The 7 Best Dish Soaps for Getting All Your Kitchenware Clean

For cutting down on grease, grime, and time spent scrubbing over the sink.

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Dawn Ultra Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray Bundle Tout
bedbathandbeyond.com

Even if you have a dishwasher in your kitchen, there are still some things that are better off hand-washed, such as sharp knives and nonstick cookware. In that case, you'll need dish soap and a little elbow grease to get the job done.

To determine the best dish soaps, we spent hours researching top-rated options, considering factors such as performance, scent, longevity, and overall value. We also consulted Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids & A Mop, as well as Brian Sansoni, senior vice president at the American Cleaning Institute, for recommendations on how to choose the best dish soap.

"Find the best option for your materials within your budget," says Cohoon. "Cleaning tons of greasy pans on a regular basis? Look for a grease-focused, more heavy duty product. Cleaning lots of baby bottles and sanitizing pacifiers? Go for a milder, gentler formula."

Our top pick, Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid, is the gold standard in dish soap for its ability to cut through tough stains using very little product, saving you time and money in the long run.

Find more of our dish soap recommendations below, and keep scrolling for answers to all your dish soap questions.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Dish Soap: Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid

Dawn Ultra Original Scent Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap
target.com

Who it's for: People who hand-wash dishes regularly and want something strong.
Who it isn't for: People who want a plant-based soap.

Dawn is a classic for a reason. Although Dawn Ultra is priced slightly higher than competitor brands, it's possibly the best value out there when it comes to dish soap, since a little goes a long way and you'll end up saving more in the long run.

If your top priority is efficiency, you'll have a hard time beating Dawn. The soap's powerful formula is actually used to clean wildlife impacted by oil spills, which is a testament to its ability to cut through serious grease and grime. In terms of at-home use, Dawn's dish soap is not relegated just to dishes, or even just to the kitchen—its grease-fighting power can tackle everything from kitchen cabinets and appliances to tire rims and tools. The fact that it's seriously affordable doesn't hurt either.

The original dishwashing liquid has a mild fragrance that's pleasant without being overpowering, although it does contain ingredients (like synthetic fragrance) that some people might want to avoid for sensitivity or environmental reasons. But if that isn't a problem for you, Dawn is the best all-around pick for its ability to cut through grease better than the competition.

Product Details:

  • Size: 19.4 to 75 ounces
  • Fragrance: Yes

RELATED: 12 Hard-Working Cleaning Products You Didn't Know You Needed—All for Under $20 at Amazon

Best Natural Dish Soap: Seventh Generation Free and Clear Dish Liquid

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap
target.com

Who it's for: People who want an eco-friendly dish soap that's both cheap and effective.
Who it isn't for: People who prefer scented dish soap.

Made with 95 percent renewable, plant-based ingredients, Seventh Generation's fragrance- and dye-free dish soap is gentle on both the planet and your skin. But none of this means it's ineffective at cutting grease and grime—this top-rated detergent can hold its own against most conventional dish soaps.

Eco-conscious consumers will be glad to know this soap meets the EPA's Safer Choice Standard, meaning it has met stringent standards for health, safety, performance, packaging, and more. Plus, Seventh Generation does not test any of their products on animals.

Product Details:

  • Size: 19 ounces
  • Fragrance: No

Best Solid Dish Soap: rE: Dish Washing Soap Bar

rE: Dish Washing Soap Bar
Amazon.com

Who it's for: People who want to cut down on single-use plastic and reduce waste.
Who it isn't for: People who don't want to spend a lot on dish soap.

If you're looking to ditch single-use plastic in the kitchen, dish washing soap bars are a great first step. These solid dish soaps are plastic-free, zero-waste alternatives to traditional dish liquids. Plus, it comes with a compostable loofah to use in place of a sponge, giving you yet another way to cut back on plastic. The formula is plant-based and free of artificial dyes and fragrances, and it suds up fast with the help of the loofah and running water to clean dirty dishes, pots, and pans.

Unfortunately, you'll have to shell out a bit more for this sustainable soap—it's by far the most expensive on our list.

Product Details:

  • Size: 5.1 ounces
  • Fragrance: Available in both scented and unscented options

RELATED: 25 Easy Ways to Ditch Single-Use Plastic in Your Kitchen

Best Dish Soap for Grease: Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray

Dawn Ultra Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray Bundle
bedbathandbeyond.com

Who it's for: People who want to cut down on time spent doing the dishes—particularly those without a dishwasher.
Who it isn't for: People who want to avoid synthetic fragrances and dyes.

Dawn's innovative dish spray is the ultimate time-saver for folks without dishwashers, or anyone who washes dishes by hand from time to time. Unlike traditional dish soap that requires water to activate, Dawn's Platinum Powerwash can be sprayed directly on the dish, no water necessary. As it sits, the soap begins to magically break up grease, residue, and debris without any assistance.

This soap is particularly useful if you're someone who likes to clean as you cook—simply place your dirty dishes in the sink, give them a thorough spray, and allow the soap to do its job as you finish up in the kitchen. Once you get back around to the dishes, just give them a quick swipe with a sponge and rinse clean.

We give Dawn Powerwash bonus points for its refill system: Once the bottle is empty, you can keep the spray nozzle and replace the soap with a refill bottle. However, like Dawn Ultra, this soap does use synthetic fragrance and dyes.

Product Details:

  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Fragrance: Yes

Best Gentle Dish Soap: ECOS Free and Clear Hypoallergenic Dish Soap

ECOS Free and Clear Hypoallergenic Dish Soap
Walmart.com

Who it's for: People with sensitive or dry skin.
Who it isn't for: People who need to cut through very heavy grease or tough stains.

This hypoallergenic soap is so gentle, it can easily double as a hand soap. Tested by dermatologists, it's pH-balanced, 100 percent vegan, and free of any dyes or fragrances. And, the grease-cutting surfactants are coconut-based and meet the EPA's Safer Choice Standard. Although it doesn't have quite the same cleaning power as, say, Dawn, ECOS's dish soap is a no-brainer for folks prone to dry, easily irritated skin.

Product Details:

  • Size: 25 ounces
  • Fragrance: No

Best Scented Dish Soap: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Scent Liquid Dish Soap

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Scent Liquid Dish Soap
Amazon.com

Who it's for: People who want a plant-derived dish soap with fragrance.
Who it isn't for: People who are sensitive to fragrance.

Mrs. Meyer's cult-favorite dish soaps not only use 97 percent plant-derived ingredients, but thanks to essential oils, they also smell amazing. The classic Basil scent is a standout because it has a fresh, herbal smell that's not overwhelming or artificial in the slightest, and it's a nice change of pace from standard lemon or lavender scents that are common in cleaning products. (Although Mrs. Meyer's also has those scents, and they're great options as well.) Bonus: All Mrs Meyer's products are cruelty-free.

Product Details:

  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Fragrance: Yes

Best Dish Soap for Babies: Dapple Fragrance-Free Baby Bottle & Dish Liquid

Dapple Fragrance-Free Baby Bottle & Dish Liquid
Walmart.com

Who it's for: People who regularly clean baby bottles, sippy cups, breast pump components, pacifiers, etc.
Who it isn't for: People who don't have babies.

Dapple's dish liquid is specifically formulated to dissolve milk and formula film on baby products such as bottles, breast pumps, and sippy cups. And, because it's intended for use on baby products, it's plant-based, fragrance-free, and dye-free. That's not to say that other dish soaps aren't safe for babies, but Dapple is made to effectively clean milk residue, and the gentle ingredients give parents peace of mind.

Of course, anyone can use this gentle dish soap, regardless of whether or not you're cleaning baby bottles. And, Dapple products are never tested on animals.

Product Details:

  • Size: 16.9 ounces
  • Fragrance: No

Final Verdict

For the best performance and value, there's no beating Dawn Ultra Original Dish Soap. It's incredibly effective at cutting grease and removing stains using as little product as possible. For a more eco-friendly option free of dyes and fragrances, Seventh Generation Free and Clear Dish Liquid is a very effective dish soap made with 95 percent plant-based ingredients.

How to Shop for Dish Soap Like a Pro

Performance

The primary job of any dish soap is to cut through grease and remove oil and any other food residue. You can achieve clean dishes with pretty much any soap out there, but with varying amounts of product and elbow grease—which is what sets the best soaps apart from the competition.

And although we all love a good sudsy lather, foam is not necessarily an indicator of the cleaning ability of a product. "More suds don't necessarily mean cleaner dishes, although it can be a rough indicator of how much soap is in the water and more soap will generally have more cleaning power," says Sansoni. Therefore, the cleanliness of your dishes is a better indicator of a soap's abilities.

What about "antibacterial" soap? According to the FDA, there isn't enough evidence to show that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps kill germs any better than regular soap and water. Although antibacterial compounds have not been banned in dish soap, we don't advise purchasing antibacterial dish soaps, since there is no significant evidence that they kill more germs.

Skin Sensitivity

Standard dish soaps contain ingredients that can be irritating to the skin, particularly if you're prone to eczema, contact dermatitis, or dryness. "The chemical compounds in conventional dish soap can irritate skin, so if you notice a chronic irritation, try switching to a gentler formula," says Cohoon. If you're someone with sensitive skin, we suggest looking for plant-based, hypoallergenic soap that's free of fragrance and dyes.

Washing with rubber gloves can also be effective at preventing skin irritation. "Cleaning gloves are a must for sensitive skin or hands that are prone to dryness," says Cohoon. "To combat any type of skin reaction or to keep hands looking fresh and manicures flawless, wear cleaning gloves whenever dealing with soapy water."

Eco-Friendliness

When your dish soap goes down the drain, standard sewage treatment helps to reduce or remove these chemicals before they're released into the ecosystem. However, the EPA has found certain ingredients in cleaning products to be harmful to aquatic life. Furthermore, synthetic surfactants, a compound found in conventional dish soap, have been found to biodegrade more slowly than plant-based surfactants. Therefore, eco-conscious consumers may choose dish soaps made with fewer synthetic ingredients.

However, words like "natural", "plant-based", and "green" are not regulated, and can mean different things for different products. When in doubt, you can always browse the EPA's list of products that meet the Safer Choice Standard, which looks at criteria such as health, safety, performance, and packaging.

Solid dish soap, or bar dish soap, is a particularly sustainable option because it's free of plastic packaging. But be careful when using solid dish soaps to clean cutting boards or dishes that come in contact with raw meats: "Using liquid soap can help reduce the possibility of cross contamination when cleaning items like cutting boards that may have been used to handle raw meats or poultry," says Cohoon.

The main trade-off with solid dish soaps and other "green" cleaners is they're not always as effective as their conventional counterparts, which is why we considered both eco-friendliness and performance when compiling our list.

Cost

A lower price doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the best deal—paying slightly more for a high-performance dish soap can reduce the amount of product you use, saving you money in the long run. However, there's no need to spend a lot to get an effective product: Our top pick, Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid, retails for just $0.19 per ounce.

Questions You Might Ask

How does dish soap work?

It goes without saying that water and oil don't mix. This is why you can rinse a greasy plate all day long, but without soap, water alone is surprisingly ineffective at getting dishes clean.

So, what exactly makes soap so effective? Soap molecules are hydrophilic on one end, meaning attracted to water, and lipophilic on the other end, meaning attracted to oils. When you're washing your dishes (or your hands) the lipophilic ends pick up grease and oils. When you rinse, the hydrophilic ends follow the water, meaning you're rinsing the soap and the attached grease and oils down the drain.

How does hard water affect dish soap's performance?

Hard water—or water that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium—doesn't get along well with soap. The minerals in hard water react with the soap and hinder its cleaning ability, meaning you'll likely need to use more soap to get your dishes clean. "You may need more soap to wash in hard water and you may need more water to wash in soft water," says Sansoni. "This is because the soap dissolves more easily in soft water." Hard water can also leave a cloudy white residue on dishes even after you've cleaned them. Fortunately, many dish soaps are formulated to tackle hard water stains, you just may end up using a little bit more.

How much dish soap should you use?

Although it's tempting to squeeze a dollop of dish soap on your sponge for each dish, you'll be wasting a lot of soap this way. For a sink full of water, use between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.

What else can dish soap be used for?

Dish soap can be used for much more than just washing dishes. You may already know that it can double as hand soap (although certain soaps may be irritating to the skin, so we'd advise a hypoallergenic soap if you plan to use it for this purpose), but you can also use dish soap and a little water to spot treat most fabrics, degrime outdoor furniture, hand-wash clothing, remove carpet stains, clean kitchen sinks, and more.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile the list, she spent hours researching dish soaps and reading customer reviewers. She also received tips from Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids & A Mop and Brian Sansoni, senior vice president at the American Cleaning Institute, on what to consider when buying dish soap.

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