Which Dish Soap is Cheapest & Best: Dawn, Ajax or Walmart?

Two bottles of dish soap with a ruler in front of them - Dish Soap Testing

Our priority at MoneySmartFamily is to help readers improve their finances and we partner with companies that could help you. Some links on this page are from our partners. Read how we earn money here.

Have you ever wondered which dish soap works best and gives you the best value for the money?

We love saving money and were wondering if we should buy the cheapest dish detergent or a more expensive one. Our curiosity finally got the best of us and we put together this test.

Have you ever thought, “Hmm, this name-brand product costs twice as much as the generic; is it twice as good? Oh, it’s all just advertising hype, there can’t be that BIG of a difference — I’m going to save the money and buy the generic.”

Well, when it came to dishwashing liquid, that was our general opinion until just recently.

We would buy the pricier name-brand products only if there was a sale and we had a good coupon. But we had no idea if we were just buying a name brand or if we were buying more cleaning ability.

Ajax and Dawn Dish Soap test

The Dish Washing Detergent Field Test

This wasn’t a scientific type of test, because no one washes dishes scientifically.

It’s not a controlled test, because no family has controlled oatmeal on their bowls or burned onto the bottom of their pot.

No, we figured that the best test would be a family field test.

We selected a different dishwashing liquid for each of the three weeks. We didn’t change our eating habits nor washing habits.

And everyone in the family was involved.

How We Started the Dish Soap Test

We put a specific measured amount of detergent into a generic bottle, used it for a week and measured how much we had used at the end of the week.

We tested three dish soaps:

  • Dawn: 38 oz bottle for $3.99 (10.5 cents per ounce)
  • Ajax: 34 oz bottle for $2.99 (8.8 cents per ounce)
  • Walmart Great Value Brand: 25 oz bottle for $1.99 (8 cents per ounce)

But, before we give you the results, we want to describe how we wash dishes. It may not be revolutionary or earth-shattering, but where else have you ever read how a family washes their dishes?

How We Wash Dishes

First, we DO use our dishwasher for washing plates, bowls, glasses,
silverware, and smaller miscellaneous plastic storage containers.

We run the dishwasher about once every day and a half.

Dual Basin Sink

The items that don’t go into the dishwasher are stacked in the “staging area” — the counter to the left of our double-bowl sink. We stack our pots, pans, casserole dishes, spatulas, large serving utensils, re-usable plastic zippered bags and other cookware there.

We fill the left side of the sink with hot water, add about 3 squirts of dish soap and one glug of bleach. While the sink is filling up, we load in serving utensils (usually on the left side of the sink), then pots or smaller pans or casserole dishes.

The water is still running to fill the sink when we start to wash.

The Scrubbing Sponge

We use these yellow or blue ScotchBrite scrubbing sponges and apply a small amount of detergent directly to it. Each item is scrubbed on both sides, dipped back in the water to rinse off the majority of the soap, and then put into the right-hand bowl of the sink for rinsing.


RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Ways to Get Scratch Marks off Dishes

Burned on Food

We usually soak an item with burned-on food in water and a little soap prior to washing.

We’ll scrape it with a metal spatula to remove most of the food waste. We do the same thing with oily or greasy items, wiping them with either newspaper or a paper towel before submerging them in the wash water.

Keeping the Dishwater Clean

Our goal is to keep the wash water as clear as possible to provide us with maximum cleaning power — this also reduces the amount of water we use.

Once the right-hand sink is filled with washed items, we rinse them under a slow-running stream of water. Rinsing one item under the faucet splashes clear water on the items below providing them with a partial rinse also.

Letting Things Air Dry

Items are stacked on the dish drain, plastic zippered bags are hung on a special dish rack with vertical spines which hold them open and allow them to drip dry faster.

Ziplock bags on a drying rack.

Teamwork for Washing Dishes

Usually, one of us washes, another family member rinses, and two or three others dry and put things away.

Working together we can usually tear through a pile of dishes in 20 minutes. Done solo it would take more than an hour.

But it wasn’t always this way.

When Steve was a kid, his parents introduced the concept of “Kitchen Duty.”

Basically, each of the four kids was assigned to clean up the kitchen after dinner for one week. While the other members of the family went off to do their activities, homework or relax, one lone person would wrestle through the pile of dishes.

We swore that it would not be that way in our home.

Washing dishes, like making a bed is always easier when it is done with someone else.

We like the team-building and the cross-training it provides.

Everyone knows how to wash and rinse, and almost everyone knows how to put away all of the dishes (OK, Steve sometimes needs some assistance from the kids).

RELATED ARTICLE: Family Teamwork – How to Accomplish More

Results of our Dish Soap Test

Dawn100 ml38 oz bottle $3.99 / 10.5¢ per ounce100%10.5¢ per ounce
Ajax175 ml34 oz bottle $2.99 / 8.8 ¢ per ounceUse 1.75% more15.4¢ per ounce
Great Value262 ml25 oz $1.99   / 8¢ per ounce Use 2.62% more 20.96¢ per ounce

As you can see, even though Dawn costs more initially, because it contains more grease-cutting ingredients, it cleans more dishes for half the price of the Walmart brand.

Basically, the cheaper detergent in our test required more than 2.5 times as much to be used to get the dishes as clean as Dawn.

And Ajax, while initially about 20 percent less expensive, required us to use 75 percent more dish soap. So the final cost of use was almost 50 percent more than Dawn.

International Endorsement of Dish Detergents

We have some friends who are missionaries in Papua New Guinea. We talked with them recently about this dish-soap test. Debbie said, “Whenever someone visits us from the States, we always ask them to bring Dawn with them.”

We were amazed. She went on to tell us that the dish soap they can buy there is worse quality than the Wal-Mart stuff. It doesn’t clean anything.

But because Dawn is so powerful, one bottle lasts a very long time. Consequently, someone could bring her four bottles of Dawn, and Debbie would be fully supplied for several months.

Problems with Dish Soap

Another friend saw her naturopathic doctor for some skin tests. The naturopath asked if she was using Dawn detergent. She said that she was. The doctor said that she had some toxins in her body that he had traced to the degreaser used in Dawn.

He recommended that she either stop using this product or wear rubber gloves when washing dishes because this ingredient could be toxic to some people.

Washing dishes is a regular part of life. So if we’ve got to do it, why not use a product that gets the job done, and costs less to use?

Don’t just take our word for it, do your own tests. Track your results and let us know what you find. You may spend a little more initially, but when combined with a money-saving coupon and the knowledge that the product will last two-and-a-half times longer than the competition, you can really be cleaning up.

Dish Soap Tests - Which Brand Works Best?

Wrap up on Dish Soap Tests

Obviously, we didn’t test every dish soap out there. But if you want to perform the same test on the brands you use, you’ll be guaranteed to learn which is the most economical brand.

As you can see from our test results, the lowest price isn’t always the best bargain.

For more great Money Saving Cleaning Tips, check out this page on our website!
And of course check out this Cleaning Tips & Tricks Board on our Pinterest Page!

Two other website articles you may enjoy – DIY Stain remover for Carpet & Clothes, as well as, How to Get Blood Out of Sheets.

Leave a Reply