Clean, Non-Toxic Hand Soap For The Whole Family

Switch out your hand soap containing synthetic fragrances and preservatives for non-toxic hand soap. We tested 6 brands of clean & natural hand soap that are free from parabens and phthalates and there’s something for everyone in the family!   

Woman washing hands

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

House rules are different for every family. For mine, removing shoes and washing hands upon entering are 2 policies I always enforce. The hand washing rule extends beyond just entering the house, and I’m sure everyone in my family washes their hands many times a day (I hope?).

With all of the hand washing going on, I want the hand soap my family uses to be free from ingredients that may be harmful to our health, including synthetic fragrances and parabens used as preservatives. I tested 6 brands of clean, non-toxic hand soap to see how well they produced suds and moisturized. Keep reading to find out how well each hand soap brand performed. But first, let’s talk about how to properly wash your hands.

WHEN TO WASH YOUR HANDS?

The CDC recommends washing your hands before, during and/or after these tasks (I added the first one):

  • When you come home from any public place (running errands, hanging out with friends, school, etc.)
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

5 Steps to wash your hands

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID IN HAND SOAP

  • Parabens– Parabens are a type of preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria and prolong the shelf life of lip balm, deodorant, lotion, and other beauty and personal care products. The most commonly used are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben and butylparaben. Based on a study conducted at the University of California Berkeley, researchers found that parabens were able to stimulate breast cancer cell growth, even at concentrations 100 times lower than the natural growth factor heregulin. These findings suggest that paraben exposure doesn’t have to be high to lead to cancer growth (1).
  • Phthalates– Phthalates are used to increase the flexibility and transparency in plastics. They’re also found in personal care products, and they enhance product absorption, help products stick to your skin and keep fragrance smelling fresh. Phthalates mimic hormones, interrupting hormone production (2). A 2018 review found that current human exposure to phthalates may have effects on the male reproductive system (3).
  • Polyethylene glycol– Polyethylene glycol is used to make personal care products thicker and better able to transport moisture to the skin. The manufacturing process introduces impurities and by-products, such as ethylene oxides and 1,4-dioxane, which are known carcinogenic materials (4).
  • Synthetic fragrance- Personal care products can list fragrance as one ingredient and don’t have to disclose the fact that these formulations may contain hundreds of ingredients. Synthetic Fragrance may contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory irritants and neurotoxic chemicals (5). Synthetic musks like galaxolide and tonalide, are linked to hormone disruption (6). Fragrance formulations also contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors.
  • Sulfates– Sulfates like Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) are added to many personal care products to produce foam. SLS can lead to irritation, and that’s something worth avoiding if you’re washing your hands multiple times a day.

How does the Environmental Working Group (EWG) score products? The EWG rates products on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the safest, and 10 being the most concerning. The EWG also marks products as EWG VERIFIED™, meaning the product meets the strictest ingredient and manufacturing standards. EWG VERIFIED™ products don’t contain any ingredients the EWG has identified as unacceptable.

The good news is that there are brands dedicated to making clean, non-toxic hand soaps that lather and hydrate. The 6 hand soaps below are non-toxic options that work for all of the hand washing you do!

6 brands of Non-Toxic Hand Soap

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap

  • Cost: $12.80 for 12 oz ($1.07)
  • EWG Score: 1
  • Scents: Lavender, Lemongrass Lime, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Baby Unscented
  • Refill Container Size: ½ gallon
  • My Take: An all-around great hand soap!
  • From the Dr. Bronner’s website: Fair trade & organic sugar and organic white grape juice keep your skin nourished, hydrated and smooth. Organic coconut-olive-hemp oils blend for a creamy castile lather & our soapmaking tradition!
  • Shop: Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap

Kosmatology Foaming Hand Soap

  • Cost: $9.99 for 8.5 oz ($1.18 per ounce)
  • EWG Score: 1
  • Scents: Lavender Eucalyptus, Spearmint Rosemary, Orange, Grapefruit
  • Refill Container Size: 34 ounces
  • My Take: This hand soap is really nice- it has a luxurious lather and is not drying.
  • From the Kosmatology website: Our foaming hand soaps are made using only the highest quality organic oils, such as coconut, olive, and safflower. The scents come from a blend of organic essential oils. No thickening agents, perfumes or triclosan, and the pumps create a thick foam perfect for adults and children alike.
  • Shop: Kosmatology Foaming Hand Soap

Pipette Hand Wash

  • Cost: $6 for 9.4 oz ($0.64 per ounce)
  • EWG Score: Not rated
  • Scents: Bergamont + Lemon
  • My Take: This is a really nice, non-drying hand soap!
  • From the Pipette website: This nontoxic, liquid hand soap effectively banishes grime and germs without stripping skin of its natural oils. Made with moisturizing squalane and aloe to keep skin soft and hydrated—and infused with the cheery, 100% plant-derived aroma of bergamot and lemon.
  • Shop: Pipette Hand Wash

EO Hand Soap 

  • Cost: $8.99 for 12 fl oz. ($0.75 per ounce)
  • EWG Score: 2
  • Scents: French Lavender, Orange Blossom Vanilla, Peppermint & Tea Tree, Lemon & Eucalyptus, Rose & Lemon, Geranium, Unscented
  • Refill Container Size: 1 gallon
  • My Take: I already have the EO lavender hand sanitizer and love the smell, and this soap is very similar. It lathers well and feels moisturizing.
  • From the EO website: This sulfate-free hand soap contains nutrient-rich botanical extracts and mild cleansers. Breathe in the soothing scent of lavender pure essential oil every time you wash your hands. Hello, aromatherapy.
  • Shop: EO Hand Soap

Attitude Super Leaves Orange Hand Soap

  • Cost: $6.95 for 16 fl oz. ($0.43 per ounce)
  • EWG Score: EWG Verified
  • Scents: White Tea Leaves, Lemon Leaves, Olive Leaves, Orange Leaves, Extra Gentle
  • Refill Container Size: 2L (67.6 fl oz.)
  • My Take: This soap has a silky smooth formula and moisturizes well. We all really liked this hand soap. The orange scented version has a cozy fall scent.
  • From the Attitude website: Wash your hands with a clear conscience knowing that ATTITUDE Super leaves™ Natural Liquid Hand Soap — Olive Leaves BULK to go format uses four times more product with 77% less plastic that its equivalent bottle. EWG VERIFIED™, ECOLOGO Certified and hypoallergenic, our lightweight liquid hand soap contains olive leaf and moringa seed extract to purify and regenerate your hard-working hands. Harness the power of nature to promote clean and healthy hands without polluting the environment. Refilling from home has never been so easy!
  • Shop: Attitude Super Leaves Orange Hand Soap

Eco Me Foaming Hand Soap

  • Cost: $9.73 for 20 fl oz. ($0.47 per ounce)
  • EWG Score: No rating yet
  • Scents: Citrus berry, fresh mint, lavender, fragrance free
  • My Take: The foam is velvety soft and works into a nice lather. The citrus berry scent is reminiscent of a mild berry punch, and I think little kids would love it!
  • From the Eco Me website: What’s better than clean hands? Knowing that the soap you are using is free from chemicals, harsh detergents and synthetic fragrance. It’s safer for you, your family and the environment. What Makes it Work? Natural Plant Based Cleaning System Plant Essential Oils What it Doesn’t Contain: No Dyes or Colorants, No Harsh Preservatives, No Sulfates (SLS, SLES, ALS), No Animal Testing or By-Products
  • Shop: Eco Me Foaming Hand Soap

Seventh Generation Hand Wash Free & Clean

  • Cost: $2.99 for 12 fl. oz (354 ml) or $0.25 per oz.
  • Scents: Free & Clear, Fresh Lemon & Tea Tree, Lavender Flower & Mint, Hibiscus & Cardamom, Mandarin Orange & grapefruit
  • Refill Container Size: 24 fl oz.
  • My Take: This had a nice lather and was moisturizing.
  • From the Seventh Generation website: Hand soap made with plant based ingredients, formulated with you and your family in mind. Made for sensitive skin and made without fragrances, dyes, or Triclosan.
  • Shop: Seventh Generation Hand Wash Free & Clean

SHOP NON-TOXIC HAND SOAP

HAND WASHING TIPS

  • Any temperature of water (hot, warm or cold) is fine for properly washing your hands. Soap works by rupturing the lipid membrane of most types of viruses and bacteria. Soap also breaks the chemical bonds between a surface (your hand) and the offending virus or bacteria. Rinsing your hands under running water then removes the bacteria and viruses from your hands.
  • Hand washing is more effective than just using hand sanitizer. However, if you aren’t able to wash your hands, you should definitely use hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethyl alcohol (ethanol). Our family favorite hand sanitizer is Juice Beauty Green Apple Hand Sanitizer. It moisturizes as it disinfects with 70% ethyl alcohol.
  • When you wash your hands, lather up all parts of your hands. Don’t forget your fingertips, thumbs, the backs of your hands and your palms. Give them a good scrub for 20 seconds before rinsing off all of the soap.
  • Keep a container of lotion next to the sink and apply after you wash your hands. This helps to keep your hands hydrated and replenishes stripped oils. We love Acure Seriously Soothing 24hr Moisture Lotion.

REFERENCES

  1. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1409200
  2. Patisaul, H.B. and Adawele, H.B. Long-Term Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors on Reproductive Physiology and Behavior. Front Behav Neurosci. 2009; 3: 10.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706654/
  3. Adke, E.G. et al. Phthalate exposure and male reproductive outcomes: A systematic review of the human epidemiological evidence. Environ Int. 2018 Dec;121(Pt 1):764-793.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336412
  4. Jang, H.J. et al. Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use. Toxicol Res. 2015 Jun; 31(2): 105–136.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4505343/
  5. Nudelman, J. and Engel, C. Right To Know. Exposing toxic fragrance chemicals in beauty, personal care and cleaning products. Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Sept. 2018.
    https://d124kohvtzl951.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/26092837/BCPP_Right-To-Know-Report_Secret-Toxic-Fragrance-Ingredients_9_26_2018.pdf
  6. Synthetic Musks. Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. A Project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.
    http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/synthetic-musks/

first image via depositphotos