Is It Okay to Wash Dishes with Hand Soap? Experts Weigh In.

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

You just spent all night making an incredible dinner. The sink is full of pots, pans, spatulas, plates … you name it, it’s in there. The dishes — the plight of home cooks everywhere — must be done. But, shoot, where’s the dish soap?

When you’re out of dish soap and have a sink full of dirty dishes, you might wonder how you can possibly accomplish the task without having to trek to the store. To equip you with the knowledge you need to solve this kitchen dilemma, we consulted the pros.

Can You Use Hand Soap to Wash Dishes?

You can use dish soap as hand soap, so hand soap must be a sensible alternative for washing dishes, right? Not so fast — experts are divided on the subject.

“Most hand soap we buy from the local store is a type of detergent. It has antibacterial and antifungal ingredients that can clean and sanitize your dishes,” says Lily Cameron, a cleaning professional and supervisor at Fantastic Services. “Liquid hand soap is milder than dish soap and it will dissolve easier and foam better in hot dishwater. In addition, it contains more glycerin than dish soap and will be gentler to your skin when you wash your dishes by hand.”

So it works, but is it safe? Although many say hand soap rinses well and is probably OK in a pinch, others say it’s worth exercising caution. Many hand soaps include additives that aren’t food-safe, explains Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.

With that in mind, it pays to be more diligent about rinsing if you’re making the swap. These additives are typically mild, says Allen Michael, editor of But if you use hand soap to wash your dishes, be sure to rinse them several times to prevent buildup, he says.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Can You Use Laundry Detergent to Wash Dishes?

Don’t even think about heading to the laundry room for detergent. “It isn’t a good idea to use laundry detergent to wash your dishes,” says Cameron. “Laundry detergents contain chemicals such as brighteners, fragrances, stain removers, and anti-soiling agents that might not be rinsed off completely from your dishes and may be harmful to your health.”

Can You Use Bar Soap to Wash Dishes?

A bar of soap for sensitive skin without added scents such as Dove, Ivory, Mrs. Meyer’s, or Honest Company is a safe choice to use if absolutely needed, says Gregory.

Though technically safe, this option is not as effective as dish soap, which is specially formulated to cut grease and oils, as well as kill bacteria, says Cameron.

Plus, the task itself is a logistical challenge, since bar soap is solid, says Alberto Navarrete, the general manager of Emily’s Maids. “It’s actually really hard to wash dishes with a bar of soap. Because it is solid, it doesn’t work when you need to clean a lot of dishes.”

How to Wash Dishes Without Dish Soap

Out of dish soap? Here’s what you can use: Baking soda. This very common pantry staple is your best bet for washing dishes without dish soap, says Gregory. “[Baking Soda] absorbs grease, and mixed with water, it creates a paste that will help scrub away and remove food debris.” Mix ½ cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water to form a paste. Put on rubber gloves, scrub dishes with the baking soda paste, and rinse with the hottest water possible to disinfect. Allow dishes to air dry.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Is It Bad to Wash Dishes with Hand Soap? Experts Weigh In