Woman and two babies washing hands under faucet

How do natural dish soaps actually work?

Last Updated: May 11, 2021

It’s time to upgrade your dish soap. We’ve gathered the best natural dish soap brands of 2021 to see how they work and to help you find a dishwashing detergent you’ll love.

It’s time to upgrade your dish soap and ditch the commercial brands that leave your hands dry and your dishes dirty. By switching to a natural dish detergent that cuts the grease without the chemicals, you’ll not only be helping care for our environment but you’ll be putting those in your household in contact with better ingredients and less chemicals.

Whether you’re after scented, plant-based, moisturizing, or fragrance-free, we’ve gathered the best dish soap brands of 2021 to help you find a dishwashing liquid you’ll love.

What is Grove Collaborative?

From natural household to personal care, everything at Grove is healthier for you and the planet — and works! We recommend monthly shipments and product refills that you can edit or move at any time. No monthly fees or commitments required.

How does dish soap work?

We’ve all heard the saying, “like water and oil.” That’s because water and oil don’t normally mix –– instead, they separate into different layers. Here’s where soap comes into play.

Soap is made up of a pin-shaped molecule with two heads –– one head is hydrophilic (it loves water!) and the other is hydrophobic (it hates water!)

The hydrophobic heads latch onto grease and oil in an attempt to get away from the scary water, and the hydrophilic bits pull them the other way, toward the water, yanking grease and oil right off your hands, dishes, counters, and clothes ... suspending them in the water so they can be rinsed down the drain. Et voila! The mysterious cleaning power of soap, revealed.

What are the bad ingredients to avoid in conventional dish soaps?

So you’re switching over to natural cleaning products, but you’re not sure which ingredients to seek out and which to avoid. Don’t worry –– we’ve compiled a short and sweet list of the best and worst ingredients to keep in mind when choosing a natural dish soap.

The good and natural ingredients in dish soaps

Essential oils

Essential oils are all-natural, biodegradable, and often have antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties that make them powerful cleaning aids in dish soaps. They smell delightful, too!


Natural surfactants are derived from plants and are used to enhance the cleaning power of soap. They work by lowering the surface tension of water which helps the soap molecules grab onto dirt and grease.

Plant oils

Oils derived from plants –– think coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil –– are great for cleaning dishes because of the “like dissolves like” principle. This means that oil-based products will dissolve oil-based filth, like grease and grime.

The bad chemicals in dish soaps


Artificial fragrances contain hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals. Companies aren’t required by law to disclose these ingredients so it’s impossible to know which toxins might be hiding in your fragranced dish soap. Fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions and can negatively affect estrogen and testosterone levels.


Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal used in soaps and detergents. It alters hormone regulation, might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, and is highly toxic to aquatic animals.

Here are 5 more things to know about triclosan from the FDA.


Parabens are most commonly used as preservatives in cleaning products to keep bacteria and mold from growing. Parabens can disrupt hormones, harm fertility, and increase the risk of cancer.

Here’s what the Environmental Working Group has to say about parabens, especially in skincare products.

What about dish soap for babies?

It’s funny to imagine a baby sitting at the sink, doing dishes, but don’t worry –– we’re not trying to encourage you to put your baby to work.

Finding products that are gentle enough to use for Baby’s bottles and dishes is a top priority for many parents, and we’re here to help. Below we’ve got the best recommendations for safe and effective dish soaps.

What are the best natural dish soaps to buy in 2021?

Green illustration of cleaning products with arrow pointing from one to the other

We know how important it is to choose a dish detergent that hits all your pain points. We’ve done the dirty work to find the best natural dish soaps, from unscented liquid soap to no-drip dish soap bars (yes, they exist). All of these products are available to order online at Grove and have delivered straight to your doorstep.

Best plant-based dish soap

Photo of Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap

Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap

Plant-based ingredients that deliver sparkling dishes and cut grease like a dream? Yes, please! The Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap is designed with safety in mind. It’s dye-, fragrance-, phosphate-, and triclosan-free to give you an all-natural clean that’s as safe as it is effective.

Best no-drip dish soap + best dish soap for soft hands

Photo of Grove Hand & Dish Soap

Grove Co. Hand and Dish Bar Soap with Walnut Scrubber Sponge Set

Say hello to the Grove Co. Hand and Dish Bar Soap. It comes in a nifty bar so you don’t have to worry about your bottle –– or your hands –– getting covered in sticky soap residue every time you do the dishes. Rub the walnut scrubber sponge over the soap to create a frothy lather that’ll cut through grease, grime, and stuck-on food.

Best liquid dish soap

Photo of two bottles of Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner’s is a true all-in-one miracle product that’ll clean your dishes, your dog, and your hair without breaking a sweat. It’s paraben-free, biodegradable, vegan, and comes in seven delicious scents plus an unscented version that’s great for babies and those with sensitive noses.

Best naturally-scented dish soap

Photo of Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap and Hand Soap on sink

Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap

If you haven’t tried Mrs. Meyers by now, you’re missing out. This hard-working dish soap is biodegradable, cruelty-free, and scented with an array of scrumptious essential oils. Delight your olfactory senses with fun scents like lilac, fresh cut grass, and basil, plus family favorites like lemon verbena and lavender or seasonal fragrances like compassion flower.

Best unscented dish soap

Photo of Grove Ultimate Dish Soap

Grove Co. Ultimate Dish Soap

Not a fan of scents in your dish soap? We got you. Our Free and Clear Ultimate Dish Soap is free of fragrances, harsh chemicals, and it’s packaged in recyclable aluminum to cut down on plastic waste. It cuts grease in seconds and removes stuck-on food with ease, all while being gentle on your nose.

Best dish soap for babies and kids

Photo of man holding baby wearing a diaper

grab green Baby Bottle Dish Soap

This dish soap is a healthy choice for new babies and their bottles and accessories because it’s biodegradable, sulfate-free, paraben-free, and it uses only naturally derived fragrances. Plus, it’s vegan and cruelty-free, made by a women-owned business right here in the US, and has packaging that is recyclable.

Bonus: Best decorative dish soap dispenser

Photo of Jeremiah Brent x Grove Co. dish soap

Jeremiah Brent x Grove. Co. Glass Soap Dispenser

Once you’ve found your favorite dish soap, you’ll need a stylish soap dispenser to go with it. This limited edition soap dispenser is a must-have for any kitchen. Rich sage green glass accents the minimalistic design to create a gorgeous and functional alternative to plastic bottles. Pair it with our High Performance Dish Soap to cut down on kitchen waste.

Other ways to use dish soap around the house

At Grove, we’re all about simplicity. We love those magical products that tout their all-in-one benefits and have multiple uses –– and natural dish soaps fit the bill beautifully. They’re powerful enough to handle stuck-on food but gentle enough for use in other areas of your home.

Here are a few ways to take your fave dish soap outside of the kitchen.
Blue spray bottle illustration

Spot clean carpets

Blot the spill on your carpet to remove any excess matter. Add two to three drops of dish soap to a cup of lukewarm water then dip a clean microfiber cleaning cloth in the solution and gingerly dab your carpet until the spot is removed. Learn how to remove red wine from carpet easily here … we’ve got you!

Green bottle illustration

Remove grease stains from clothing

Since dish soap is designed to break down oils, it’s great for removing grease stains from clothes. Squirt a drop or two onto the stain in question then let it sit for at least an hour. Rinse out the soap and wash as usual.

Orange stove illustration

Clean counters and greasy surfaces

Fill a bowl with warm water, and add a few drops of dish soap. Dip in a microfiber cloth, and squeeze it until suds form. Clean the stove burners and top, the inside of your fridge, pantry shelves, table tops … you get the idea.

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