Detergent is a key ingredient in most do-it-yourself bubble juice recipes. The detergent is usually of the type called dishwashing liquid (washing-up liquid in the UK). The detergent choice is CRITICAL. Some detergents work far better than others. Detergent strength varies considerably from detergent type to detergent type. Even a particular brand's strength may vary considerably from country to country.
Most recipes on the wiki assume a detergent whose strength and characteristics are similar to Dawn Pro (at least the pre-2015 version). If your detergent's strength or characteristics are different, you may need to use more or less detergent than the recipes call for. Where the Dawn-equivalence is known, we have tried to note it.
The Best Detergent Edit
Because availability and formulation varies from country to country, the detergent choice will depend on where you are. Look for your country in the list below.
Around the world, there seems to be consensus in the the bubbling community (or at least on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group) that the Procter & Gamble dishwashing liquids (which go by different names in different countries) are the most reliable brands for mixing up DIY bubble solutions in most countries. Japan's Charmy is a notable exception and may work even better than the Procter & Gamble detergents.
Historical Note. For years, in the U.S.A, there were disputes as to whether Dawn or Joy was the best dishwashing liquid for bubble juice. For the last several years, there has been a strong consensus that some members of the Dawn line are the very best detergents. In the U.S., there are some other detergents that also provide good to very good results (more details are provided below. Detergent formulations have changed quite a bit since the original Dawn vs, Joy battles and may account for Joy seeming to underperform the best of the Dawn line.
Many people inquire about making their own bubble juice from scratch without using a pre-made detergent or soap. It seems that making a reliable surfactant base that rivals commercial options is quite challenging. Many people have reported trying and giving up. One German chemist has reported achieving results that rival Dawn/Fairy but has not shared information as he is considering a commercial venture.
There is a promising DIY project from Rick Findley that he shared in early 2017 called RAD. We hope that others will start exploring and sharing -- and perhaps bubble mixologists can become freed of reliance on Procter and Gamble's occasional formulation changes. Find out all about RAD here.
Brands mentioned by bubble makers in the U.S. are listed below. Bold-type indicates that the detergent has been used by a wiki contributor. Note that manufacturers sometimes reformulate their detergents, and it is not possible for us to stay on top of all the changes. If one of the recommended detergents does not work well for you, please let us know. If you find a different one that works well, let us know.
- Dawn Family - The Dawn family of detergents is generally considered to be the best performing U.S. line of detergents for making bubbles. Not all members of the family perform equally. See the main the main Dawn article page for more information and recommendations.
- Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid (tested 2014)- scent-free dishwashing liquid that seems to compare favorably to Dawn Pro in preliminary (July 2014) tests. If you can't find one of the preferred Dawn versions, you might try this.
- Method Dish Soap (test 2014)- initial tests indicate that this detergent can work quite well though it is weaker than Dawn Pro. About 1.3 times as much Method Dish Soap needs to be used compared to Dawn Pro.
- **Gain. This is an inexpensive offering from Procter&Gamble that appears to be a U.S. only brand. It was mentioned by Keith Johnson in this SBF posting. This seems to work quite well based on some exploration done in early 2012. It reacts differently to PEO than the Dawns and may need a bit less PEO than Dawn-based formulas -- although this has not been confirmed by rigorous testing. Gain seems to create a "filmier" film with moderate amounts of PEO. If you cannot find a recommended Dawn, this may be worth exploring.
- Joy (non-ultra) - (this seems to no longer be available). Many people like this detergent though some report that it is not quite as effective as the best in the Dawn line of detergents.
- Joy Ultra - there have been reports (untested) that Yellow Ultra Joy does not bubble quite as well as the Orange Anti-bacterial Ultra Joy. NOTE (JULY 2012): Comparisons of Joy Ultra and Dawn Ultra with a simple guar-based juice indicated that Joy was inferior for creating giant bubbles -- at least with that recipes.
- Joy Manual Pot & Pan - This is a "professional" line of Joy and is non-concentrated. It is available at Smart & Final as well as other retailers for the janitorial and restaurant business.
- Palmolive's Baby Bottle, Toy & Dish Wash. We haven't had any specific reports about this yet. It is mentioned by Keith Johnson in this SBF posting.
- Suave (shampoo) has been mentioned in the past on various web sites, but we have not corroborated its effectiveness.If you have information about the use of Suave in bubble juice, please let us know.
- Walmart Great Value Dishwashing Liquid - Edward reports that he used this in a test session (Oct. 2015) and that it worked pretty well. He has not used it in enough sessions to offer an opinion about how it compares to Dawn Pro. His casual observation is that it might be a bit stronger than Dawn Pro but feels that more testing needs to be done.
See also Dawn.
Outside the USAEdit
In the U.S., there seems to be a consensus (at least in 2010) that Dawn and/or Joy products work best as the base of bubble mix. In other countries, people generally seem to report that brands of dish detergent made by Procter & Gamble work best. The brand names vary from country to country. In some countries it is known as Dreft (this is not the same as the Dreft laundry detergent available in the U.S.) in others it is Fairy ( available through amazon.de ). On SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group a least one person has reported good results using Fairy Ultra (in Germany) in the Jumbo Juice recipe. In some European countries, there is a detergent called Yes (available in Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain and possibly other countries) which seems to be a re-branded version of Fairy and is reported to work well. Some side-by-side testing of Dawn Pro and Fairy Ultra indicated similar performance but with Dawn Pro performing somewhat better.
Fairy/Dreft/Yes. These detergents from Procter & Gamble are similar to Dawn and some have compared them side-by-side and felt that they were close to Dawn Pro. Changing formulations. The formulations seem to seem to change periodically and varies by country. It is important to check the sufractant concentration (see below) as this determines how much detergent you need to use. In some countries (such as the U.K.) both a high and low concentration version are available, and it is important to know which you are using. There are some interesting discussions a about these formulations on SBF  . In the UK and Ireland (2014), Fairy Platinum has been mentioned favorably by several wiki visitors in the past (circa 2013). There have been mixed reports about Fairy Platinum in 2016, and we are seeking more information. SURFACTANT CONCENTRATION - VERY IMPORTANT!: To determine if the detergent can be substituted directly for Dawn Pro, check the ingredients for the anionic surfactant concentration. If the amount listed is 5%-15% you need to increase the amount of detergent by a factor of about two. Full-strength Fairy lists the concentration as 10%-30%. Note that even if you increase the surfactant amount, the lower concentration versions of these detergents seem less effective than the higher-concentration versions.
Sept. 2011: This SBF discussion  summarizes some valuable information about detergents available in Europe.
Germany. Haka Neutralseife has been mentioned on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group as being useful in conjunction with water, methyl cellulose-containing wallpaper paste and sugar for creating giant bubbles. Fairy is a popular detergent among European bubblers. In July 2012, Procter and Gamble replaced the "old Fairy" with re-formulated detergents. Interestingly, the different scents of the July 2012 re-formulations indicate different formulations as indicated here.
France. We have had feedback from a number of people that indicate that "Paic" does not work as well as Dawn/Fairy/Dreft. While some people have apparently had success with Paic, all of the French bubblers that we know of use Procter and Gamble detergents such as Fairy (which apparently is available on Amazon if it is not available in a local store).
Australia - (2014) Fairy is available in Australia and is reasonably equivalent to Dawn. Dawn has been reported as being available from Costco in Australia though we have not had any reports about which type of Dawn. Avoid Morning Fresh and non-Procter & Gamble detergents found in Australia. We have had numerous reports that the commonly found non-Procter & Gamble detergents are ineffective.
UK, Denmark - Peter O'Boyle - I have tested many brands of dish washing liquid for making large bubbles and have found Fairy to be the best. Out of the many different types of fairy liquid I tried, I found Fairy Platinum (not Platinum lemon) to be the best of them.
Israel- Fairy classic yellow or green 24% active ingredient worked great. Palmolive also worked O.K however its only 18% strong and costs the same.
South Africa - The only detergent which we have had decent results with is Ajax ("Lemon" or "Lemon and Lime").
Japan- Charmy "Power of Suds" is favored by Mr. Hisao Oono. His recipe is here. He seems to favor the Orange and Apple scents. See also: http://www.lion.co.jp/en/press/html/2009018f.htm and Mr. Oono's recipe translated
Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic - It seems the best working brand is Jar by Procter & Gamble. Jar is listed (reference needed) as having approximately half the surfactant (5%-15%)(see thread) of Dawn and Fairy which both list 10%-30% anionic surfactants. When using it in place of Dawn or Fairy, double the amount of detergent and reduce the amount of water by the amount of extra detergent. For example, if a recipe calls for 40 grams of Dawn Pro, use 80 grams Jar and reduce the amount of water used by 40 grams.
Croatia - The best detergent in my experience was Jar Platinum and regular Jar. The main difference between the two is that Jar Platinum has 15% to 30% sufractants while regular Jar has 5% to 15%. However, I tested both side by side, making the same mix (simple Guar recipe, 50ml detergent) and using the same amount of detergent (not adjusting because the sufractants). The results were nearly the same, except that the Jar platinum bubbles had the ghosting effect a bit more than the regular Jar bubbles.
Italy - While someone posed a recommendation here for "dark green" Svelto, several Italian bubblers have expressed the opinion that it is not nearly as effective as Procter & Gamble products (such as Fairy). On SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group, the opinion has been expressed that it is worth tracking down Fairy or Dreft which can be found on Amazon. Search in the SBF archives for Svelto.
Malaysia - Joy dishwashing liquid is available and can generally be substituted for Dawn (though the results may not be quite as good as with Dawn). One wiki contributor, recommends the guar-based juice made with Joy for Malaysian bubblers. He also says that Sunlight is not effective and should be avoided.
Poland - A wiki visitor comments that Fairy is superior to Ludwik another popular brand of dishwashing liquid.
South America (Bolivia) - Thommy reports that Magistral seems to be quite effective and is very similar to the Fairy that he normally uses in Europe. See Thommy's comments in the comments section of the page below.
The Netherlands - See the listing for Fairy/Dreft/Yes above. Dreft Original (as of 2016) seems to have 15-30 % anionic surfactants (>15-30% anionogene oppervlakteactieve stoffen) while other Dreft versions seem to be the lower concentration type and should be avoided if possible. See the main Fairy/Dreft/Yes entry above for more.
Brazil - Gunnar Jauch writes (May 2016): "During a stay last year in Rio de Janeiro, I noticed that neither Fairy nor Dawn was availabe. I tried the commonly sold dishwashing liquid IPE, and I noticed that it worked reasonably well. He has posted some videos at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEMmcx0YB7A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUpwzT7PUFs
Switzerland - Gunnar Jauch write (July 2016): "I use Procter & Gamble's Fairy Lemon, mix it with ca 400 ml of it with a spoonful of JLube anda good teaspoon of Natrosol 250 HHR PC, until it turns into a thick slime. Then a spoonful of baking powder and 10' l of warm water is added, with the juice of 2 lemons. this way, I keep getting getting very good results!"
Sweden - (November 2016) P&G brands Yes Original and Yes Platinum-Original are available in Sweden, among others. Three different mixes tried. Two mixes based on Sam Wilson's Bubblemix (FB Flying Soap) with Yes Original and a J-lube mix, and Yes Platinum-Original using both J-Lube and Natrosol 250 HX. Thus far better luck with Yes Platinum/mult-polymer. One mix according to Recipe HECP. Pros and cons noted on that wiki, but overall no significant issues using the YES detergents. :)
Mexico - (June 2017, added by anonymous user) P&G's Salvo Limón and Colgate's Champú Mennen work very well to make regular and giant bubbles. The science group "Iuani divulgación" have been used them in many events with great results, they use the formula 1-2-1/3: 1 cup of detergent/shampoo, 2 cups of water and 1/3 cup on liquid glicerine. This is an example of what they have done with that bubble mixEdward notes: this recipe seems very detergent heavy and its performance could probably be improved considerably by using less detergent (so that the soap films will be thicker) and using some polymer. It is very hard to tell from the pictures how these compare in strength to our standard Dawns. Rick Findley has reported in the past that Salvo works but is quite inferior when compared to Dawn Ultra and Dawn Pro.
N.B. As noted in the Netherlands entry above for 2016, the % anionic surfactants in both Yes detergents tried are noted at 15-30%.
PLEASE ADD THE NAMES OF ANY DETERGENTS IN YOUR COUNTRY THAT WORK WELL FOR MAKING SOAP BUBBLES.