Is It Okay To Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Hands?

With the amount of handwashing going on right now, it's tempting to look for time-saving shortcuts wherever possible. One way to get your products to multitask is by using the same cleaner for multiple jobs. Chances are you spend more time squeezing that bottle of dish soap in the kitchen than most other cleaners. Sure, it works great on dirty dishes, but can it double as a hand soap as well?

The answer is technically yes — but that doesn't mean you should go ahead and ditch your hand soap just yet. There are good reasons why dish soap is marketed as an effective grease-fighter. It contains ingredients like phosphates, fragrances, and dyes, which are fine for dissolving baked-on casserole residue, but that can also be a little harsh for most hands.

Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist based in Beverly Hills and founder of SKINxFIVE, says "[Phosphate] destroys the lipid layer of the skin; [fragrances and dyes] activate the T cell arm of the immune system, which can mistakenly attack normal cells" (via In other words, you could end up with dry, irritated skin, or even a rash-inducing allergic reaction.

Dish soap can be used for washing hands in a pinch

True hand soap (not hand "wash") works by latching onto dirt and oil molecules, which then get washed away with warm water. Dish soap, on the other hand, is actually classified as a detergent, and works by breaking up dirt particles and making it harder for them to stick back to the surface, before being washed off (via Nyco).

While using dish soap in a pinch to wash hands if probably fine, dermatologists recommend reaching for something gentler first. Body wash is a good alternative, since it contains some of the same cleansing ingredients as hand soap. A dab of shampoo can do the job. And good old bar soap is a gentle, effective, and inexpensive cleanser.

Dr. Fred Davis, co-chair of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center Emergency Department, adds "If you have nothing else available, dish soap is fine. But I wouldn't continue to use it" (via The Strategist).