Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Chances are, you’ve spent some serious sink time staring at a window (or wall) scrubbing dishes caked in last night’s lasagna or hours-old egg yolk (yuck). Because, let’s face it, life happens and sometimes you can’t get to the dishes as quickly as you would like. In addition to a good dish scrubber, it's essential to have a powerful dish soap at hand to help degrease surfaces and get rid of caked-on foods.
We researched the best dish soaps on the market, from budget buys and skin-friendly soaps to heavy-duty soaps that can degrease the toughest stains to even dish soap bars (yes, that’s a thing!). Here are the formulas we determined are the best of the best to get your dishes super clean.
Best Overall: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Liquid Dish Soap
We consider Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear to be the hardest working dish soap you can find. Not only is this plant-based formula EPA Safer Choice certified, but it also proves that “green” can clean. The formula is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and never tested on animals, and the packaging is made from post-consumer recycled plastic—even the cap is biodegradable.
With a reasonable amount of soap, Seventh Generation can cut through grease easily and leaves behind zero residue. It’s reasonably priced and it’s easily found in most conventional supermarket chains as well as online. In our opinion, this soap is a winner across the board.
Best Budget: Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Soap
It’s easy to judge bargain products based on price, but to determine the best budget dish soap, we found that it really comes down to quality as well. Cheaper options can require up to 2.5 times more product per wash, so you wind up spending more because you use more. There’s a reason Dawn is so popular, and that’s because their products work so undeniably well.
We like Dawn Ultra because although the 38 oz. bottle might cost a dollar or two more up front than its competitors, it actually comes out to less in the long run because a little bit of product can go such a long way. Dawn Ultra prides itself on this aspect of their product and claims it cleans 3x more grease per drop, so you get more cleaning done with less soap and less elbow grease. Plus, it’s gentle on your skin, which is important if you do a lot of dish washing.
Best Natural: ECOS Dishmate Dish Soap Free & Clear
Unfortunately, the FDA does not require cleaning products to list their ingredients, which leaves most consumers in the dark on what chemicals they’re regularly exposing themselves (and their family) to. Using an environmentally-friendly alternative would sound like a good solution, but natural cleaners often have a reputation of being less effective. Well, we’re here to tell you natural products have come a long way since the days of simple water and baking soda solutions.
Ecos Dishmate Dish Soap Free & Clear cuts grimes using coconut-based surfactants, which comply with the EPA Safer Choice standards, which ensures a product is safe for our use as well as our pets, workspaces, and the environment. ECOS’ formula is also fragrance-free, vegan, and hypoallergenic. Although this concentrated formula doesn’t foam up as much as other dish soaps, it is tough on grease and grime, so dishes come out clean and clear every time.
Best Bar: Dr. Bronners Pure Castile Bar Soap
Want a little known fact (that also happens to be a game-changer)? Bar soap made with olive-oil can be used as an alternative to liquid dish soap. In fact, with the right scrub brush, bar soap can last you twice as long as liquid soap. Not only is this bar soap more economical, it’s also a nearly zero-waste product packaged in a 100 percent post-consumer recycled wrapper rather than a plastic bottle.
We love Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap because it has a rich lather that works great on dishes. While it's not as powerful against tough messes, it can get the job done during everyday use, especially for products that aren't dishwasher friendly. It’s all-natural, made with vegan ingredients and organic oils, with no dyes or synthetic fragrances, so it’s a great multi-purpose cleaner. It’s also safe for use on your face, body, and hair and leaves skin feeling soft and moisturized. It's a great option for travel and camping because it’s environmentally friendly, saves room, and serves so many uses.
Best for Grease: Dawn Platinum Power Wash Dish Spray
For heavy duty grease, we suggest Dawn Platinum Power Wash Dish Spray. Dawn claims their formula contains “micro-scrubbing enzymes” that can deliver as much cleaning power as an overnight soak in just 5 minutes, and we would definitely agree! Thanks to Dawn's powerful formula, a little goes a long way—you really can definitely get your money’s worth. What’s really different about this version compared to other dish soaps on the market is that this formula comes housed in a spray bottle. Dawn claims this “spray-activated” feature works on contact to break down and lift away dirt without water.
While we wouldn’t say the spray feature makes it that much more effective than the original formula in the squeeze bottle, we found it to be just as impressive, easy to use, and convenient to spray down big pots that needed a little extra elbow grease. Dawn Platinum does contain synthetic fragrance and dye, which can be irritants for some, but the brand does pride itself on being the only soap used by the International Bird Rescue Research Center to clean birds after oil spills, lending further proof that while it's tough on grease, it’s also gentle on the skin.
Best for Hard Water: Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena No-Rinse Cleaner
Hard water is water that’s flowed through layers of rocks and has picked up minerals like calcium and magnesium. It often leaves dishes with a white residue that makes them appear dirty even after you’ve washed them. The best soaps for hard water are those that are natural and contain water softeners to counteract the effects of hard water.
We like Mrs. Meyers No-Rinse Cleaner because this cruelty-free formula uses essential oils and is specifically formulated to tackle hard-water stains the first time around, regardless of how much grease is on the surface. Because this formula uses essential oils, it’s gentle on hands and leaves them feeling soft and moisturized.
Best for Hands: Palmolive Soft Touch Concentrated Dish Washing Liquid
Typically, dish soap is harsher than hand soap. If you’ve ever washed a sink full of dishes at once, then you’ve probably experienced dry, irritated, or even chapped skin. Palmolive’s Soft Touch Concentrated Dish Washing Liquid is a great alternative for those with sensitive skin.
The brand is already known for its hand soaps, so it’s no surprise they infuse their soaps with moisturizing ingredients like coconut butter and aloe so hands stay soft, even when you've got a lot of dishes to tackle. Palmolive’s Soft Touch soap may be gentle on hands but that’s not to say it’s ineffective on grease. This formula leaves dishes impressively clean without any need for a round two of washing. This rich lather fights grime just as well as many other options so you don’t have to risk dry skin for clean dishes.
Best Multipurpose: Dr. Bronners Pure Castile Liquid Soap
When a single product boasts 18 uses, we are usually skeptical. However, Dr. Bronners Pure Castile Liquid Soap lives up to its claim and then some. From household cleaning to dish scrubbing to bath soap and shampoo, this soap is something to stock up on. It’s fair trade and made with organic ingredients. It also comes in 11 different scents, which is nice if you have strong scent preferences.
The real secret to this soap being excellent for multipurpose is that you can customize the dilution depending on what you need to clean. This not only makes for a better cleaning solution, but it also makes the product last longer. Dr. Bronner's liquid soap comes in a variety of sizes and bottles—we prefer the squirt bottle for keeping on the counter for dishes and the larger bottles for storing and refilling when needed.
For the best dish soap on the market, look for Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap (available at Amazon), which is plant-based and eco-friendly. If you're looking to spend a little less, Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid (available at Walmart) will get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to cleaning power compared to other budget options.
What to Look for in Dish Soap
There are dish soaps at several different price points on the market. Consider how much dish soap you’ll need each month (the more you hand-wash dishes, the more soap you’ll need) and determine a budget for your dish soap. Whittle down the plethora of dish soap products and only consider products in your price range. Then, you can determine the best soap for you a little easier.
Dish soap formulas vary widely. Some are eco-friendly and contain natural ingredients, while others are chock full of powerful ingredients designed to degrease as best as possible. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to shy away from products with harsh chemicals or strong scents that could irritate your skin. But if cleaning power is more your priority, bring on the abrasives.
Some dish soaps are formulated to kill microbes, while others are focused on leaving your dishes bright and white. Whatever your priority is when washing dishes, there’s a product out there for you. Look at each product’s packaging and reviews to see what its strengths and weaknesses are before buying it.
How much dish soap should you use?
What is dish soap made of?
The main ingredient in most dish soap products is water, and the main active ingredient is some form of detergent. Dishwashing soaps are typically mixtures of surfactants with low skin irritation. Sodium lauryl sulfate is an example of a commonly used surfactant with cleaning power.
How does dish soap work?
When activated with warm water and agitation with your dish brush, the molecules in dish soap lift dirt, bacteria, and grease off of dishes. Scrubbing and subsequent rinsing of the dish soap completely removes the debris and leaves dishes clean.
What else can dish soap be used for?
Why Trust The Spruce?
Additional research for this article comes from Lauren Murphy, who is a long-time writer and editor who specializes in DIYs, home upgrades, and other home-related topics. She has contributed to The Spruce and The Spruce Pets for several years.