Nobody enjoys washing dishes, but choosing the right dish soap can lighten the burden.
In this comparison, I break down the differences between two of the biggest brands in the dish soap business: Dawn and Ajax.
You’ll learn how they measure up in terms of ingredients, cleaning power, price, and more.
So, if you’re shopping for dish soap and want the facts before you decide whether to buy Dawn or Ajax, keep reading.
Use the links below to navigate:
- Dawn vs. Ajax: Quick Summary
- Product Offerings
- Cleaning Power
- FAQs About Dawn and Ajax
- Bottom Line: Which Dish Soap Is Better, Dawn or Ajax?
Dawn vs. Ajax: Quick Summary
If you’re in a hurry and looking for a quick comparison of Dawn vs. Ajax, below are the key differences you need to know.
Product Offerings: Ajax offers liquid dish soaps (6 scents) and an all-purpose powder cleanser (used for cleaning bathrooms and hard surfaces, not for dishes), while Dawn offers liquid dish soaps (13 scents), a foam dish soap, and a spray dish soap.
Cleaning Power: Ajax and Dawn both clean dishes well, but Dawn is known for its superior cleaning power. Dawn earned the top spots in tests conducted by Good Housekeeping, New York Times, Real Simple, and Reviewed.
Ingredients: Ajax and Dawn use a mix of water, surfactants, solvents, stabilizers, dyes, and fragrances, but the exact formulas differ. Both disclose their full ingredient list online (see: Ajax.com and Dawn-Dish.com). If you’re looking for natural dish soap, consider brands like Puracy and Seventh Generation.
Price: In general, dish soap is cheap. Ajax’s price-per-fluid-ounce tends to be less than Dawn. However, Dawn is more powerful, and its sprays and foams distribute the soap more effectively, so you don’t need to use as much of it.
Bottom Line: Ajax and Dawn are top-sellers for a reason—they get the job done. Since dish soap is relatively inexpensive, try both and see which one you prefer. I recommend Dawn since it’s more powerful, which saves you in the long run. Both brands are available on Amazon (link to Dawn, link to Ajax).
Dawn and Ajax both specialize in dish soap. Ajax offers several liquid dish soaps and an all-purpose powder cleanser (not for dishes), while Dawn offers liquid, spray, and foam dish soaps.
Let’s take a closer look at what Ajax has to offer:
Liquid dish soap: Ajax offers six different scent options with varying ingredients to aid your dishwashing chores. The scents include orange (pictured above), lemon, grapefruit, vinegar and lime, charcoal and citrus, and citrus berry splash. You can find these options in a 14, 28, 52, or 90-ounce bottle.
Powder Cleanser: If your goal is washing dishes, stick to Ajax liquid dish soap. Despite its pleasant smell (compared to other products that contain bleach), this cleaner contains bleach and shouldn’t be used on dishes. However, it’s great for pots and pans, ceramic tiles, barbecues, garbage cans, and much more. Sprinkle it on the item and make a paste using a wet sponge. Clean, rinse, and dry.
How about Dawn?
Liquid dish soap: Dawn has 13 variations of their dish soap, including lemon essence, original (pictured above), refreshing rain, pomegranate and rose, lavender, lavender wisp, green tea and honey, peach and almond, morning mist, apple blossom, orange, aloe water, and cherry blossom. Whether you have sensitive skin, want something botanic, or looking for something with maximum grease-cutting power, Dawn dish soaps can provide. You can find it in 7, 16.2, 19.4, 24, 28, 40, 56, and 75-ounce bottles.
Foam dish soap: This economical option can clean a whole load of dishes with one pump. You don’t even need to fill a sink with water. Just pump the foam onto a wet sponge and clean your dishes with five times more grease cleaning power than Dawn Ultra Original. The foam comes in a “fresh rapids” scent and is available in a 10.1-ounce bottle with refills at 30.9 ounces.
Spray dish soap: Speed up your cleaning time with spray dish soap. It gets the job done five times faster than Dawn’s liquid dish soaps. Spray your dishes, let them soak for a few minutes, wipe clean, then rinse the dirt and grime away. It’s available in fresh, apple, or citrus scent. It comes in a 16-ounce bottle with 16-ounce refills available, too.
Both Dawn and Ajax offer a wide variety of products, but Dawn offers more with their 13 scent options, Platinum, and Gentle formulas, as well as a spray and foam soap.
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Both Dawn and Ajax clean dishes extremely well, hence their position as top-selling brands. But based on sales, Dawn is the number one dish soap in America.
There have been lots of research and tests conducted to find the best dish soap. Let’s see how Dawn and Ajax performed in these tests.
Real Simple named Dawn Ultra Original Scent the best-rated dish soap, and Dawn Ultra Platinum Powerwash the best new dish soap. These rankings were based on product reviews, rather than independent testing.
New York Times awarded Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Liquid as their runner up for the best dish soap. It was as great as their winning dish soap but lost points because there is no scent-free option, and because it’s tested on animals.
Through independent tests from Reviewed, Dawn Ultra Dish Soap came out on top. They praised it for its fruity fragrance and ability to clean tough stains. Ajax Dish Soap came in last place, at number 13. They said the lemon scent was overwhelming, and it didn’t clean most stains.
Overall, Dawn wins more accolades than Ajax. Although Ajax still gets recognition, the overarching message is that Dawn is more powerful and does a better job with less soap.
Have you ever wondered how dish soap actually works? Well, chemically speaking, soap has two poles. One end is hydrophilic, which means it loves water. The other end is hydrophobic, which hates water. These molecular components work together. One end grabs onto the oils and grease, and the other end grabs onto the water.
So what does this mean when it comes to washing your dishes? When you rinse the cookware, one end of the soap molecule lifts the dirt from the pots and pans, while the other attaches to the water, so the dirt, grease, grime, and water wash away together.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients used to make Dawn and Ajax dish soap.
Let’s start with Dawn. (Note: You can get more information about the ingredients on Dawn-Dish.com)
Here’s a look at the ingredients on the label of Dawn dish soap.
If it’s difficult to read, I’ve also listed the ingredients below:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and C10-16 Alkyldime-thylamine Oxide: the surfactants — these provide and boost the cleaning power.
- Alcohol denat, PPG-26, and Phenoxyethanol: solvents that stabilize the formula.
- Sodium chloride: a salt used to thicken the formula.
- Sodium hydroxide: balances the formula’s pH level.
- Pei-14 Peg-24/Ppg-16 Copolymer: another boosting cleaning agent.
- Fragrances: add scent to the products.
- Methylisothiazo-linone: a non-formaldehyde preservative.
- Blue, yellow and red colorants: add color to the product.
- C9-11 Pareth-8: a cleaning agent for gentle soil removal.
- Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer: makes the product opaque.
- Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate: softens the water to help with soil removal.
- Chloroxylenol: an antibacterial agent, decreases bacteria on the skin when used as a hand soap.
- Phenoxy-isopropanol: a solvent which enhances grease-cutting power.
- Glycerin, Sodium Cumene-sulfonate, Propylene Glycol, and Terpineol: stabilize the product.
The Dawn Free & Clear Dishwashing Liquid is made with biodegradable cleaning ingredients and includes essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances.
- Water: for consistency.
- Ammonium C12-15 Pareth Sulfate and Lauramidopropylamine Oxide: cleaning and foaming agents.
- SD Alcohol 3-A: controls thickness and clarity.
- Sodium Chloride and Poloxamer 124: also control thickness.
- Fragrance: added for the pleasant scent.
- Methylisothiazolinone Benziosothiazolinone: a preservative.
- Pentasodium Pentetate and Sodium Bisulfite: maintains stability.
- Dyes: add color.
Ajax claims this soap is made with 100% real citrus extracts.
The key takeaway is that both brands use a mix of water, surfactants, solvents, stabilizers, dyes, and fragrances, but the exact formulas differ. If you’re looking for a more natural dish soap, you might want to consider brands like Puracy and Seventh Generation.
When you compare the cost per fluid ounce, Dawn is generally more expensive than Ajax.
However, since Dawn is more potent, you don’t need to use as much.
Some Dawn formulas cost more than others. For example, Dawn Platinum has 4x more grease-cutting power, so it’s generally a bit more expensive.
If you opt for the Dawn Platinum Spray, expect to pay a higher price because it helps you control your usage. You might pay more now, but over time, you’ll save money and waste less soap.
Below is a list of both Dawn and Ajax dish soap so you can compare prices.
- Dawn Ultra Original Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
- Dawn Ultra Platinum Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
- Dawn Ultra Botanicals Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
- Ajax Super Degreaser Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
- Ajax Charcoal and Citrus Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
- Ajax Bleach Alternative Liquid Dishwashing Soap (check price on Amazon).
Bottom line—dish soap is cheap, and the difference in cost between Ajax and Dawn is minimal. Therefore, price shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
FAQs About Dawn and Ajax
Now, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Dawn and Ajax dish soap.
Does Dawn and Ajax dish soap kill bacteria?
Dish soap doesn’t kill bacteria, but it can wash it away. To kill bacteria and disinfect your dishes, you should use super hot water — at least 140°F.
However, Dawn Ultra Bacterial Hand Soap and Dishwashing Liquid combats bacteria on your hands, although it doesn’t state it will kill it, nor does it say it will kill bacteria on the dishes.
Ajax Ultra Triple Action Orange works similarly, killing bacteria on your hands when you wash for 20 seconds but not necessarily destroying bacteria on the dishes.
Can Dawn and Ajax be used to wash your hands?
If you’re out of hand soap — sure! However, hand soap often contains moisturizers, leaving hands soft and smooth. Dish soap contains quite a few cleaning agents, so it might leave your hands rough and dry. Because of this, I don’t recommend using Dawn and Ajax as a permanent alternative to hand soap.
Can you put Dawn and Ajax dish soap in the dishwasher?
I don’t recommend it because dish soap creates suds, and dishwasher detergent is designed specifically to NOT create suds. If you use dish soap in the dishwasher, suds will overflow the machine, spill onto your floors, and potentially cause significant damage (at the very least, it will cause a huge mess). Ajax advises against using its soap in the dishwasher on its website.
As a last resort, if you’re out of dishwasher detergent or tablets, you can fill the dishwasher dispenser up ¾ of the way full with baking soda and add a tiny drop of dish soap. Start your dishwasher, but keep an eye on it in case it starts to overflow.
Is it safe to mix vinegar with Dawn and Ajax dish soap? What about bleach?
It’s usually safe to mix dish soap and vinegar, but it’s not the most practical. Since dish soap is a thick base and vinegar is acidic, you’ll end up with a clumpy lumpy mess.
Dawn advises customers to never mix their dish soap with any other cleaning products.
As for bleach, never mix dish soap with bleach. Doing so can create hazardous fumes, especially if the dish soap contains ammonia, as is the case with Ajax.
Is Ajax and Dawn dish soap toxic?
Ajax earns grades of D’s and F’s from the healthy cleaning guide EWG, meaning there are some toxicity concerns. For example, there is some concern around the synthetic coloring, which some studies say could pose a severe health risk. The bottom line is wearing rubber gloves when using Ajax to protect your skin and be cautious.
Dawn Ultra Concentrated dish soap has also earned a D from EWG, posing some concern for people with asthma and allergies and for being a skin irritant. Dawn dish soap also contains fragrances, many of which are synthetic. As stated above, some studies have linked synthetic fragrances to certain health risks.
That said, both Ajax and Dawn claim to prioritize health. They state that, when used correctly, their soaps are safe. You can read Dawn’s statements regarding its safety on Dawn-Dish.com.
Besides dishes, what else can I clean with Dawn and Ajax?
Dawn can effectively clean surfaces, doorknobs, and bathroom appliances, but the company recommends this as a last resort compared to cleaners specifically designed for these tasks.
Ajax warns to never use the soap on carpets and rugs. And never use it for bathing, shampooing, or to replace your dishwasher or laundry detergent.
So what can you clean with Dawn or Ajax?
- Mopping the floor
- Surfaces, if necessary
- Air conditioner filters
- Window blinds
- Patio furniture and patio cushions
- Concrete slabs
- Hand tools
- Wheel and hubcaps
- Greasy stovetop
- Spot treating stains on clothes (although, don’t use it as a laundry detergent replacement in the machine)
- Kitchen cabinets
Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines, or contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.
What companies own Dawn and Ajax?
Do Dawn and Ajax test on animals?
Dawn claims that its formula is gentle on animals’ delicate skin. In fact, for the past 40 years, Dawn has donated dish soap to the International Bird Rescue (IBR) and The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) to treat birds and other animals impacted by oil spills. You can read more about Dawn’s partnership with these non-profits on Dawn-Dish.com.
Bottom Line: Which Dish Soap Is Better, Dawn or Ajax?
Dawn dish soap is more powerful, but Ajax boasts solid reviews and is generally less expensive.
Many people opt for Dawn because it has many more product offerings, including 13 liquid soaps, a spray soap, and a foam option. Ajax has six liquid dish soaps, plus a powerful Powder Cleanser for sinks, toilets, and other hard surfaces (not dishes).
The right brand for you depends on your personal preferences. For example, you might prefer one scent option over another, or maybe you like the fact that Dawn offers spray and foam options, in addition to its signature liquid soaps.
My recommendation—try both and decide for yourself. Both brands are cheap and available in almost every supermarket, Target, Walmart, and Home Depot. They’re both also available on Amazon (link to Dawn, link to Ajax). If you need a nudge in one direction, go with Dawn. It’s more powerful, and you’ll save in the long run by using less.
Besides Dawn and Ajax, there are several other dish soap brands gaining popularity that are worth considering.
Mrs. Meyers (available on Amazon), a plant-derived dish soap, is a cruelty-free and well-reviewed product.
Seventh Generation (available on Amazon) is another brand that is gaining momentum. Known for its lack of synthetic fragrances, dyes, and phosphates, this is a less toxic option for many families. Check out my in-depth comparison of Seventh Generation vs. Mrs. Meyers to learn more.
Palmolive Oxy (available on Amazon) is a powerful degreaser that’s soft on hands. Ajax’s parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, also owns this product.
Puracy (available on Amazon) is a natural dish soap that quickly cuts through grease, softens skin, and contains no harsh chemicals.
Shop around, test out a few products and find the right one for you.
If you found this comparison helpful, you should also check out:
- Dawn vs. Palmolive: Which Dish Soap Is Better?
- Dawn Ultra vs. Platinum Dish Soap: What’s the Difference?
- Tide vs. Gain Laundry Detergent: What’s the Difference?
- Tide vs. Persil: Which Laundry Detergent Is Better?
- All vs. Tide: Which Laundry Detergent Is Better?
- OxiClean vs. Shout: Which Stain Remover Is Better?
- How to Make 4 Homemade Stain Removers That Actually Work
- Bona vs. Swiffer: Which Floor Mop Is the Best?
- E-Cloth vs. Norwex: Which Microfiber Cloth Is the Best?
- Clorox vs. Lysol: Which Disinfecting Wipes Kill More Germs?
- OxiClean vs. Tide: Which Detergent and Stain Remover Is the Best?
- Seventh Generation vs. Method: Which Cleaning Products Are Better?
- Mrs. Meyer’s vs. Method: What’s the Difference?