No one likes doing the washing up, but a good detergent can make the job a lot less painful, cutting through grease and dried-on food and leaving your dishes sparkling.
To save you time at the sink, our expert testers slogged through piles of dirty dishes to find the best performing dishwashing detergents, and to tell you which ones to leave off your shopping list.
"We tested 44 popular dishwashing liquids using plates that were consistently dirtied up with different foods, including bolognese and egg yolk," explains CHOICE expert Matthew Steen.
"We soak them in each detergent, scrub them a set number of times and then look at how clean the plates are. We also look at how well they wash compared to plain water."
A clean winner: the best dishwashing liquid in our test
The results were crystal clear: Coles Ultra Advanced Power Soak Lime wiped the floor with its competitors, with our experts scoring it 90% overall.
It was far and away the winner in our test, scoring a full 15 percentage points higher than its nearest competitor, Fairy Kitchen Antibacterial, a dishwashing spray which scored 75%.
The Coles detergent is also one of the cheapest we tested, costing just 42 cents per 100mL – less than a third of the price of the Fairy spray, which costs $1.33 per 100mL.
"The Coles detergent is streets ahead in terms of performance and price – a win for both your dishes and your pocket," says Matthew.
However, some Coles and Fairy dishwashing liquids didn't fare so well in our lab tests, with other products from these brands sitting at the bottom of the heap. Many other well-known brands demonstrated similar results, with products towards both the top and bottom of the leaderboard.
It goes to show that even similarly-named products from the same brand can perform differently when you're scrubbing the dishes.
The Coles detergent is streets ahead in terms of performance and price – a win for both your dishes and your pocketMatthew Steen, CHOICE expert
"Our tests uncovered some wild variation, so never assume that if one product cleans well, similar ones from the same brand will deliver the same results," warns Matthew.
"It's worth keeping in mind when you're shopping – otherwise you could grab an inferior product accidentally.
"Likewise, don't assume an expensive product will outperform a cheap one – our tests found price is no measure of performance.
"The same goes for expecting that a washing up liquid from this year will perform just as well next year – the reason we test every year is because some manufacturers commonly change the formula, so check back with us each year to see who has the better product."
The other top performers
If you're not a Coles shopper and not keen on dishwashing spray, there are still plenty of other great products out there. Along with the Coles and Fairy products we've mentioned, our experts recommend these dishwashing liquids, which are all rated 70%:
- Aldi Green Action Plant Based Formula Green Tea and Lime Fragrance
- Aldi Tandil Ultra Antibacterial Lemon Fragrance
- Earth Choice Green Tea and Lime
- Earth Choice Undo This Mess Mint and Lime
- Morning Fresh Advanced Fast Dry White Tea
- Morning Fresh Antibacterial Lemon
- Morning Fresh Lemon
- Palmolive Complete Instant Degreaser Citrus Blast
- Sunlight Natural Lemon
Fairy Kitchen Antibacterial spray scored 75%, but are other dishwashing sprays any good?
To spray or not to spray?
Dishwashing sprays are a relatively new concept – rather than squirting liquid in the sink, you spray the detergent on your dishes and then rinse.
While the Fairy Kitchen Antibacterial spray took out second place in our lab tests, other sprays weren't as effective, with two of the three worst performers being dishwashing sprays.
"We followed the instructions for application and left the spray for a few minutes to work on the stains, but some simply don't perform as well as others," says Matthew.
No better than plain water: Morning Fresh Ultimate Power Clean Spray Citrus Fresh.
The Ultimate flop: the worst dishwashing liquid in our test
If you're looking for a fresh new way to tip your money down the sink, look no further than Morning Fresh Ultimate Power Clean Spray Citrus Fresh: not only does it cost a staggering $11 per bottle (seriously, would you spend that much on doing the dishes?), it also received exactly the same score as plain water.
Water didn't exactly do a great job either – it received a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 45% – but at least it's not going to set you back $2.20 per 100mL. The Morning Fresh spray will leave you with sore arms from all the extra scrubbing, and a hole in your pocket from the steep price.
Dishwashing liquids to avoid
To spare you the frustration of buying a dishwashing liquid that'll make washing up harder than it needs to be, here are the detergents that you should avoid, plus their CHOICE Expert Ratings:
- Morning Fresh Ultimate Power Clean Spray Citrus Fresh: 45%
- Palmolive Antibacterial Lemon Fresh: 50%
- Fairy Kitchen Lemon: 55%
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.