5 Best Natural Hand Soaps for Safe Cleaning

By Marilee Nelson |

As you probably know, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, viruses, and germs.

However, what you wash with is just as important as how frequently you wash your hands when it comes to health.

So, what is the best non-toxic and effective natural hand soap?

In this article, we’re keeping things simple by sharing five of the best natural hand soaps that remove germs without harming your skin, health, or the environment.

Why Choose a Non-Toxic Hand Soap? 

Many people presume what you wash your hands with doesn’t matter. 

After all, the soap only comes into contact with your skin briefly before you rinse it down the drain.

You’re not leaving it on your skin, ingesting it, or bathing in it, so what’s the big deal?

The problem is the cumulative effects of frequent handwashing with toxic hand soap.

Think about it. Between bathing, bathroom breaks, preparing food, managing pets or other animals, changing diapers, sneezing or blowing our noses, tending to sick people, and being out and about, most of us wash our hands ten or more times a day.

This means we are likely getting more exposure to harmful ingredients from hand soap than from products we bathe or shower with.

Yes, hand soap may only linger on the skin for a few minutes or seconds.

However, per OSHA and other reputable sources, the skin readily absorbs most of the chemicals it comes into contact with, in addition to what we’re inhaling from vapors and fragrances.

Bottom line: what you wash your hands with does matter due to cumulative exposure, skin absorption, inhalation, and the environmental impacts of washing pollutants down the drain.

The good news is handwashing doesn’t require expensive boutique hand soaps, harsh antibacterial chemicals, or other synthetic ingredients.

As we’ll discuss in the coming sections, natural soap and water are all you need to prevent the spread of germs and keep your hands squeaky clean.

What to Look For in a Non-Toxic Hand Soap 

You would think finding a natural, non-toxic hand soap would be easy. 

However, the majority (even some eco-friendly or organic brands) are full of synthetic chemicals, antibacterial agents, dyes, fragrances, and other ingredients that have no place in a healthy home or planet.

Here’s what to watch out for in common hand soap brands:

  • Avoid the following ingredients
    • Antibacterial ingredients or labeling
    • Fragrance, apart from 100% pure essential oils
    • SLS and SLES
    • Parabens
    • Sulfates
    • Ethoxylates
    • Chlorine
    • Alcohol
    • Phosphates 
    • Pthlalates
    • Parabens
    • Dyes
    • Phosphates
    • Triclosan
    • Animal by-products
    • Caustic chemicals
    • Ammonia
    • Petroleum solvents
  • Look for these badges and certifications
    • Cruelty-free
    • Made Safe Certified
    • Fragrance-free
    • Organic
    • Non-GMO

Is Triclosan Still Used in Hand Soap?

There is some confusion about whether Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical, is still allowed in hand soaps. 

The answer is no, Triclosan should no longer be found in over-the-counter hand soaps, but you should still check the labels—especially on any soap labeled “antibacterial”. 

The FDA has banned Triclosan in several over-the-counter consumer sanitizing products due to mounting safety concerns such as evidence of microbiome disruption, cancer, developmental defects, organ damage, thyroid disruption, and the superbug crisis.

However, they still allow it in over-the-counter antibacterial hand sanitizers, wipes, and oral care products, like toothpaste.

This is beyond disappointing as Triclosan ranks in the list of top environmental contaminants of concern worldwide, in addition to its health detriments.

So, the answer is no: over-the-counter hand soap should no longer contain Triclosan. However, it is still wise to double-check ingredient lists.

We discuss this, along with the tragic and fascinating history of hand sanitizing and hand washing in: Hand Soap Versus Hand Sanitizer: 4 Steps to Healthy Hands.

5 Natural Hand Soaps 

Now that you know what to avoid in common hand soaps, let’s simplify this further by diving into five of the best non-toxic, natural hand soaps for your healthy home.

1. Branch Basics NEW Hand Soap

We are so excited to announce the launch of our latest product, Branch Basics Hand Soap! 

This non-toxic, 100% natural, re-fillable, super concentrated gel-based hand soap is formulated using only the safest and gentlest ingredients for people, their skin, and the planet. 

Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap is free from all the common synthetic ingredients previously listed and is kind to sensitive skin and the microbiome, making it safe for the whole family. We had a third party testing lab verify that it is not an eye or skin irritant. Our hand soap is MADE SAFE certified!

Our star ingredients include:

  • Organic Chamomile: Gently cleanses without stripping your hands while its natural antioxidants protect the skin’s natural barrier
  • Aloe Vera: This moisture magnet keeps skin soft and supple while boosting hydration and calming inflammation or irritation.
  • Meadowfoam Oil: Nourishing and protective, this plant-based oil seals in moisture to keep skin soft and hydrated.

Click here for more information and to shop our new Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap..

2. Branch Basics Foaming Wash

This is our original hand soap made using Branch Basics signature Concentrate and water in our special Foaming Wash bottle.

As the name suggests, Foaming Wash is foamy hand soap, versus a gel like the new Branch Basics Hand Soap. 

It can also be used as a: 

So, should you use Foaming Wash or Branch Basics Hand Soap?

Some people prefer a gel-based hand soap, like Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap, while others like the foaming action of the original.

Both are effective for hand washing, eye makeup removal, facial cleaning, and body wash, and made using only non-toxic and natural ingredients appropriate for even the most delicate skin.

Isn’t it nice to have choices?

Note: We always recommend using a variety of products on the skin, including bar soaps, to avoid getting sensitive to repeated use. 

3. Castile Soap 100% pure, fragrance-free liquid castile soaps, like 

Castile Soap are another excellent choice for natural hand washing.

Castile soaps are typically diluted with water and placed in a regular hand wash dispenser or foaming wash dispenser. 

Insider tip: We have found castile soap works best with a foaming pump vs. a traditional pump. The reason is this type of soap tends to clog up a classic pump, which results in soap being sprayed all over the place (clothing, eyes, mirrors, etc.).

4. Castile Soap + Nourishing Plant Oils

If you find diluted castile soap too drying, the addition of nourishing oils like jojoba, almond, or olive oil can create a more luxurious and moisturizing DIY hand soap.

Here’s a basic recipe:

  • 1/8-1/4 cup liquid castile soap
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1-3 tablespoons nourishing oil

Mix everything and place in a soap dispenser.

5. Castile Bar Soap

Bar soap may be less popular for handwashing than bottled hand soap, but they are a greatmoption for an eco-friendly clean.

We recommend 

Natural Hand Soap FAQs 

Have more questions about natural hand soaps? Let’s dive into some common FAQs.

Are natural hand soaps effective? 

Absolutely. 

Research has shown that thorough handwashing with soap and water is the most effective way to remove germs and even break down viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

Read more about it in: Is Branch Basics a Sanitizer or Disinfectant?

Does Branch Basics kill germs? 

No. Branch Basics is not a sanitizer or disinfectant. It is designed to remove germs versus killing them, and this is on purpose.

We discuss this at length in Is Branch Basics a Sanitizer or Disinfectant? But the gist is research has shown handwashing with natural soap and water is the safest and most effective way to remove germs from the skin.

This is preferable to killing germs using an antibacterial product because when we kill germs, we never kill 100% of them (which is why no antibacterial product can claim to kill 100% of germs). A small percentage are left behind which become stronger and more resistant to antibacterial products.

Over time, this creates superbugs that are plaguing our hospitals and causing untold stress and suffering. 

Frequent exposure to antibacterial ingredients, including concentrated alcohols, is also toxic to your liver, hormonal system, or overall health.

Here’s a quote from the Centers for Disease Control on the matter of killing germs vs. removing them with soap and water:

“To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap.” 

The big takeaway here is hand washing using natural soap and water is all you need to do to remove germs from your hands.

What do you recommend for non-toxic hand washing while on the road or out in public?

It may be tempting to carry those more natural hand sanitizers from the health food store in your purse while out and about. 

However, these products still contain copious amounts of alcohol, which is not ideal for children or adults. They may be better than nothing in a pinch, but their use should be very limited.

Instead, we recommend keeping travel sizes of non-toxic hand soaps to use in public restrooms, while traveling, at parks, etc.

Branch Basics offers various travel sizes of our products, including Mini Foaming Wash, which can be refilled as needed. 

This particular product is absolutely wonderful to use as a face, body, and hand wash while traveling. It can also work for shampoo, when in a pinch.  We wouldn’t leave home without it! 

Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics 

We hope this article has helped simplify the world of non-toxic, natural hand soap and hand washing.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that effective hand washing does not require a laundry list of potentially harmful chemical ingredients.

All you need is a bit of natural hand soap, warm water, friction, and about 60 seconds to remove all harmful germs. That’s it.

If you enjoyed this article, we invite you to check out our newest product, Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap and Starter Kits, to help further simplify your healthy home.

For more non-toxic personal care, cleaning, and lifestyle tips, check out our blog, podcast, and Toss The Toxins Online Course.
Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.