Cooking tends to lose its joy when the outcome is a sink full of dirty dishes. No matter how amazing or satisfied a prepared meal may be, cleaning almost makes the entire process not worth the final headache.
We really do have so much to be grateful for when it comes to dishwashers (arguably one of the world’s best kitchen appliances), but for many households, these heavy-duty machines are a luxury. And for all households, there are just certain types of plateware and glassware that require hand-washing and dish soap.
But before you dramatically toss your dishes out of an open window and commit to a life of paper cups and plates, consider your choice of dish-cleaning products. If you’re not purchasing the right dish soap, chances are you’re dealing with a foul-smelling, no-sud formula that leaves your hands feeling rough and your dishes scummy. All of that changes today.
We’ve rounded up seven of the best dish soaps on the market, accommodating specific consumer needs like being budget-friendly, eco-conscious, and hypoallergenic. All of our picks have also been put to the ultimate clean test, so the result is grime-free bliss without the residue and water marks. Check out our favorites below.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap
- Best Value: Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap
- Best Scent: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Dishwashing Liquid, Rosemary
- Best Splurge: Caldrea Biodegradable Dish Soap, Ginger Pomelo
- Best Eco-Friendly: Dapple Baby Bottle & Dish Soap
- Best for Hands: Williams Sonoma Dish Soap, Fleur de Sel
- Best Powder: Blueland Dish Soap Starter Set
Best Overall: Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap
Size: 25 oz. | Scent: Unscented
Why we chose it: Affordable, hypoallergenic, environmentally-friendly, and effective, Seventh Generation checks all the boxes of a quality dish soap.
This dish soap more than delivers in providing clean and sanitized dishes while saving you money, effort, and, most importantly, time. The formula suds exceptionally well and there is no layer of film or water marks present once everything dries, making it particularly great for stemware. Its hypoallergenic blend of ingredients is also great for sensitive skin, making this the best overall option for any home kitchen.
- Fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formula made for sensitive skin
- Leaves behind zero grime, spots, or streaks
- Suds very easily
- Inconsistencies in product quality
Best Value: Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap
Size: 19.4 oz. | Scent: Original
Why we chose it: There is a reason they use this soap to clean animals affected by oil spills—it’s safe, gentle, and gets the job done.
Dawn is, perhaps, the most familiar option on this list, and for good reason. The best-selling brand has nearly 50 years of perfecting a dishwashing liquid that never fails to degrease your favorite plates, silverware, and glasses, but performs exceptionally well at scrubbing hard-to-clean pots and pans. Most online retailers also offer the bottles in bundles so you can save money and never find yourself without extra stock on hand. Be mindful of Dawn’s “original” scent, though—it can be quite polarizing with its artificiality.
- Extremely affordable
- Formulated so you have to scrub less
- Concentrated to work extra well on grease
- Contains notoriously hand-drying ingredients like sulfates and alcohol
- Strongly scented
Size: 16 oz. | Scent: Rosemary
Why we chose it: One whiff of any Mrs. Meyer's dishwashing liquid will have you questioning why you ever chose to scrub food away with anything else.
It’s no surprise why American-made Mrs. Meyer's has dominated the cleaning product industry—the brand’s wide array of products with quirky-meets-sophisticated scents make scrubbing, sanitizing, and washing a (dare we say it) enjoyable experience. This Rosemary Dishwashing Liquid is one of its stars, boasting a fantastic scent that actually blends with (and not overpowers) the aromas of your cooking. Use it as a countertop cleaner with a sponge and a splash of water to keep your kitchen space smelling herbaceous and fresh.
- Contains plant-derived ingredients
- Full of essential oils
- Smells amazing and made in the USA
- Small size for the price
- Not as powerful as other brands
Best Splurge: Caldrea Biodegradable Dish Soap, Ginger Pomelo
Size: 16 oz, | Scent: Ginger Pomelo
Why we chose it: Caldrea sources the finest essential oils to create a luxe dishwashing experience.
A lot of customers will think the price tag is outrageous, but hear us out when we say that washing with Caldrea’s line of dish soaps can be more affordable than you think. When put to the test, their formula actually lasted much longer than most brands, which means a little goes a long way. It’s still expensive, though, and it’s likely that you’ll use more than you need. We recommend saving it for more fragile items like fine china since its essential oil base doesn’t overpower and is safe to use on nearly all surfaces.
- A little goes a long way
- Strong, but not perfume-y aroma
- Is part of an entire line of products
- Extremely expensive
- Not as powerful as mainstream brands
Best Eco-Friendly: Dapple Baby Bottle & Dish Soap
Size: 16.9 oz. | Scent: Unscented
Why we chose it: A plant-based, hypoallergenic, environmentally-friendly formula that is tough on grime.
Dapple’s Baby Bottle & Dish Soap would also take home top honors in the Best for Skin Sensitivity category, as it has been formulated and approved by dermatologists and pediatricians to cater to those with sensitive skin and/or allergies. But its unscented, plant-based liquid with zero harsh chemicals and accolades like the Clean Label Project Purity Award make it the most eco-friendly. This is also an excellent option for cutting boards where no lingering soap smell or taste will cling to the foods that you’re chopping and dicing.
- Baby-friendly and pediatrician-approved
- Winner of the Clean Label Project Purity Award
- Zero harsh chemicals
- Inconsistency with product quality
- Won’t eliminate pre-existing stains that have been around for a while
Best for Hands: Williams Sonoma Dish Soap, Fleur de Sel
Size: 20 oz. | Scent: Fleur de Sel
Best for Hands
Why we chose it: The addition of nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera and essential oils makes Williams Sonoma’s Fleur de Del Dish Soap extra moisturizing.
There is no denying that the fleur de sel scent of Williams Sonoma’s dish soap is its top selling point, but it also leaves your hands feeling silky smooth and fresh-smelling for hours after use. This is due to an essential oil blend and aloe vera that moisturizes as it cleans. Unfortunately, the product can only be found at Williams Sonoma stores or on their website, but the exclusivity almost makes it more appealing.
- Chock-full of essential oils
- Has a matching hand lotion with the same scent
- Soapbark extract degreases wonderfully
- On the pricier side
- Exclusive to Williams Sonoma
Best Powder: Blueland Dish Soap Starter Set
Size: 16 oz. | Scent: Unscented
Why we chose it: Not only does the powder easily convert into a powerful dish soap, but its refillable and compostable bags make it one of the most environmentally friendly on this list.
Blueland has created a business model that we can get behind: safe, affordable, and easy to use. Simply sign up for a subscription, select how often you need a refill, and voila: You’ll never have to worry about running out of dish soap again. The powdered formula is also a comparable alternative to liquid, cutting through grease and food bits just as effectively and efficiently. The only downside is that you’ll have to create the soap yourself by shaking it in a bottle before dispensing.
- Refills are packaged in compostable paper packages and come with a shaker
- Great for dishware, glassware, silver, and porcelain
- Leaves behind a wonderful shine
- Since it is a powder, it’s really easy to use too much
- Can dry out your hands
How We Chose These Products
Keeping in mind that dish soap preferences were likely going to be tailored around individual needs (and not just what works best when mixed with water), we first gathered a list of the most commonly used products among our cooking community. From there, we identified the categories that each soap excelled in (e.g., environmentally friendly, inexpensive, great-smelling, etc.) and then put them all to the ultimate dish, utensil, and glass-washing test, noting not only how well they cleaned in the process, but how everything looked upon drying.
Features to Keep in Mind When Shopping for Dish Soap
Scent (or lack thereof) is a personal preference, but its quality can be traced to its source. Anything that incorporates essential oils with natural (and not artificial) fragrances will be of higher quality.
Natural & Chemically-Free
Since you use these products to clean the surfaces from which you eat, it’s important to look for natural and chemical-free blends, when possible (i.e. lacking phosphates and ammonia). These formulas are also good for the environment, keeping in mind that the soap will be going down the drain with the dirt, grease, and food scraps you’re washing away with it.
When it comes to most high-quality dish soaps, a little should go a long way. That being said, many major retailers sell dish soap in bulk, so if you find one that you love, you can easily save money by purchasing bottles as a bundle. Be mindful of how many dishes you’re washing each day, though, because you may want to invest in a subscription service for refillable options.
For those with sensitive skin, look for “hypoallergenic “ and “fragrance-free” on the labels to avoid potentially irritating ingredients and fragrances.
Q: Which dish soap ingredients are harmful to the environment?
There are differing opinions and conflicting literature on what constitutes an “environmentally-friendly” dish soap. All of the dish soaps above, for example, are marketed as “biodegradable,” but contain ingredients that can be picked apart and scrutinized for their effect on the ecosystem and, most specifically, our waterways. That being said, you’ll generally want to avoid formulas with phosphates and ammonia. Phosphates can promote the growth of algae and can be toxic when consumed by marine life, while ammonia can release fumes that damage respiratory tracts.
Q: Are natural dish soaps effective?
Yes! Since most are plant-derived with ingredients like soapbark extract, they have the ability to cut through grease and grime while leaving your plateware, glassware, and flatware extra sparkly. While they may not boast the same antibacterial properties as hand soaps, they do effectively lift bacteria off eating and drinking surfaces so that water can wash it away. Just be sure allow items like cutting boards to completely air dry before using, especially if they were used to prepare raw meat.
Q: What can I use if I run out of dish soap?
Baking soda and hot water can effectively clean and deodorize while salt and hot water can be used to scrub pans. You may also use diluted bleach and white vinegar, with the latter being particularly great at removing water stains from glass.
Dish soap may seem like an insignificant component of the kitchen, but it’s likely a product that you’ll use every day. Because of this, you should put time into finding an option that works best for you and your needs, whether it’s to cut through food, smell good, be beneficial for the environment, or all of the above. Our top pick, Seventh Generation, is just one example of a product we believe in. Give it a shot and let us know if it lives up to the hype.