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Dawn vs. Palmolive: Which Dish Soap Is Better?

Dawn and Palmolive are two of the most recognizable dish soap brands.

But which is better? What’s the difference?

In this comparison of Dawn vs. Palmolive, you’ll learn how they stack up in terms of product offerings, prices, ingredients, and more.

Plus, I break down which dish soap works the best based on rigorous independent testing.

So, if you need dish soap but aren’t sure whether to buy Dawn or Palmolive, keep reading.


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


Product Offerings

Both Dawn and Palmolive primarily make dish soap, but both brands also offer a few additional products.

In this section, I provide a quick overview of each brand’s product lineup.

Let’s start with Dawn.

Dawn Liquid Dish Soap: Dawn offers over a dozen liquid dish soaps, which come in various scents and formulas.

Whether you need a hypoallergenic formula like their Free & Clear soap or a robust grease-busting product like Dawn Platinum dish soap, this brand has you covered.

They also sell an antibacterial soap that doubles as a hand soap, and of course, there’s the best-selling original formula.

Dawn Dish Soap

Scents include aloe, orange, pomegranate & rose water, lemon essence, lavender, cherry blossom, peach & almond, tea & honey, apple blossom, green papaya, and jasmine tea & wildberry.

You can purchase the soaps in 8 oz, 16.2 oz, 19.4 oz, 24 oz, 28 oz, 40 oz, 56 oz, or 75 oz sizes.

Dawn Dish Spray: A more recent addition to the lineup, Dawn dish spray makes cleanup easy. Just spray your dishes, wait a few minutes, then wipe away the dirt and grease with a paper towel or damp cloth.

Dawn Dishwashing Foam: This unique formula foams on contact. Simply apply it to a damp sponge or cloth, then wipe your dishes and rinse them.

Palmolive Liquid Dish Soaps: Like Dawn, Palmolive’s liquid soaps come in a wide array of scents and formulas. Its Ultra Strength, Ultra Oxy, Antibacterial, Ultra Pure & Clear, Sensorials, and Soft Touch soaps suit different needs and preferences.

You can buy Palmolive’s liquid soap in a 32.5 oz, 90 oz, 20 oz, 102 oz, 56 oz, 18 oz, or 46 oz size.

Palmolive Dish Soap

Palmolive’s scents are more limited than Dawn’s, and its original scent gets mixed reviews from consumers.

Depending on the formula, you can also buy Palmolive soaps with scents like Orange, Lavender Eucalyptus, Spring Fresh, Lavender & Lime, Coconut Water & Jasmine, Almond Milk & Blueberry, Aloe & Citrus, or unscented.

Palmolive PowerPacs: These hypoallergenic, paraben-free dishwasher packets are easy to use and effective at fighting grease. Simply pop a packet into your dishwasher’s designated compartment and press the power button.

Palmolive Dishwashing Spray: Like Dawn, Palmolive has developed a “spray, wipe, rinse” formula for your dishes. It’s easy to use and comes in the brand’s original scent.

Cleaning Power

Dawn and Palmolive are well-respected dish soap brands with excellent reputations for getting the job done.

Based on sales, Dawn is the leading dish soap brand in the United States, with Palmolive coming in second. 

But higher sales doesn’t necessarily mean Dawn is better. 

So, which soap works the best? Which brand makes cleaning up in the kitchen the easiest?

To find out, I conducted a head-to-head test of Dawn vs. Palmolive. I tested both brands’ most potent formulas, Dawn Platinum and Palmolive Ultra Strength, to see which was tougher on stains and grease. 

Dawn versus Palmolive Cleaning Test

I tested each soap on dirty non-stick and stainless steel frying pans, saucepans with stuck-on rice, and sheet pans with burnt meat from roasting meatballs.

Cleaning a non-stick pan with Dawn dish soap
Cleaning a non-stick pan with Dawn dish soap
Cleaning a stainless steel saucepan with Palmolive dish soap
Cleaning a stainless steel saucepan with Palmolive dish soap
Dirty sheet pan
Using Dawn and Palmolive to clean a sheet pan

I used both soaps to scrub a granite countertop with flour and bits of pizza dough stuck to the surface. 

I also tested Dawn and Palmolive on a wood cutting board after cutting blueberries and blackberries — stains that are notoriously difficult to remove.

Cleaning a wood cutting board with Palmolive dish soap
Cleaning a wood cutting board with Palmolive dish soap

I controlled as many variables as possible in my tests by using the same type of sponge, amount of water, and water temperature.

So, how did each soap perform?

Unsurprisingly, Dawn and Palmolive both got the job in all tests. There’s a reason these brands have been around for so long — they work. 

That said, I observed a few differences during testing. 

First, Dawn soap was noticeably thicker. I could tell the formula was more concentrated than Palmolive. And, because of that, I didn’t need to use as much of it.

Second, Palmolive’s scent was much less pleasant than Dawn’s. Palmolive gave off a harsh chemical odor when I mixed it with water, while Dawn smelled more like a cologne or perfume. 

Palmolive offers other more pleasant options such as Lavender & Lime and Coconut Water & Jasmine, but the harsh odor of the original formula is something to keep in mind (or, in my opinion, avoid). 

Besides the thickness and smell, Dawn did a better job than Palmolive overall. Both passed all tests, but I didn’t need to use as much Dawn or scrub as hard to get the same results. 

What Others Are Saying

I’ve shared my experience testing Dawn vs. Palmolive, but I’m not the only one in search of the best dish soap.

Here’s what consumers and experts have to say about both options based on their testing.

Good Housekeeping named two of Dawn’s dish soaps on its list of the “7 Best Dish Soaps for Sparkling Clean Dishes.” 

The reviewers praised Dawn’s Platinum Dishwashing Liquid as “the gold standard we hold others to in Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab tests.” 

They were also fond of Dawn’s Hand Renewal soap, saying, “[It] was less drying and helped skin retain moisture better than other brands.”

Dawn also earned accolades from Real Simple magazine, which named two of its products in a list of “8 Top-Rated Dish Soaps.” 

Dawn’s Ultra Original Scent liquid soap was named the “best rated dish soap” for its ability to “lift and remove stains, grease, and burnt-on food with little-to-no effort.” 

Dawn Ultra Platinum Powerwash dish spray was recognized as the “best new dish soap,” and reviewers praised it as “innovative” and “efficient.”

In a review of “The Best Dish Soaps,” Reviewed.com ranked Dawn and Palmolive as numbers one and two in its list, respectively. 

The experts gave high marks to Dawn Ultra dish soap for its reliability, and reviewers called it “pleasant to use” and “effective” at getting dishes sparkling clean. 

Not to be outdone, Palmolive’s Ultra Strength liquid soap entered the rankings as a “dark horse among dishwashing liquids.” 

It was especially great at removing stains, and reviewers noted that simply soaking their dishes in a pan of suds “lifted almost every stain off our dishes, even without scrubbing.”

In a test run of 14 dish soaps, Your Best Digs noted the strengths and weaknesses of both Dawn and Palmolive’s liquid formulas. 

Dawn’s Platinum Power Clean soap earned high marks and came in at number two on the list, with reviewers calling it “a terrific grease cutter.” 

On the other hand, Dawn Ultra was listed at number 12 on the list and didn’t perform as well in the tests. Palmolive’s Ultra formula earned a decent score but ultimately ended up in the middle of the rankings and wasn’t called out for any particular strengths.

The Spruce also took note of both Palmolive and Dawn soaps in its list of “The 8 Best Dish Soaps.” 

Dawn Ultra liquid soap was named the best budget soap, with reviewers noting that “a little bit can go such a long way.” 

Dawn’s Platinum Power Wash dish spray was named the best soap for tackling grease, and reviewers were pleased to find that the spray “start[s] working before you even break out your sponge.” 

Palmolive’s Soft Touch soap was named the best soap for hands, thanks to its “moisturizing ingredients” that “keep hands soft.”

The L.A. Times’ home blog, Best Covery, reviewed Dawn and Palmolive soap in its list of “The Best Dishwashing Soaps.” 

Dawn Ultra Antibacterial soap earned praise for being both highly effective and budget-friendly, with one bottle lasting longer thanks to the formula having “two times the amount of cleaner per drop” compared to competitors. 

Palmolive Ultra Dish Soap also pleased reviewers, who called it “one of the most effective dishwashing products on the market” and praised its “ability to cut right through grease and grime.”

Overall, there were a few patterns among the reviews. Dawn seemed to be more popular across the board, primarily because of how long a bottle lasts compared to other brands. 

Palmolive was ranked highly –– in some cases beating out much more expensive competitors –– but reviewers almost always called out the brand’s strong smell that some customers find unappealing.

Ingredients

Like all dish soaps, both Dawn and Palmolive products are a mix of water, cleaning agents (solvents), surfactants, sulfates, dyes, and fragrances. Exact formulas vary widely by brand and product.

Every dish soap contains two essential qualities that help it work. On the one hand, these soaps are hydrophilic, meaning they activate in water. That’s why you see suds and other reactions when you combine them with a wet plate or bowl. 

On the other hand, the soaps also contain hydrophobic components, which are repelled by water.

When working in tandem, the hydrophilic ingredients “grab” onto the water while the hydrophobic ones cling to and dissolve dirt and grease, allowing them to be washed away.

Palmolive is transparent about its formulas. The most popular product, Palmolive Ultra Dishwashing liquid soap, contains the following ingredients:

  • Water: a stabilizer
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Lauramidopropyl Betaine: foaming and cleaning agents
  • Denatured Alcohol: for stabilization
  • Lactic Acid: a preservative
  • C9-11 Pareth-8: a solvent and foaming agent
  • Fragrance
  • Poloxamer 124: controls thickness
  • Benzotriazolyl Dodecyl p-Cresol: a color preservative
  • Other colorants

In the FAQ section on Dawn-Dish.com, the brand provides a lists of all the ingredients found in its soaps. The list is extensive, so we’ll look at the formula for one of the products, Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (original scent). Here’s what’s inside:

  • Water and Denatured Alcohol: stabilizers
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, C10-16 Alkyldimethylamine Oxide, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate: surfactants and cleaning agents
  • PPG-26 and Sodium Chloride: adjusts viscosity
  • PEI-14 PEG-24/PPG-16 COPOLYMER: cleaning enhancer
  • Fragrance
  • Phenoxyethanol: a solvent
  • Methylisothiazolinone: a preservative
  • And Acid Red 33: a popular colorant

Both brands offer hypoallergenic soaps, including (click to see ingredients): Palmolive Ultra Pure + Clear or Dawn Free & Clear. These options are dye-free and have fewer ingredients, which makes them ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Price

Dawn and Palmolive are both affordable (as is all dish soap), but Dawn tends to cost slightly more when comparing similar dish soaps.

You can often save money by buying dish soap in bulk, and you should look at prices per ounce rather than per bottle when making comparisons.

Another factor that impacts price is the strength of a soap’s formula. The stronger the soap, the more it’ll cost –– but stronger soaps also last longer and provide more “bang for your buck.”

A good example is Dawn Platinum dish soap, which costs slightly more than its other formulas but makes up for it by being a stronger, more concentrated soap.

Sprays such as Dawn Powerwash are also pricier, but they allow you to control the portion you use, which saves you money in the long run.

Below is a quick comparison chart showing the current prices of each brand’s most popular dish soaps:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

FAQs About Dawn and Palmolive

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about both Dawn and Palmolive.

Do Dawn and Palmolive kill bacteria?

Both brands offer antibacterial soaps (Dawn Ultra Antibacterial and Palmolive Antibacterial), which are the only formulas guaranteed to kill bacteria on dishes and hands.

Will Dawn or Palmolive dry out my hands?

Unless labeled for use on hands, such as Palmolive’s Soft Touch soap or either brand’s antibacterial options, any dish soap can dry your hands out after frequent use. It’s a good idea to use hand lotion after you wash up.

Can You Use Dawn or Palmolive in the dishwasher?

No. Using dish soap in a dishwasher will result in a big, foamy mess. Dishwasher detergent contains enzymes that break down stains, grease, and residue without the suds. Palmolive PowerPacs are designed for dishwashers, but both brands’ other products are meant for handwashing only.

Is it safe to mix vinegar with Dawn or Palmolive? What about bleach?

Vinegar is fine to mix with regular dish soap but beware of the smell. Do not mix bleach or other strong cleaners with dish soap –– they often contain ammonia, even when it isn’t listed in the ingredients, and mixing bleach and ammonia is extremely dangerous.

Are Dawn or Palmolive dish soaps toxic?

Both soaps contain harsh chemicals that can make people or animals sick if ingested. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that rates products for health and ecological safety, gives Dawn a C or D rating, while Palmolive is rated between D and F.

Can you clean anything besides dishes with Dawn or Palmolive? 

Absolutely. Both brands’ soaps come with a plethora of creative, non-dish uses. You can use both to clean surfaces in your home, including cabinets, sinks, floors, and appliances. They work great for cleaning up paint and other greasy messes on hard surfaces. You can also use them to create a highly-effective homemade stain remover for your clothes.

Dawn offers helpful tips on the many ways you can use its dish soap on its how-to blog

What companies own Dawn and Palmolive?

Dawn is owned by Procter & Gamble, and Palmolive is owned by Colgate-Palmolive.

Do Dawn and Palmolive test on animals?

Yes. Both companies test on animals; however, it’s not always their choice. In the United States and many other countries, testing on animals is required to prove that a product is safe. Both companies have significantly reduced the amount of animal testing with the goal of eliminating it completely in the future.

Currently, Procter and Gamble (parent company of Dawn) tests its products on animals when doing so is required by law. Colgate-Palmolive (parent company of Palmolive) takes it a step further and actively negotiations with regulatory agencies to prove the product’s safety without animal testing.
The point is, both brands are doing what they can to eliminate animal testing and only do it when it’s required by law.

You can read both companies’ statements on this matter on PG.com and ColgatePalmolive.com.

Do Dawn and Palmolive offer any warranties or guarantees?

No, neither soap comes with warranties or guarantees.

Do Dawn and Palmolive dish soap expire?

Yes –– as a basic rule, dish soap is good for about 12-18 months. You should replace the bottle after that to preserve the soap’s antibacterial properties and general effectiveness.

Bottom Line: Which Is Better, Dawn or Palmolive?

By now, you should have a good understanding of the differences between Dawn and Palmolive dish soaps.

To review:

  • Both Dawn and Palmolive offer extensive product lineups, including basic dish soaps, specialty soaps, dishwashing sprays, and numerous scent options.
  • Dawn offers dish foam in addition to its other products, while Palmolive does not.
  • Dawn and Palmolive are both effective and well-regarded with positive reviews from consumers –– but Dawn receives higher praise from independent reviews for its cleaning power and pleasant scents.
  • The EWG gives Dawn products a C or D health and environmental safety rating, while Palmolive’s soaps earned a D or F.
  • Although exact formulas vary by brand and specific product, Dawn and Palmolive soaps use similar ingredients.
  • In general, dish soap is inexpensive, but Dawn tends to cost slightly more than Palmolive.

Ultimately, Palmolive and Dawn are both highly-rated dish soaps that get the job done. If you test them side-by-side, you won’t notice a significant difference in most scenarios.

That said, if you’re on the fence, I recommend Dawn. It gets better safety ratings, comes in more forms, including foams and sprays, and is available in more scents.

Plus, according to several independent tests, including my own, it delivers superior cleaning power, which makes a difference when you’re scrubbing stubborn stains and stuck-on food.

The best way to make the right choice is to try both soaps for yourself. And since both are relatively cheap and available on Amazon (link to Dawn, link to Palmolive), you have nothing to lose.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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