We just want to wash our hands!
December 11, 2017 1:59 AM   Subscribe

What’s a good hand soap that won’t irritate our hands? How about one that also isn’t a total mess? Maybe a good soap pump if I’m lucky?

We need a soap that doesn’t irritate our hands, lathers well, and doesn't clog up in a dispenser? (Or a good dispenser too?)

Bad soaps = scaly, dry, itchy, cracked knuckles for both of us (especially me), gumming up the pump, etc.

I would like to avoid harsh chemicals/antibacterial/heavy scents as those seem to bother me. A couple of the Soft Soap and Method scents have been okay, but not great. Many of Soft Soap, Dial, and Method have bothered me. 

We tried one that had like coconut oil in it? I think an organic store brand, but it didn’t lather and shot out of the pump like a rocket. 
I HATE bar soaps.

I’m happy to buy a soap in bulk and refill into a good pump - if you have one to recommend, even better. I’d rather have less waste. 

I feel like hand soap shouldn’t be this complicated. 

Obviously, anything that lathers and cleans is fine for me even if it’s not marketed as “hand” soap. Points for available at a grocery store. My body wash and shampoo seems fine but aren't great for hands. (Olay or store brand Olay body wash, Dove dandruff or Head and Shoulders dandruff, Dr Teal's bubble bath, Cetaphil face wash.) It’s only the hand soaps that are a problem somehow. 

posted by Crystalinne to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I am allergic to everything. Ok, not everything but damn close. We use Seventh Generation Free & Clear hand soap. I buy it in bulk from Amazon. The pump it comes in isn’t bad, but I bought a few of the foaming pump dispensers and fill them with a 4 to 1 ratio of water and soap. Works wonderfully and the soap lasts forever. I bought the least expensive clear/plain dispensers I could find on Amazon.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:16 AM on December 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

We've gone through the same thing, trying many brands, and this coconut Soapbox one has been the best yet. Unfortunately it looks like they are rebranding; I haven't tried the new line. (The pump on the old bottle was great too; sturdy and didn't build up gunk like Softsoap or break like Method.)
posted by gennessee at 3:44 AM on December 11, 2017

Trader Joe's lavender hand soap or Meyer's.
posted by k8t at 3:56 AM on December 11, 2017

I work in a hospital and am very particular hygiene-wise, so I wash my hands way too often, and tend towards dry, scaly, itchy, cracked hands under the best of circumstances.

A dermatologist recommended using Cerave cleanser as my hand soap and it transformed my winter hand skin. I never need to use hand cream in the winter anymore, whereas I used to sleep with my hands covered in lotion in gloves with the hope of healing a bit overnight. The Cerave is the hand soap at my sinks at home, so obviously I wash my hands with whatever is available throughout most of the day, but just washing with Cerave roughly 1/3 of the time during the winter has made a huge difference in my skin. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by telegraph at 4:07 AM on December 11, 2017 [14 favorites]

We've been using the Kroger (Ralph's, etc.) store brand Honey Citrus Shea Butter handsoap for years. No anti-microbials. Not drying, but a little moisturizing. It smells nice while you're washing, then goes away. I just refill old Softsoap dispensers with it.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:07 AM on December 11, 2017

I use the Method clear one and Dawn dish soap. If I use other things my hands turn red sometimes.
posted by bquarters at 4:08 AM on December 11, 2017

Plus one for the cerave cleanser, I have an acquaintance who uses it at home and it’s very nice, though it’s not in my budget.

It’s also worth remembering that the most physically irritating thing about hand washing is actually hand drying. By that, I mean most people rub their hands dry on a towel, and that’s very abrasive to the skin which is pretty thin around the knuckles sometimes. Try instead a three step process. Shake your hands about ten times over the sink, then pat/gently squeeze your hands with the towel (paper towel if you’re out and about). Then, dry the area around your sink.

Like any new habit, it takes some getting used to, but it helps so much.

Another friend of mine keeps a giant bottle of lotion from Whole Foods and puts lotion on her hands after nearly every handwashing. She has a thyroid condition and very dry skin, but her hands are pretty ok through the winter because she’s very diligent about the lotion. She uses Softsoap in her dispenser, refilling from a jug she keeps under the sink.
posted by bilabial at 4:25 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

My only solution has been hand lotion next to the soap. I like the Olive Oil Panier des Sens for moisturizing without being greasy.
posted by dame at 5:36 AM on December 11, 2017

I'm a frequent hand washer and the Cereve suggestion is one my dermatologist made, and not just for hands. A fair redhead, I have dry skin to begin with and winters are wicked. For hand washing away from home I carry Kiss My Face vitamin A & D moisturizer decanted into a small squeeze bottle. It is absorbed immediately and has a light, pleasant scent. I tried their tube of a product called Kiss My Face "almost butter ultra creme" for dry chapped skin, but found it a little bit greasy for daytime, but a good option for bedtime use.

Also, I think the hot air driers found in many public restrooms are very drying. If there aren't any towels, I'll sometimes dry off with a tissue toilet seat cover. Then I also have a scrap of paper to open the door with, which helps indulge my germophobia about people who don't wash their hands.
posted by citygirl at 6:18 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you tried any of the Dr. Bronner products? I've only used their bar soap and original liquid soaps, but the original liquids are very liquid and usually supposed to be diluted even further. So likely to not clog dispensers, and a bottle should last a good while. All natural and the scents don't seem very heavy to me.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:27 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

We use Seventh Generation Free & Clear hand soap. I buy it in bulk from Amazon.

As someone who dislikes scented products and has sensitive skin, this is what we use and it works great.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have developed so many new contact allergies recently that I just gave up trying out new products. For hand soap, I have a couple of foaming hand soap dispensers* that I fill with about 1/3 Dr. Bronners (either peppermint, which doesn't irritate my skin, or the unscented kind for babies), 2/3 water, and then optionally, essential oils like orange or lemon oil.

* I just got some overpriced hand soaps with unusually sturdy dispensers to reuse, and I clean them out thoroughly between fillings. I took the labels off a million years ago, so I don't remember the brand.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Most liquid soaps are detergents with thickeners. Dr Bronner's liquid soap is a vegetable oil soap. It doesn't work well in some pump dispensers, and the peppermint and tea-tree versions might be a bit burny for you.

If you can find it, liquid savon d'Alep (a true castile with laurel oil, properly made in Aleppo, Syria) is very rich. It's kind of an off-putting murky green colour, but it soothes my hands pretty well.
posted by scruss at 7:21 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use Mrs. Meyers or Seventh Generation, as someone with ultra-sensitive skin. I also keep bottles of plain unscented lotion scattered about my house everywhere and lather up accordingly whenever my hands start feeling dry or itchy.
posted by PearlRose at 7:32 AM on December 11, 2017

I'm another one of those who puts on hand lotion literally every time I wash my hands in the winter (and most of the time in the summer as well). I have a pump bottle of lotion at my kitchen sink, my bathroom sink, and my desk at work. If I know I'm likely to be away from home or work for more then one or two handwashings I try to pack lotion in my handbag, but I don't keep it in there all the time.

I use them when I am wilderness camping for their biodegradability but I really hate the way Dr Bronner's and other liquid castile-type soaps smell on my hands (the scent of the soap itself, not the scent that is added to the soap).
posted by mskyle at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2017

I use a 70/30 mix of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild (the only unscented one) and water. The dilution isn’t exact, but you need some water in there so that it doesn’t clog the dispenser. It’s one of the only soaps that doesn’t make me itchy, and is great as a body wash as well.

You should be able to find it at any slightly crunchy grocery store - Whole Foods, your local co-op, etc. Drug stores may have one or two type of Dr. Bronners, but they usually don’t carry the unscented one. It’s easy to order online as well.

The soap dispenser I use is from Umbra and like all of their products is solidly made. Ymmv on whether the aesthetic suits you.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2017

Yes! Dr, Beginner's, but dilute it. I like the lavender, it reminds me of summner.
posted by chocolatetiara at 9:08 AM on December 11, 2017

I like these ones by EO Everyone. My sister, who uses oil in the shower instead of soap, found them drying, but I can't imagine putting coconut oil directly on my face the way she does, so skins are different, you know? They make big jugs that last me months. I personally find Dr. Bronner's super drying, but maybe I don't dilute it enough?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:10 AM on December 11, 2017

I use the Everyone hand soap in the apricot-vanilla kind and I haven't had problems with dry skin, but I am also a person that puts on lotion all the time. But it smells really good and I think it isn't too harsh on my skin.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:26 AM on December 11, 2017

Lots of lather is a product of sulfates, usually SLS, which is also a substance that is drying and sensitising to the skin. So your requirement for a non-drying soap and your requirement for rich lather are mutually exclusive. The other ingredient that's really drying and irritating is fragrance.

I stick with unscented baby all-over wash for hand washing. Try Burt's Bees, Dr. Bronners or Dove. Burt's Bees will tend to get a bit cloggy in the pop-top bottle but it smells really good and doesn't cause skin problems for me no matter how much I use it. Dr. Bronners is super cloggy but works ok. Dove doesn't get cloggy in the giant pump bottle but I find it slightly drying after many washes.
posted by windykites at 9:27 AM on December 11, 2017

Ditto on getting a cheap soap that comes in a foaming dispenser and then using that dispenser for 1:5 to 1:10 dilutions of whatever soap you prefer.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:10 PM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend glycerine soap, but I buy it as a bar, and you hate bar soap. It might be available as a liquid. The bars I use come from the supermarket (Market Basket), and come in scented and unscented varieties. As per windykites, the glycerine doesn't make a lot of lather.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2017

Dr. Wood's black soap with shea butter is my skin saver, and when diluted works just fine in foaming Method dispensers, too.
posted by vers at 6:44 PM on December 11, 2017

We've been using Dr. Bonner's liquid soap in re-usable foaming soap dispensers for years and will never go back. Non-drying, huge range of scents(mix and match! Citron + Tea Tree oil is awesome) and probably the most affordable choice in addition to being as easy on the environment as these things get. You can buy the large bottles of the soap as well as cheap foaming dispensers on Amazon. Just remember to Dilute! Dilute! Dilute! 10:1 soap:water
posted by nenequesadilla at 6:10 PM on December 12, 2017

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