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Can You Use Hand Soap to Wash Dishes?

by Yaya Maria |

Can You Use Hand Soap to Wash Dishes?

If you’re out of dish soap and you’re wondering if you can use hand soap to wash your dishes, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll answer that question, and more:

What substitutes do people recommend for doing the dishes?

Do they work?

Are they safe?

We identified which ones harbor dangerous chemicals, and therefore shouldn’t be used on dishes.

And by the end, we’re going to tell you which ones got a thumbs-up, and which ones didn’t.

So without any further ado...


Hand soap to wash dishes

Can you use hand soap to wash dishes?

The short answer is: yes. Hand soap gets rid of food particles in an emergency when you’ve run out of dish soap.

But should you? There are a few things to consider.

First, hand soap has not been designed to remove food residue and grease from dishes.

It has a different pH level than dish soap, so it doesn’t work as well as dish soap does.

And some hand soaps are really (really) hard to rinse off of your dishes, and will leave behind a slimy, fragrant residue.

But an even more important question is: what’s in your hand soap?

Think about it: what’s in your soap will it end up on your dishes and mix in with your food.

If you use conventional hand soap, chances are it contains a number of toxins. ...Toxins like these:

1. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate

These ingredients are commonly referred to as “SLS” and can be found in most products that foam.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, SLS leads to a number of health issues.

It can cause endocrine disruption, ecotoxicity, biochemical or cellular changes, skin irritation, eye irritation, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer. Not exactly what you want communing with your food, right?

2. Parabens

Typical parabens found in hand soap are methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben.

Parabens pose a danger to your health because of their hormone-disrupting effects. Parabens mimic the female hormone estrogen, which encourages the growth of breast tumors.

3. Ureas

Ureas are concerning because they cause contact dermatitis, heart irregularities, joint pain, and they weaken your immune system.

Names to look out for on ingredient labels are Imidazolidinyl, Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM hydantoin, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and others.

4. Colors

This is an ingredient that captures thousands of chemicals manufacturers don’t have to disclose.

If your soap includes “colors,” harmful ingredients may be hidden inside this chemical mix.

5. Fragrance

This is another catch-all term that doesn’t openly show the ingredients it seeks to hide.

Fragrance” often includes phthalates which are endocrine disrupters known to mimic hormones that alter genital development.

6. 1,4-Dioxane

1,4-Dioxane causes cancer and can be found in many hand soaps.

Unfortunately, you won’t see it on any labels because it’s not an ingredient per se, but a by-product.

To avoid this substance, look for synthetic ethoxylated ingredients.

You can spot them on your ingredient list if you look for substances that include “laureth”, “ceteareth”, “myreth”, and “oleth”.

You should also avoid ingredients that include “eth,” like polyethylene glycol, polyethylene, and polyoxyethylene, as well as PEG and oxynol.

And there’s more

This is just a small overview of some of the most common and most harmful toxic ingredients found in conventional hand soap.

Of course, there are many more.

But it gives you an idea of what’s lurking inside regular hand soap.

To quickly look up the toxicity of your current hand soap, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.

Remember that these ingredients will end up on your dishes, and most likely, will leave an invisible residue that will mix in with your next meal.

This is why we don’t recommended you use regular hand soap as dish soap, even though it might succeed in getting rid of food particles in a “dish soap emergency.”

But if you’re prone to having dish-soap shortages in your home, you should choose a hand soap that can do the job on dishes in a pinch without risking your health, just like this one:

Natural hand soap

You can read what other people had to say about it here.

Can you use laundry detergent to wash dishes?

We don’t recommend using laundry detergent on your dishes because detergents include harsher ingredients than hand soap and dish soap.

Usually their ingredient lists are chock full of things that can get you sick if they come into contact with your food… petrochemicals, phosphates, surfactants, parabens, colorants, fragrances and many others.

Don’t let these ingredients end up on your dishes and mix in with your food.

But while we’re on the subject...

Here’s a laundry detergent that has zero toxic chemicals and does a stellar job washing your clothes (though probably not your dishes).

Can you use shampoo to wash dishes?

Don’t even think of this.

Shampoo, like laundry detergent, has way too many mischief-causing ingredients that shouldn’t be used on anything like dishes that will come into contact with your food.

Conventional shampoos include SLS, parabens, triclosan, PEG, DEA, TEA, formaldehyde, alcohol, fragrances, colors, and many other toxins.

Keep these substances away from your dishes and out of your body.

Speaking of which... maybe not such a good idea to use them on your hair, either. (Just sayin’.)

Here's an all-natural shampoo just in case...

Sounds like you’re out of dish soap!

Even though there are many substances you could probably use to get food-mess off your dishes, there is a better way.

The best solution is to use a natural dish soap that doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients, and that has been carefully formulated to get your dishes sparkling clean.

Watch this video to see what we mean by that:


In addition, it's important to use a biodegradable and a cruelty-free dish soap. Regular hand soaps most likely don't meet such standards.

We recommend the most natural dish soap available on the market—made from just 6 ingredients so natural, even your great-grandmother would understand them (and it's certified cruelty-free and vegan).

Nautral dish soap

Intrigued? Read more about it here.

(When you make a purchase from links in this post we might receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)


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