Dawn Vs. Palmolive: 7 Deciding Factors


When shopping for dish soap, you’ll probably notice that two brands are the most prominent: Dawn and Palmolive. So, what are the differences between the two? And, perhaps more importantly, which one is better?

Both Dawn and Palmolive dish soaps have great cleaning power, but Dawn is more powerful and highly concentrated. Dawn is highly versatile and has a larger product line with more scent options, but it is also more expensive. Palmolive is less likely to dry out your hands and features an unscented option; its original scent frequently receives complaints.

This article will cover all of the important features of Dawn and Palmolive dish soaps. We’ll provide an in-depth comparison of these two product lines. We’ll also discuss their ingredients and whether they can be harmful.

Dawn Vs. Palmolive Dish Soap: Which Is Better?

For a quick comparison, take a look at the table below. If you’d like to learn more, keep reading!

Product Range20+ dishwashing products, including liquid dish soap, dish spray, dishwashing foam, combination hand soap/dishwashing liquid, and disinfecting wipesSix types of dishwashing liquid, plus concentrated dish gel, dishwasher packets, and dishwashing spray
ScentFresh original scent and 11 other scent options; no unscented optionStrong original scent, seven other scents, and an unscented option
CostLow, but slightly more expensive than PalmoliveInexpensive
Cleaning PowerExtremely powerfulEffective, but not as powerful as Dawn
Active IngredientsSodium lauryl sulfate, C10-16 alkyl dimethyl amine oxide, and sodium laureth sulfateSodium laureth sulfate and lauramidopropyl betaine
Other UsesVarious cleaning applications, repelling pests, and cleaning birds affected by oil spillsVarious cleaning applications and repelling pests
EWG GradeD averageF average
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1. Product Range

While both brands are best known for their dish soap, they have other products as well.

Photo: Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Dawn has more than 20 dishwashing products in total, with its best-selling original formula being the most well-known. Dawn’s product line also includes dish spray, dishwashing foam, combination hand soap/dishwashing liquid, and disinfecting wipes. 

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Palmolive’s website lists seven products in its dish soap and detergent line. These include six types of dishwashing liquid as well as concentrated dish gel. However, you can also find Palmolive dishwasher packets and dishwashing spray in stores.

2. Scent

Dawn has a wider range of scents, including the following. It does not have an unscented formulation.

  • Lemon essence
  • Lavender
  • Aloe
  • Orange
  • Pomegranate and rose water
  • Cherry blossom
  • Peach and almond
  • Apple blossom
  • Tea and honey
  • Green papaya
  • Jasmine tea and wildberry

Palmolive has a more limited scent selection:

  • Orange
  • Spring Fresh
  • Lavender eucalyptus
  • Lavender and lime
  • Almond milk and blueberry
  • Coconut water and jasmine
  • Aloe and citrus
  • Unscented

Both dish soap brands also have their own original scents. While Dawn’s seems to be universally liked, many people complain about Palmolive’s original scent.

3. Cost

Dish soap, in general, tends to be quite inexpensive. The prices of Dawn and Palmolive are comparable, but Dawn costs a bit more. Specific prices vary by product, size, and store.

4. Cleaning Power

Although some people prefer Palmolive, most people believe Dawn has superior cleaning power. In addition, many publications named Dawn as the best dish soap. 

Dawn has ranked as the number-one best overall dish soap on multiple lists. Palmolive, on the other hand, only occasionally snags a second-place spot. 

Furthermore, Dawn is often noted for its incredible grease-eliminating abilities, while Palmolive has received the “Best for Hands” title. Both dish soaps have been recognized for their great value and budget-friendliness.

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5. Formulation

Both dish soaps are mixtures of water, fragrances, dyes, cleaning agents, sulfates, and surfactants.

Dawn’s original dish soap is mainly made up of water and denatured alcohol, which are stabilizers. Its active ingredients are sodium lauryl sulfate, C10-16 alkyl dimethyl amine oxide, and sodium laureth sulfate.

Sodium chloride and PPG-26 are also ingredients, and their purpose is to adjust the mixture’s viscosity. There are also cleaning enhancers, fragrances, and colorants. Phenoxyethanol, a solvent, and methylisothiazolinone, a preservative, are the final ingredients.

Palmolive’s original dish soap uses water and denatured alcohol as stabilizers and sodium laureth sulfate and lauramidopropyl betaine as active ingredients. Lactic acid is present as a preservative.

On the ingredient list, you’ll also find C9-11 Pareth-8, a solvent and foaming agent, and Poloxamer 124, which controls thickness. Finally, there are fragrance, a color preservative, and other colorants.

6. Other Uses

Dawn is typically viewed as the more versatile dish soap. Animal rescue centers use it to clean birds affected by oil spills, and during the pandemic, it was hailed as a terrific hand soap. It’s also known for breaking up small diesel spills.

Other uses for Dawn include pretreating laundry, repelling and killing ants, cleaning toilets, eliminating garden pests, and removing paint from skin. It can unclog sinks and drains, clean dirt and fingerprints from stainless steel appliances, and remove grease from tools.

Palmolive removes stains from carpet, repels ants, removes laundry stains, kills fleas, and cleans grease from hands. You can also make big bubbles with it, which can be a fun activity for kids!

7. EWG Grade

The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, assigns grades to various products based on their ability to protect your health and the environment. Unfortunately, neither Dawn nor Palmolive scored highly.

Fifty-one of Dawn’s products received a D grade, while four scored a C and three scored an F.

Palmolive did even worse, with 19 products scoring an F and two scoring a D.

How Do Dawn Dish Soap And Palmolive Differ?

These two dish soaps have plenty in common, such as their primary use and the fact that both are antibacterial and phosphate-free. However, they have several differences as well.

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The biggest difference between these two dish soap brands is that Dawn’s products are more alkaline and very highly concentrated. They are better at removing tough stains and grease. Dawn also tends to be more expensive than Palmolive.

Palmolive’s advantage is that, due to its weaker concentration, it’s more moisturizing. Since the cleaning agents aren’t quite as strong, Palmolive’s dish soap doesn’t dry out your hands as much as Dawn does.

Is Palmolive Dish Soap Toxic?

Photo: osseus / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Palmolive can be considered toxic because of some of its ingredients.

It contains Ammonium C12-15 Alkyl Sulfate, which comes with issues like aquatic toxicity, detrimental respiratory effects, and vision damage.

Lauramidopropylamine oxide and myristamidopropyl amine oxide can cause skin irritation, allergies, and other problems.

Does Dawn Dish Soap Have Harmful Chemicals?

Dawn dish soap can also be considered toxic due to several of its synthetic ingredients, which come with risks of skin irritation, respiratory problems, and more. Methylisothiazolinone, in particular, is known for acute aquatic toxicity.

Multiple other ingredients come with concerns as well.

The Final Verdict: Dawn Vs. Palmolive

Although both dish soaps are great at what they do, Dawn is best for dealing with difficult stains and grease. Dawn also features a more expansive product line with a larger scent selection.

Palmolive is cheaper than Dawn, and its weaker concentration means it’s less likely to dry out your hands. Something to note is that many reviewers dislike Palmolive’s original scent, but you can choose other scents or the unscented option.

Both dish soaps received poor grades from the Environmental Working Group. Dawn averaged a D, while Palmolive scored an F.

When it comes to cleaning power, Dawn is your best option. Palmolive can also get the job done, but will likely require some extra effort and elbow grease.