How Bad Is It to Wash Your Hands with Dish Soap?

Updated: Mar. 30, 2020

Does soap meant for breaking up bacon grease and washing off that sticky peanut butter harm your delicate hands?

You’re at the kitchen sink and need to wash your hands after slicing an onion or wiping yet another sneeze off your toddler’s face. But the only soap sink side is the same dish soap you use to clean your dishes. Which poses the question: Is it OK to wash your hands with dishwashing liquid? Or, should you only wash your hands with designated body soap; either bar or liquid? Here’s the answer according to Kally Papantoniou, MD, a New York City and Long Island-based dermatologist.

Just because a soap is advertised to predominantly wash dishes, doesn’t mean it can’t clean your hands, says Dr. Papantoniou. The good news: Regular washing with a dishwashing liquid should adequately remove the majority of bacteria.

But there are a few buts:

  • When reading labels on dishwashing liquid, remember this: It’s hard to clean grease off plates without cleaning the natural oils right off your hands, explains Dr. Papantoniou. If you regularly find yourself washing your hands with dish soap, opt for a “milder” dishwashing liquid, like Dawn Ultra which will be less drying on hands, she says.
  • Have dry skin or eczema? You’ll need to be even more cautious about stripping natural oils for your skin. If you’re having a flare-up, you may want to seek out a gentler hand soap.
  • While it is OK to wash your hands with dishwashing soap, that doesn’t mean you can go wild and use it in place of your shower gel. “Using dish soap on the rest of your body will likely be too harsh and drying on more delicate skin,” says Dr. Papantoniou.

When you do go to buy that hand soap, Dr. Papantoniou recommends steering clear of antibacterial hand soap. “Toxic chemicals may be present in those soaps and could pose potential health risks, and second, a balance of bacteria on our skin is actually beneficial and should be promoted.” Her choice for those with eczema or dry skin is Vanicream Cleansing Bar or the Cetaphil skin cleansers. “For sensitive skin patients, I recommend the use of these milder cleansers to spare skin from being dried out.” Here are actual mistakes you may be making when it comes to washing your hands.