The 7 Best Dish Soaps for Getting All Your Kitchenware Clean
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.
- Best Overall Dish Soap: Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid
- Best Natural Dish Soap: Seventh Generation Free and Clear Dish Liquid
- Best Solid Dish Soap: rE: Dish Washing Soap Bar
- Best Dish Soap for Grease: Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray
- Best Gentle Dish Soap: ECOS Free and Clear Hypoallergenic Dish Soap
- Best Scented Dish Soap: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Scent Liquid Dish Soap
- Best Dish Soap for Babies: Dapple Fragrance-Free Baby Bottle & Dish Liquid
Our Top Picks
Best Overall Dish Soap: Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid
Best Natural Dish Soap: Seventh Generation Free and Clear Dish Liquid
Best Solid Dish Soap: rE: Dish Washing Soap Bar
Best Dish Soap for Grease: Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray
Best Gentle Dish Soap: ECOS Free and Clear Hypoallergenic Dish Soap
Best Scented Dish Soap: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Scent Liquid Dish Soap
Best Dish Soap for Babies: Dapple Fragrance-Free Baby Bottle & Dish Liquid
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
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.
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."
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.
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.