawn so effective?

At a warehouse turned bird bathhouse in Venice, La., dozens of bottles of Dawn stand like soldiers behind a row of deep sinks. It takes three people as much as an hour to get the gooey oil off each pelican. They start by rubbing the bird with cooking oil; veterinarian Heather Nevill says that loosens the sticky petroleum. Then one of the crew sprays it with dish liquid.

“She’s scrubbing very vigorously, getting her fingertips under the feathers to really agitate the feathers in the water,” Nevill says. “It’s that action of getting the detergent into the feathers that really removes the oil.”

The bird is covered with a lot of suds.

“We’re using very heavy concentrations of Dawn because this crude oil has become very weathered, and it’s very difficult to remove,” Nevill adds.

When asked whether they have to use Dawn, Nevill replies, “Dawn definitely works the best. It very effectively removes grease but does not cause harm to the skin of the birds.”

Nevill and the rest of the workers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center sound like walking commercials for Dawn. And that’s not new.

NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling discovered this when he interviewed the group’s founder, Alice Berkner, during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

Zwerdling joked, “You’re going to get letters from Ivory and the other companies.”

“I hate to sound like an advertisement,” Berkner said, “but I won’t allow any substitutes for Dawn.”

And in the BP spill, Dawn isn’t just for birds. Even boat captains swear by it.

Kirk Prest, who ferries biologists through the oily waters, says he uses Dawn all the time.

“Just to clean my hands several times during the day,” Prest says. “It cuts the oil the best out of the different soaps. I would say most of the folks working this cleanup know that.”

Even before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Procter & Gamble was using Dawn’s oil spill credentials to sell its detergent. It also has raised $500,000 for wildlife groups.

Dawn spokeswoman Susan Baba says all the attention Dawn is receiving because of the spill helps get out the message that Dawn is a strong cleaner with a gentle touch.

“This tension between toughness and mildness has always been something that’s kind of challenging to communicate to consumers,” Baba says. “So in a communications standpoint, it’s been great.”

She says the reason Dawn is so good at cleaning birds without hurting them is that it was designed to erase grease from dishes without harming hands. The exact formula is a secret, but she says the key is balancing the surfactants — the chemicals that cut the grease.

What the company doesn’t advertise — and these days is reluctant to admit — is that the grease-cutting part of the potion is made from petroleum.

“To make the best product out there, you have to have some in there,” says Ian Tholking of Procter & Gamble. He says less than one-seventh of Dawn comes from petroleum.

“I think it’s extremely ironic,” says Martin Wolf, a chemist for Seventh Generation, which makes a dish liquid without petroleum. “Here we are trying to squeeze every last drop of oil we can out of the Earth, and it’s despoiling the Earth. And we’re using that same product that’s messing up the Earth to clean it up.”

Wolf says his company sent a truckload of oil-free detergent to the gulf, but he hasn’t heard whether anyone has used it.

Veterinarian Nevill says she knows there are greener cleaners, but she says none of them have Dawn’s magic. Asked whether she has a special connection to Dawn now, and whether she uses it at home, Nevill laughs, “You’re not supposed to ask questions like that to an eco-hippie.”

Besides, Nevill says, Procter & Gamble donates tons of the sudsy stuff, so she has a lot of it left over around the house.

Available at most large conventional supermarket chains, including Walmart, as well as Whole Foods, Amazon, and Thrive, Seventh Generation offers one of the most competitively-priced green dish soaps on the market, with a price point that’s, interestingly, right in line with leading conventional dish soap brands.

Thrive Market

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap

The hardest-working liquid dish soap is tough on dishes but soft on the planet. $3 Shop Now

Best-Smelling Dish Soap (That Also Works Like A Champ): Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

There is a real, live Mrs. Meyers behind this company (her first name is Thelma), and she’s quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t put my name on something that didn’t work hard and smell great.” We have to say she nailed it with her dish soap on both accounts. This biodegradable product cuts grease well, rinses clean, and is easy on hands. It comes in a host of enchanting fresh garden-themed scents, like lemon verbena, geranium, rosemary, honeysuckle, lavender, and radish, which is the one that I fell hard for and (not kidding!) made me want to wash the dishes.

Amazon

Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap: Radish Scent (3-Pack)

A grease-cutting soap whose crisp radish scent actually makes us look forward to doing the dishes. $22 Shop Now

How We Tested

What seemed like a daunting task at first—“Can you really discern the washing power of one dish soap from another?” I asked myself at the outset of this journey—became less complicated as the experience of using the products took hold.

The first battle I put the soaps through during my rigorous home cook evaluation was a grease test. On quarter-sized heavy rimmed baking pans, I roasted vegetables that had been tossed with olive oil. The pans were ‘naked’ (i.e., no parchment paper was used), which allowed the vegetables to caramelize nicely (read: there were lots of good crusty bits to clean up after).

After hours upon hours of roasting vegetables, I let the pans cool, then stacked them up and let them sit for a couple of days, thinking the time lag between cooking and cleaning might make for a more challenging scrub. (While the wait didn’t seem to make much of a difference, it did increase the drama of the fight.)

I lined up my contenders alongside the sink. Cleaning the pans one by one, and taking notes along the way, I rubbed a teaspoon of dish soap onto each pan with my fingers to both mix the product well with the grease and evenly distribute it across the pan. I then filled the pan with warm water (at 110ºF) and let it soak for 5 minutes. With a new SOS Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge for each pan, I scrubbed and rinsed.

From there, I used all 15 contenders regularly for a full month. As I filled my sink daily, often with multiple sink loads of greasy pots dirty dishware, I switched off soaps per load, tracking my observations in a notepad that I kept nearby.

Our sudsy contenders were used to clean up after weeknight recipes like Pan Roasted Steak with Crispy Broccoli; do due diligence on the multiple sheet pans I used to develop a granola recipe; and make quick work of stacks of plates, glassware, utensils. On a daily basis I scrubbed stuck-on milk solids from my smallest saucepan (I take warm milk in my morning coffee); clingy chia seeds from spent cereal bowls; tea stains from mugs; and oily salad dressings from our favorite serving bowl. Before too long, the winning dish soaps (and a few close runners-up) began to emerge.

Reload once? Shame on soap. Reload twice? Shame on you.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

Factors We Evaluated

1. How well does the dish soap cut grease and baked on food bits?

Undoubtedly, a quality dish soap should efficiently and easily cut through grease on pots and pans. I kept this top-of-mind as I worked through my lineup, finding many of the contenders powered through grease well, while a few were extra-powerful.

2. How quickly and cleanly does it rinse?

Not all dish soaps are created equal when it comes to residue-free rinsing (even a little residue on plates can leave a soapy taste). Dish soaps that left washed items residue-free after a warm water rinse gained points.

3. How simple is it to use and how often do you need to reload?

There are generally two styles of washing dishes by hand with dish soap. The first is the sponge method, which works like this: apply dish soap to a sponge; scrub the things you want to clean; rinse. The second is the dish tub method: squirt dish soap into a plastic tub or bowl of warm water, then agitate. Use the mixture to wash dishes, then rinse.