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Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner

The Best Dish Soaps

We hope you love the products we recommend! We do a lot of research and testing before making our picks for the best thing to buy in each price-point. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change. For more info on how we choose products and make money, go here.

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid

  • No fragrances or dyes
  • Biodegradable formula
  • 100% recycled plastic bottle
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Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap

  • Natural scents that don’t overpower
  • Powerful grease-cutting ability
  • Cutest label of the bunch
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Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner

  • Works on more than just dishes
  • Fresh and clean pine scent from essential oils
  • Concentrated but still gentle on bare hands
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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. 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.

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Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid

Starting from $3 (for 25 ounces)

The Details

Available in 25 and 50 ounces

Free of fragrances, dyes, phosphates, and triclosan

Hypoallergenic

Cruelty-free

US EPA Safer Choice–certified

USDA Certified Biobased Product

What / Who It's Best For

  • People who buy their household essentials in bulk
  • Anyone sensitive to synthetic fragrance and dyes
  • Eco-conscious homes

Why We Love It

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!

Best Dish Soap Seventh Generation in hand

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. 

Best Dish Soap back label

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.

User Reviews

“I am extremely sensitive to smell, so using dish soap that has a very strong scent has been an issue for me. I came across this product at a supermarket and paid almost $5 for a bottle. This soap's scent is very mild and it cuts through grease well. I was very pleased to find it available through Subscribe and Save. Amazon packages this product well and I have never received a leaky bottle.”
— Jenny B. From Amazon
“I love this dish soap! This dish soap does not dry out my hands when I do the dishes, it truly doesn’t have a scent, which is nice, and doesn’t leave any residue on bottles, glasses, silverware, etc. It cleans effectively and quickly. This is my new go-to product!”
— krystlev From Target
“Amazing product! Smells so good and do not need more than a few drops to be able to clean an entire sink full of dishes. Love that it cleans efficiently and doesn’t leave any water spots or grimy film.”
— ahsleym589d From Target
“This is the first fragrance-free dishwashing product I've found that is an effective cleaner. It appears to be safe as well. I recommend it to those of you who have grown tired of having your washed dishes smell like dishwashing detergent.”
— DryingTimes From Walmart

Seventh Generation

Plant-based and powerful

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Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap

Starting from $4 (for 16 ounces)

The Details

Available in 16 ounces

Available in 9 (plus seasonal) scents

Free of dyes, parabens, phthalates, and aluminum

97% plant-based formula

Hypoallergenic

Cruelty-free

What / Who It's Best For

  • People who hand-wash dishes on the regular
  • Anyone who loves a good garden-fresh scent
  • Folks who keep their dish soap on the counter

Why We Love It

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.

Best Dish Soap Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap back label

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.

RelatedMrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap Scents, Sniffed and Ranked

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.

Best Dish Soap Mrs. Meyer's in hand

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.

User Reviews

“Love all of the Mrs. Meyer’s products. I was hesitant to switch my dish soap, even though I was already using other Mrs. Meyer’s products and loved them. I really like the dish soap. I like the container better than the national brands with the awkwardly shaped bottles that never fit on my sink right. It fights grease just as well as the others and has a great but not overpowering scent. Sometimes with other brands you get that leftover taste/smell on your dishes. Mrs. Meyer’s rinses really well and I haven't heard the kids complain about the water in the plastic water bottles ‘tasting’ like soap since I switched.”
— David From Amazon
“I was a bit worried that an all-natural product would not clean my dishes well enough. This actually does an even better job, I think, and smells great. I own a house-cleaning business and have converted to all-natural products. I have been using a lot of the Mrs. Meyer’s brand products and I love them all. They always smell fantastic and are very tough on dirt. I have actually set up a Subscribe and Save order for this dish soap now so that I will always have it when I need it.”
— Jamie Parsons From Amazon
“I had no idea that washing greasy dishes could be so simple and easy! With other brand-name soaps, I find myself needing to scrub it twice if they were greasy, but with Mrs. Meyer's dish soap, one quick swipe and like magic, the grease is all gone! To top it off, it doesn't dry out my hands even after a sink load of dishes. I'll have to order these by the cases now!”
— rainyathena From Target
“This dish soap is excellent and I'm recommending it to everyone I know! Most importantly to me it is cruelty-free, but it packs a major punch when it comes to cleaning too. It works much better than other natural products I've tried and smells great. I have never had any problem with the scent not rinsing off of my dishes as other commenters have posted. I just rinse with very hot water (like I would normally rinse dishes) and they turn out great! I just washed dishes with this today and even my hands do not smell like lemon verbena after rinsing. Thank you, Mrs. Meyer’s! I'll definitely be purchasing more of your products to use throughout my home!”
— dog mom From Walmart

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

Aromatherapy with every wash

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Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner

Starting from $10 (for 16 ounces)

The Details

Available in 16, 32, and 128 ounces

Biodegradable

Free of synthetic dyes and fragrances

Certified organic and fair trad

Plant-based ingredients

Cruelty-free

What / Who It's Best For

  • Anyone who lives with too many roommates
  • DIY enthusiasts who enjoy making their own cleaning products
  • People concerned with fair trade

Why We Love It

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.

Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds

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. 

Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds kitchen sponge

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.

Best Dish Soap Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds

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.

User Reviews

“I love Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap for my skin and other light cleaning purposes, but when I'm washing greasy dishes I need something stronger to cut through the dirt and grease. Sal Suds is a powerful, concentrated detergent, so I dilute it just like I dilute the Liquid Castile Soap; a little goes a long way. I also use it to clean the counters and floors. Like all Dr. Bronner's products, it's vegan/not tested on animals and the ingredients come from sustainable sources. It does have sodium lauryl sulfate in it, which is what makes it such an effective grease cutter, and has a good safety rating (1-2) from the EWG Cosmetics Database (some people confuse it with sodium laureth sulfate, which is a known carcinogen).”
— Aleta D. From Amazon
“Use this as a green, chemical-free option for doing dishes. Works great, bubbles, and has a nice pine smell.”
— MinnieC1289 From Target
“This product works great for dishwashing (by hand). It’s very concentrated, doesn’t irritate or dry out my skin, and is easy on the environment. I’ve been trying not to find a dishwashing liquid that is as low in harmful ingredients as possible and this is one of the best I’ve found, and I like to use Dr. Bronner’s products because they are an ethical company. Sal Suds is hard to find so I was very happy Target offers it and at such a great price!”
— haverstef From Target
“Not the cheapest, but definitely worth it. We use it for cleaning almost any non-personal surface. Clothes-washing, floors, sinks, toilets. Cleans the cars well. Washed vinyl siding. This, along with using Dr. Bronner’s other soaps for personal washing, it was not surprising that the septic pumper made it a point to ask me what products we were using because he was surprised at how little buildup there was in the tank even after three years — two adults and two kids. Maybe it’s because the septic tank is not full of a cocktail of chemical cleaners.”
— John From Dr. Bronner's

Dr. Bronner's

Yes, the hippie soap

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