We wanted to make sure we were washing dishes correctly, so we turned to howtocleanstuff.net for advice. When washing dishes, you should fill a sink with water as warm as you can tolerate, but not any hotter. Don’t add all the items to be washed as it will soil the water and could be dangerous if there are sharp items. With the dishes stacked to the side, you should wash the items that have touched your mouth first, starting with glasses.

But, don’t put your hand inside the glass as it could break. Wash in order of least soiled and rinse each item separately with hot water. If the water gets too dirty, don’t be afraid to change it. The most sanitary way to hand-wash dishes is to use the hottest water you can stand coupled with a clean, soapy sponge and then let them air dry.

Top 10 Dish Soap

Bestseller No. 1
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Lemon Verbena, 16 ounce bottle (3 count)
965 Reviews
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Lemon Verbena, 16 ounce bottle (3 count)
  • Cuts through grease while keeping dishes clean and bright
  • Contains plant-derived cleaning ingredients to make grease disappear
Bestseller No. 2
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, Original Scent, 2 count, 56 oz.(Packaging May Vary)
1296 Reviews
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, Original Scent, 2 count, 56 oz.(Packaging May Vary)
  • Contains 3X more grease-cleaning power (cleaning ingredients per drop vs. the leading competitor's...
  • Concentrated formula helps you get through more dishes with less dishwashing liquid
Bestseller No. 3
Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap, Free & Clear, 25 oz, Pack of 6 (Packaging May Vary)
1875 Reviews
Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap, Free & Clear, 25 oz, Pack of 6 (Packaging May Vary)
  • Powers through grease and tough residue to leave dishes sparkling clean
  • Dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic formula made for sensitive skin
Bestseller No. 4
Dawn Soap, Blue, 21.6 Fl Oz , 2 pk
907 Reviews
Dawn Soap, Blue, 21.6 Fl Oz , 2 pk
  • Ultra Dawn contains 30% more cleaning ingredients per drop than the leading non-concentrated brand.
Bestseller No. 5
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Lavender, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
457 Reviews
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Lavender, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
  • Cuts through grease while keeping dishes clean and bright
  • Contains plant-derived cleaning ingredients to make grease disappear
Bestseller No. 6
Palmolive Ultra Liquid Dish Soap, Oxy Power Degreaser - 32.5 fluid ounce, 4 Count
223 Reviews
Palmolive Ultra Liquid Dish Soap, Oxy Power Degreaser - 32.5 fluid ounce, 4 Count
  • Attacks Grease & Stains (fights hard to clean surface stains like coffee)
  • Tough on Grease, Soft on Hands
Bestseller No. 7
Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, Apple Pear - 28 fluid ounce
586 Reviews
Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, Apple Pear - 28 fluid ounce
  • Apple and Pear Scented Liquid Dish Soap
  • Tough on Grease, Soft on Hands
Bestseller No. 8
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (4x19.4oz) + Dawn Non-Scratch Sponge (2ct),...
153 Reviews
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (4x19.4oz) + Dawn Non-Scratch Sponge (2ct),...
  • Dawn Ultra Contains 3X MORE Grease Cleaning Power (cleaning ingredients per drop vs. non-Ultra Dawn)
  • Our NEW More Powerful Formula helps you get through more dishes with less dishwashing liquid
Bestseller No. 9
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Honeysuckle, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
435 Reviews
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Honeysuckle, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
  • Cuts through grease while keeping dishes clean and bright
  • Contains plant-derived cleaning ingredients to make grease disappear
Bestseller No. 10
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Basil, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
433 Reviews
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, Basil, 16 ounce bottle (Pack of 3)
  • Cuts through grease while keeping dishes clean and bright
  • Contains plant-derived cleaning ingredients to make grease disappear

How we selected products to test

Dishwashing soaps come in all varieties. So, in order to determine the best regular soap and the best eco-friendly soap, we first compiled a list of all of the most commonly-purchased dish soaps by looking at ratings and reviews on Amazon, Target and Walmart. By reading a lot of reviews, we found out what people liked or disliked, such as whether it was economical or sudsy enough or efficient or how it smells. We also read the reviews on the EWG site. More on that later.

Next, we researched and learned a bit about how dishwashing soap works so that we would understand and know what to test. Fortunately, there are a variety of online articles and blog posts about how to hand-wash dishes. Did you know you should wash your glassware first?

Through all of this research, we were able to reduce a large group of dishwashing soaps down to a manageable 14. Finally, we donned our rubber gloves and went to work individually testing each one. We looked at how effective and efficient the different brands are, along with their price and appeal.

Important features to consider

Cleaning ability: Any detergent is going to cut oil and grease to a degree, but we wanted to make the test more difficult by looking at how well they cut both liquid and solid oils, as well as baked on food. In warm water (110 °F) with a teaspoon of liquid, we expect that oil and grease should dissolve and leave the dish squeaky clean. The soap should also remove dried on food without a lot of scrubbing effort.

Environmentally and health friendly: As awareness grows, more consumers are looking for ways to reduce their personal impact on the environment. Detergents, like dishwashing soap, may have chemicals such as 1,4 dioxane and phosphates that are harmful to our water sources as well as our health. Consumers have also found that certain chemicals used in cleaning products are disruptive to their health, potentially causing asthma, skin reactions, reproductive issues, and even cancer.

Appeals to the senses: Let’s face it – washing dishes is a chore. We might as well look for ways to make it more enjoyable. We looked at both smell and feel to provide a helpful guide. Personal taste determines whether these traits are pleasing, as some prefer a clear soap with no fragrance and others prefer something more stimulating to the senses.

Cost per use: Lastly, all things being relatively equal, it comes down to price. These days, we all want to pinch a few pennies, so why pay more if you don’t have to? We calculated the cost per use as an additional testing metric.

How dishwashing soap works

It’s fairly well known that oil (which attracts dirt) and water don’t mix. So, manufacturers use what is known as surfactants to break up non-solubles, like oil and grease. Generally, that means either sodium lauryl ethyl sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These work by solubilizing oils so that they can be rinsed away. More specifically, surfactants like SLES and SLE break up the oil into smaller drops that become water soluble.

A single soap molecule is hydrophobic on one end and hydrophilic on the other. The hydrophobic end repels water and attaches to the oil. The hydrophilic end attracts water. When soap is mixed with the oil in the water, it binds with the dirt and oil, separating it into small drops that are easily rinsed away.

Hard vs. soft water

Approximately 85% of households in the United States have what is known as “hard water.” Hard water is identified by the number of minerals in the water, specifically calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn). Having hard water can make it difficult to create soap suds and keep dish soap from doing its job. The minerals actually chemically interact with the surfactants in the soap, making it less effective.

If you aren’t sure whether you have hard or soft water, you can easily test it yourself using water test strips. Be sure to test both the hot and the cold water since hot water heaters can produce minerals that lead to harder water. The water strip tests for hardness from 0 to 1,000 ppm (parts per million). The American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the Water Quality Association has a degree of hardness standard that will help you determine if and how you should treat your water.

Washing dishes by hand may reduce allergens

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that families who wash dishes by hand are less susceptible to allergies than those who use dishwashers. There is increasing evidence that a little more exposure to germs can stimulate and benefit the immune system. This is called the “hygiene hypothesis” which speculates that the rise in childhood allergies may be the result of too little exposure to bacteria early in life.

A Swedish research team surveyed over 1,000 families in Sweden with children ages seven to eight. They found that only 23% of children whose parents used hand dishwashing had a history of asthma and eczema, compared to 38% of families who used dishwashers. Yet another good reason to continue washing dishes by hand.

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