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    The Best Dish Soaps To Make Doing The Dishes A Little More Bearable

    These soaps will make you *want* to do the dishes.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Doing the dishes isn’t the most fun chore, but the right liquid dish soap can at least help get the job done more quickly and easily.

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    Even if you have a dishwasher (well la-di-da!), there are times when you’ve just gotta roll up your sleeves and spend some quality time with the kitchen sink. And that’s exactly what we did to find the best dish soaps, testing over 15 name-brand bottles to figure out which ones will get your dirty kitchenwares spick-and-span without wreaking havoc on your skin and the environment.

    Since the chemical composition of any given dish soap has much to do with how well it works, we also enlisted the help of a chemical engineer, because science is hard. We tested each dish soap for grease-fighting power, scent, and environmental-friendliness. We also looked at price per ounce and tested for impact on skin. Whether you love a strong fragrance or despise dyes and smells, below you’ll find the dish soaps that’ll add a little more sparkle to your life, no matter your budget.

    Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid

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    When seeking out a budget dish soap (or any cleaning agent), you might assume bright colors and intense smells are part of the deal. Not so with our $ winner, Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Dish Liquid Soap. For anyone skeptical about eco-friendly cleaning products, this “powered by plants” dish soap held its own against more recognizable names like Dawn, Gain, and Ajax in our testing, with nary a harsh ingredient in sight.

    To find out more about the chemistry of kitchen cleanliness, we tapped Robert D. Tilton, PhD, a professor of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, to help us figure out what exactly makes an effective liquid dish soap. Right off the bat he mentioned that the products used to clean pots, pans, dishes, and silverware are technically detergents, not soap. While that’s true, the reality is you’re probably not gonna stop calling it dish soap, so we’re going to follow suit for the rest of this review.

    Still, it’s worth knowing the difference, if only to understand how this stuff works — which brings us to the chemistry lesson portion of our review. Safety goggles on!

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    In a nutshell, the distinction between soap and detergent comes down to special types of chemical molecules called surfactants. While that sounds like something you might catch at the beach, it’s actually a portmanteau of the words “surface active agent.” Basically, surfactants help lower the surface tension between two liquids to help them play nice with each other. Dish detergents contain highly precise surfactants that allow water to bond, trap, and loosen oil and grease. Combined with scrubbing, this is what gets the grime off your dishes and ultimately down the drain.

    Unlike, say, bar soap, dish detergent doesn’t accommodate for the naturally occurring oils that keep skin healthy. And because soaps are made with certain fats and oils, they react with minerals in water entirely differently than detergents do, often leaving a residue (aka soap scum). All of which to say, you wouldn’t want to use bar soap on your floor, laundry, or dishes. And unless you hate your hair, you wouldn’t want to use dish soap as shampoo. Each product is made with very specific function in mind.

    And that concludes our mini chemistry lesson. Your assignment is to go forth and kill at trivia night. Safety goggles off.

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    Now, without going beyond the scope of this review, dish soaps contain many surfactants, and they all have different purposes. “There is a phenomenon known as synergism, which means that the combined action is greater than any one acting on its own,” Tilton told us, meaning one surfactant might be good at one part of the cleaning process, like foaming, and another might be better at dispersal. Together, you get a more powerful dish soap ready to take on your entire post-BBQ dirty-dish haul.

    One of the most common surfactants found in dish soap, sodium lauryl sulfate (a major grease killer), is often derived from petroleum, but in the case of Seventh Generation’s line of Free & Clear products, it’s sourced from coconut and palm kernel oil — essentially the stuff that makes it plant-based and biodegradable. This dish detergent also contains other plant-sourced surfactants, like lauramine oxide, known for its foaming properties.

    When we tested Seventh Generation Free & Clear against other similarly priced dish-washing liquids like Ajax and Gain, it held its own. Remember how surfactants help water bond, trap, and loosen oil and grease? Our team spread a teaspoon of vegetable oil onto plates and submerged them in soapy water to see how effective each brand was at removing oil without scrubbing, and Seventh Generation imparted a visible reaction, rapidly dispersing the oil off the plate.

    For our second test, we left the measuring equipment and pipettes behind and took to the BuzzFeed cafeteria post-lunch, hand-washing stacks on stacks of dirty dishes. We went to town on stuck-on sauces, salad dressings, and grease from who knows what, and Seventh Generation immediately stood out from the pack not only for its cleaning power, but also for its lack of overpowering synthetic aroma.

    If you’re looking for another budget option, Dawn Ultra was our runner-up in this price range. Even though Seventh Generation and Dawn Ultra offered nearly identical cleaning power in our tests, we chose Seventh Generation because the Free & Clear line is hypoallergenic and scent-free. Another big thing: Seventh Generation products aren’t tested on animals! To find these qualities in a dish soap at such a low price point without sacrificing cleaning power makes Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear the obvious winner.

    Get it from Target for $3.39.

    Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap

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    For some of us, the right fragrance can turn a chore into an aromatherapy moment. And though Robert D. Tilton — the chemical engineer we consulted when putting together this review — told us scent has nothing to do with the effectiveness of a dish soap, he did concede to consumer preference. And if you, like many of us here at BuzzFeed, prefer to spend your time doing the dishes with an enjoyable scent, Mrs. Meyer’s has you covered.

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    You know Mrs. Meyer, right? She’s apparently a real person, and according to Mrs. Meyer’s website, her daughter created the brand to make products that smelled like her mother’s garden, but still worked “like the dickens on daily dirt and grime.” And work like the dickens this dish soap does! While the array of scents (10+ in total) won’t necessarily loosen the remnants of food off your plates any faster, surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (hello again!) and lauryl glucoside will. Similar to Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear line of products, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap sources its surfactants from plants; the entire formulation is 97% plant-based, plus it’s biodegradable and not tested on animals. Also? It cuts grease in a serious way.

    The main difference here is not just the presence of aroma but the sheer variety of scents. Much of it is derived from essential oils, but there is also the ingredient that is just called “fragrance,” which may refer to undisclosed chemicals. (Mrs. Meyer’s offers a handy chart of ingredients on its site, if you’re wondering.) Even still, our testers thought the aromas smelled identifiable and natural, rather than the nostalgic but questionable scent of soaps like Gain. Some essential oils can be harsh on the skin and this dish soap is concentrated, so if you find a scent you like, try smaller amounts first and see how your hands respond, or glove up if you’ve got ‘em.

    Because just about every dish soap we tested at this price point offered the same grease-fighting power, we looked at other evaluation points to make our decision.

    Tilton mentioned three ways a dish soap can get your dishes clean. The first has to do with the dish soap’s chemical makeup, which we’ve already discussed in length and covers surfactants. “They also need to get scrubbed,” he added, which he categorized as mechanical action. “You can soak them,” which will break up some of the oil and food, “but mechanical action is part of the process.” The last element? Heat. Warmer water increases the solubility of the dish soap and lowers the viscosity of the oil, making it easier to scrub. And this is where Mrs. Meyer’s really shined in our tests. Coupled with warm water, the smell of mint, basil, or geranium might leave you feeling just a little pampered during the process. Not enough to break up with your therapist, probably — but on some days, every little bit counts.

    As with all of their products, Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap’s bottle and label design is on point. If you want an Instagram-ready kitchen, this product will be a welcome addition. The bottle itself is slim with an easy spout that pops out so you can let the thick dish liquid flow, though not so fast that you’ll waste it. Another big plus: Many scents are available in hand soap and all-purpose cleaning spray form, so if you love one scent, there’s no reason your whole home can’t smell like it.

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    As for the other dish soaps we tested, we found Mrs. Meyer’s to be pretty identical to Method’s liquid dish soap in our testing, but the fragrance boost made our hand-washing test a more pleasant experience with Mrs. Meyer’s; plus, Method doesn’t use quite as eco-friendly ingredients. After scrubbing lunch detritus off of dishes for a few hours, the Mrs. Meyer’s fragrance felt like a gentle respite from some of the more synthetic-smelling options we tried. And it made the actual act of scrubbing easy, since it cut through grease quickly.

    Seventh Generation’s Ultra Power Plus in Citrus Scent was our runner-up, again considering its superior eco-friendliness compared with Method. Uniquely J’s dishwashing liquid was noticeably less powerful in the surfactant test, though they did smell nice. In terms of variety, nobody came close to Mrs. Meyer’s 10 different scents without giving up on that need to bust grime.

    Get it from Target for $4.34.

    Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner

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    If you have the money and the foresight to invest in a gallon of concentrated all-purpose cleaner, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner is our splurgeworthy pick. This may come as a surprise, especially if you know Dr. Bronner’s as the old-school hippie soap — but it looks like Dr. Bronner was on to something! Biodegradable and fair trade-certified, Sal Suds is a liquid dish soap and so much more. Our testers loved that a little goes a long way, and nothing at this price point even came close to the cleaning power of Sal Suds.

    Though it costs a bit more than most dish liquids on the market, what you get is beyond the sum of its plant-based parts. Dr. Bronner may not have succeeded in his spiritual mission of uniting the human race (we told you it was a hippie soap!), but he sure did make a powerful dish soap that you can also use to clean your microsuede boots.

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    You might be familiar with Dr. Bronner’s products from the brand’s tried-and-true liquid castile soap. The bottle itself has a countercultural cache that says “I use the same soap on my body, hair, cat, and vegetables.” The label is a typographical odyssey that points to the unique spiritual beliefs of Emanuel Bronner (or Kanye West?), the company’s founder, and is infamously dense with text that references Bronner’s concept of the “Moral ABCs.”

    But you don’t have to subscribe to his beliefs to enjoy his excellent soap. Bronner’s lineage were making castile, or olive oil and lye-based soaps generations before he founded his company. Since that kind of true soap has molecules made of fatty acids, it tends to interact with the salts present in tap water to leave a residue. This chemical reaction is what gives you rings around your bathtub — and it can also leave deposits on your laundry and dishes. That’s why the Bronner family introduced Sal Suds, which contains the necessary surfactants to make it a detergent rather than a soap.

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    Sal Suds has a similarly wild label that contains a lengthy paragraph about how sodium lauryl sulfate gets a bad rap. Like our $ and $$ picks, Sal Suds contains plant-derived surfactants that cut through grease, grime, and deposits — and in this case the label explains what each ingredient does, essentially offering a chemistry class should you choose to engage with the tiny font. On top of being biodegradable and fair trade, it also has a delightful pine scent from spruce and Siberian fir essential oils. If you’re a person who likes things to smell clean on top of actually being clean, the fragrance feels like a breath of fresh air.

    Sal Suds is sold as a concentrated all-purpose cleaner that can be diluted in various ways to be used on floors, laundry, windows, and even your car. It’s not meant for use on humans or pets, but you can use the brand’s castile soap for that. Reviewers love using it on their floors, and many recommend buying some refillable spray bottles to use it as a surface cleaner. Depending on how sustainable you want to go, the Dr. Bronner’s site has a dilution chart. Even if you’re just going to be using it on dishes, it’s still a great product. Just don’t use it in a dishwasher — like all of the dish liquids we’ve covered here, it will in fact ruin your appliance.

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    We saw the biggest difference in strength between products in this price bracket. Luxury brand The Laundress did not perform well in our tests because — guess what? — it does not contain any surfactants! If that’s a selling point for you and you’re attempting to go the chemical-free route, Puracy worked but required double the amount of elbow grease to hand-wash dirty dishes. Removing surfactants from the process is always going to make the grease dispersal more challenging, but if your priority is to avoid them, Puracy would be the way to go.

    Overall, we’d recommend going crunchy and going bulk with Sal Suds. The pine scent smelled really clean, even if it’s simply a psychological benefit that doesn’t get grime off your dishes any faster. It wasn’t overpowering like a lot of the other fragrances, and the dish soap itself worked really well on cutting grease without feeling too drying or abrasive with direct skin contact. Dr. Bronner’s knows dish soap as well as it knows its castile soap, and if anything, the elaborate label will give you something to entertain yourself with when you’re posted up over the kitchen sink.

    Get it from Amazon for $15.