Safe Hand Soap for Pregnancy: 5 Non-Toxic Options

By Marilee Nelson |

Pregnancy can be such an empowering time of awakening as we become more aware of what we put on and in our bodies.

If you’re pregnant and wondering if your favorite hand soap is still safe to use, you’ve come to the right place.

The short answer is, that although handwashing is very important during pregnancy (and you should always wash your hands versus not wash your hands), not all hand soaps are equally safe for you and your developing baby.

As we’ll discuss further in this article, some brands of hand soap contain ingredients that can disrupt hormones, fetal development, and organ health over time.

Read on to learn what ingredients to watch out for in hand soap during pregnancy, the best non-toxic hand soaps, and other tips for a healthy, low-tox pregnancy.

Why Choose a Non-Toxic Hand Soap? 

Choosing non-toxic products is important at any stage of life. However, it is especially important as you’re growing a new baby and when you have small children around the house.

The reason is, research has shown babies and children are more susceptible to the acute and cumulative effects of toxins due to their smaller size and underdeveloped organs and systems.

We know there is already so much to think about during pregnancy and you can’t control everything—we’re (co-founders Allison, Kelly, and Marilee) all mothers and we get it! 

Fortunately, you can avoid a ton of toxins by swapping out your hand soap at home, the office, and while out and about with a non-toxic brand.

Toxic Hand Soap Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy 

There are a lot of ingredients in hand soap that are better off avoided during pregnancy and throughout your lifetime.

You can read all about those here.

However, the following ingredients are of particular concern for pregnant mothers due to their effects on hormones and fetal development.

1. Triclosan: This antibacterial ingredient has been banned in many over-the-counter products. Unfortunately, it may still be found in hand sanitizers or wipes, and oral care products and may be used in hand soaps designed for use in healthcare settings.

Triclosan is especially problematic during pregnancy as it has been shown to reduce thyroid hormones (which are critical to pregnancy viability and fetal development), possibly increase the risk of antibacterial-resistant infections/superbugs, and is an endocrine/hormone disruptor. 

It’s also one of the contaminants of top concern worldwide.

The good news is that most hand soaps should not contain Triclosan these days. However, it’s always worth checking the label, especially on antibacterial products.

2. Fragrance: Did you know your typical synthetic fragrance recipe can contain dozens of undisclosed chemicals pulled from a bank of over 3000 fragrance chemicals? 

Many of these contain phthalates, plastic chemicals linked to birth defects, shortened gestational age, and impaired neurodevelopment in girls.

For more information, see: Fragrance is the New Secondhand Smoke.

3. Parabens: Many conventional and natural skin care companies have discontinued using parabens due to concerns about their effects on hormonal balance, sexual development in babies and children, and environmental concerns. 

Paraben exposure in-utero has been linked to childhood weight problems, changes in the reproductive health and proper genital development of boys, and impaired testosterone function in boys.

4. Formaldehyde: It may be hard to believe, but some hand soaps and personal care products do contain formaldehyde-releasing chemicals that act as preservatives.

Obviously, this has no place near a pregnant mother’s body due to its proven status as a carcinogen and toxic chemical. Of course, you won’t find the word “formaldehyde” on the label. Instead, look for these ingredients to avoid:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Methylene glycol
  • Quaternium 15
  • 3 dioxane

Learn more in: 23 Sources of Formaldehyde to Remove From Your Home Starting Right Now.

5. Essential Oils and “natural fragrance”: Essential oils and natural fragrance are two different things, but neither should be used heavily during pregnancy. 

We only recommend using certain pregnancy-safe essential oils after the first trimester of pregnancy. The reason is many of them can impact your hormone levels, so it’s just not worth messing around. Check with your healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations after the second trimester.

“Natural fragrance” may include essential oils and other semi-natural or questionable compounds which, like their synthetic cousins, can act as endocrine disruptors. 

Again, this is a short list of some of the worst offenders to avoid in hand soap during pregnancy.

For a more complete list, check out: How To Avoid Toxins During Your Pregnancy 

5 Safe Hand Soaps for Pregnancy

Now that you know what to avoid, let's get on with what you can use for hand soap during pregnancy. Here are our top 5 picks. 

1. Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap

As mothers ourselves, we know how important it is to have products you can trust are truly safe during pregnancy and the child-rearing years.

This is why we are so excited to announce the launch of our latest product, Branch Basics Hand Soap! 

This pregnancy-safe, non-toxic, 100% natural, re-fillable, 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 ingredients of concern listed above, while being kind to the most sensitive (and pregnancy-crazed) skin and the microbiome, making it safe during pregnancy, for your kiddos, and the whole family.

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 Hand Soap.

Want more tips on avoiding toxins during pregnancy? Check out: Cleaning While Pregnant: Products to Use and Avoid.

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.

Branch Basics Concentrate is a pregnancy-safe formula trusted by thousands of mothers and their families.

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

It can also be used as a: 

So, is Branch Basics Foaming Wash or Branch Basics Hand Soap best during pregnancy?

That’s a personal choice.

If you prefer a gel-based hand soap, then Branch Basics Hand Soap is the one for you. Or if a foaming wash is your thing, then the original formula would be perfect.

Both are effective for hand washing, super gentle and non-toxic, and made using only non-toxic and natural ingredients.

3. Castile Soap + Water

Non-toxic, 100% pure, fragrance-free liquid castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Fragrance-Free Baby liquid castile soap is another safe hand soap to use during pregnancy.

Castile soaps can be used undiluted but are typically diluted with water (usually 1/4 to 1/3 castile soap to 3/4 to 2/3 water) and used in a regular hand wash dispenser or foaming wash dispenser. 

We have found castile soap works best with a foaming pump vs. a traditional pump due to issues with clogging and squirting! 

If you’re in your second trimester and have the blessing of your midwife and/or OBGYN, you can add pregnancy-safe essential oils to your DIY castile soap mixture.

Always choose 100% pure essential oils (no fillers or cutting agents) steam-distilled from organic and/or wildcrafted plants, herbs, and flowers.

Note: Essential oils containing terpenes, such as pine and citrus oils, can react with ozone in the surrounding air to create secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, and ultrafine particles.

If you live in an area with ozone issues, we suggest avoiding pine and citrus essential oils in favor of non-terpene-containing oils such as floral or herbal oils.

4. Castile Soap + Nourishing Plant Oils

Pregnancy can do strange things to your skin, such as make it ultra-dry, sensitive, or patchy.

If you find diluted castile soap too drying or irritating, try adding nourishing oils like jojoba, almond, or olive oil.

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.

Note: Some DIY hand soap recipes call for coconut oil. However, since it solidifies when it gets cold, we prefer using non-saturated plant oils.

5. Castile Bar Soap

Unscented, castile bar soap is a great option for pregnancy-safe, eco-friendly hand washing at home.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap (Baby, unscented) is made with organic hemp oil and can also be used in the shower as a body wash and shampoo bar for mom, baby (though it’s not tear-free, so take care), and the whole family.

Pregnancy Safe Hand Soap FAQs

Avoiding toxins during pregnancy, even in simple products like hand soap, can bring up a lot of questions.

Let’s dive a little deeper by answering some pregnancy-safe hand soap FAQs.

What skin products should be avoided during pregnancy? 

We have been so thrilled to witness the growing awareness that what we put on our bodies (skin and body care) is just as important as what we put in our bodies (healthy food) during pregnancy (and beyond).

That’s because our skin absorbs nearly everything that’s rubbed onto it. So yeah, safe skin care during pregnancy matters.

Since this is a large topic, we’ll refer you to our previous article: A Guide to Pregnancy Safe Skin Care which outlines ingredients to avoid, along with our favorite pregnancy-safe skincare products.

What are the safest cleaning products to use during pregnancy? 

Many expecting mothers and couples begin their journey to non-toxic living by researching safe cleaning products during pregnancy.

This is incredibly important as even common ingredients in cleaning and laundry products, like bleach for example, have been shown to increase the risk of infertility, miscarriage, and preterm birth—yet we don’t know at what level of exposure they become problematic.

There is a lot to cover here. However, the best place to start is by finding a non-toxic, pregnancy-safe cleaning product line you can trust, like Branch Basics and other reputable brands.

Learn more in: Cleaning While Pregnant: Products to Use & Avoid.

What are the best natural hand soap options? 

The best natural hand soap options, in our opinion, are the products discussed in this article here

They are all free from the worst chemical offenders for pregnant mothers and are gentle for sensitive, dry, or irritated skin.

Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics 

We hope this article has helped to simplify everything you need to know about the best hand soaps during pregnancy (when frequent hand washing is especially important).

Ultimately you want a non-toxic, fragrance-free, all-natural hand soap that will remove germs without exposing you or your baby to potentially harmful and unnecessary chemicals.

Ready to upgrade your non-toxic pregnancy-safe hand washing routine?

Check out our newest product, Branch Basics Gel Hand Soap and/or our Starter Kits, which contain everything you need to make your own pregnancy-safe cleaning products, hand soap, laundry products, and more.

For mamas-on-the-go, we also recommend our Travel Kit or Mini Foaming Wash to help you avoid toxins when you’re out and about.

For more on natural and non-toxic pregnancy and birth, check out the following articles:

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.