In this report
Get clean dishes
February 2009
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Dishwashing liquids
A foam outperformed the competition

Woman looking at glass after food removal test
DID YOU KNOW? To test food removal, we coated plate glass with flour, egg-yolk powder, sugar, and evaporated milk; baked it; dunked it in soapy water; then used a mechanical scrubber. Depending on the product, food removal took 10 to 18 scrubs. (Water alone didn't do the job in 400 passes.)
Procter & Gamble says its Dawn Direct Foam breaks grease into particles and absorbs them before they're rinsed off, keeping grease from other dishes. And it was best in our tough tests of 10 detergents, 9 of which are liquid products.

But a 13.5-ounce pump bottle of Dawn Direct Foam costs $2.51, or 9.3 cents per tablespoon, enough to clean a sinkful of plates, pots, and pans. Another excellent product, Ajax Dish, did the job for less than 3 cents per tablespoon. Even the lowest-rated products will get dishes clean if you scrub enough.

CR's take. The Ajax is excellent and the least expensive. For a product with somewhat less impact on the environment, consider Ecover Ecological, made from a renewable, plant-based cleaning agent instead of a petroleum-based agent. Whatever product you choose, don't be wowed by claims of super suds. Cleaning occurs below the suds. Most of the tested products come in containers of 25 to 34 fluid ounces, and cost is per tablespoon.


Meaningless claims. "Natural," "environmentally friendly," and "nontoxic" lack standard definitions. Even "biodegradable" means little unless the claim is specific: for example, "biodegradable in three days" or "certified biodegradable."

Meaningful claims. "Certified biodegradable" is independently verified, as is the Leaping Bunny symbol on Earth Friendly and Seventh Generation detergents. That logo indicates that a product wasn't tested on animals during any stage of its development. Another tip: Look for specific claims such as "contains no artificial dyes or fragrances," then look for an ingredients list, which might help confirm the claim.