Simple Steps – Change Your Hand Soap

Wash Your Hands

Photo by AnnieGreenSprings

Welcome back to the Simple Steps Series.  Last month we talked about reducing our water usage, and this month we’ll take another easy step to go green in our bathrooms and our kitchens.

This month’s Simple Step is to Change Your Hand Soap!

Do you have antibacterial soap in your kitchen and bathroom? Do you know what the main ingredient is in antibacterial soap and cleaning products?

The answer is Triclosan, and we’ve talked about it here at Live Renewed before, but I think that it is important enough to talk about again.  Triclosan is not something that you want hanging out in your house, on your hands and your kids hands.

I’ll link to some great information for further reading at the bottom of this post, so I don’t want to spend too much time talking about why Triclosan is so bad, but I do want to highlight some of the main reasons.

*Triclosan is an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent that kills bacteria – both good and bad bacteria.

While this may seem like a good thing, there is some bacteria that is good and helpful to us and our immune systems, and we are taking away the benefits of that good bacteria by using Triclosan based products.

*Triclosan does not kill 100% of bacteria, so there are some bad bacteria that survive and the reproduce, creating “super bacteria” that can be resistant to Triclosan and other antibiotics.

*Triclosan cannot be complete removed my waste water treatment systems, so it ends up in our lakes and rivers, and therefore in our drinking water, and therefore in our bodies and even our breast milk.

*Triclosan in the environment causes the same problems that it would cause in our homes. It kills off good and bad bacteria in the environment, but leaves some bacteria behind that then become resistant to it.

*Triclosan may have very harmful effects on our bodies and our health. There have not been significant studies done to show if triclosan is safe, and there have been many studies done that show effects like cancer, developmental defects, and hormone disruption from Triclosan exposure.

Take a Simple Step to keep Triclosan out of your home and our environment by making a change in the type of hand soap that you use in your home.

*Use castile soap. You can use castile soap as hand soap if you reuse a foaming soap dispenser and add about a Tablespoon or two of castile soap and then fill the container the rest of the way with water. This is what our family uses for hand soap in our bathroom.

This a very frugal option, because castile soap is so concentrated that a bottle will last you for a really long time when you dilute it with water to make hand soap.  You can find Dr. Bronner’s brand of castile soap (the kind we use) at Target and Meijer, and probably many other mainstream retailers.

*Use “regular” soap. You can find non-antibacterial soap in the soap aisle at the store, you just have to look a little harder for it. Make sure you look for soap that does not say “antibacterial”, and check the ingredient labels to also make sure that it does not contain Triclosan.

*Use a more natural brand of soap such as Method, Kiss My Face, or Cleanwell. There are many alternatives to the mainstream brands of soap that you can find at regular stores like Target, Meijer and other grocery stores, or online, like Cleanwell.

These types of soap kill germs effectively using natural ingredients that don’t pollute the environment and harm our bodies the way that Triclosan does.  We use Method soap for our kitchen hand soap.

Again, when you are deciding which brand or type of soap to use for hand soap in your home, always make sure to read lables so that you know what is in the products that you are using.

Changing your hand soap to a safe and effective type of soap, that does not contain Triclosan, is a easy and simple step to take toward removing toxic products from your home and from our environment.

Take a Simple Step: Will you switch out your antibacterial soap with a safer hand soap? Will you work to avoid products with Triclosan in your home?

Sources and Further Reading:
CDC – Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern
Environmental Working Group – Information about Triclosan – The Truth about Antibacterial Soaps
Environmental Working Group – Hormone disruptors

Kitchen Stewardship hosted a carnival on Getting the Antibacterials Out, her post has lots of great information, plus there are tons of great links to other blogs with ideas for cleaning and sanitizing with anti-bacterial products.


I’d love to see more of you! Please consider subscribing to e-mail updates, or in a reader, to be sure you don’t miss a single post.  You can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook!

Works for Me Wednesday at We are That Family


  1. Leigh says

    I have a toddler so the past year and a half have been full of hand washing with all the diaper changes. I have sensitive skin anyways, but my hands were really taking a beating, even with unscented method soap. Sodium Laurel Sulfate, which makes bubbles, seems to be the culprite and the solution has been to switch to a Trader Joe’s soap with out it. Bonus is that it is less expensive.

    • Emily says

      Hi Leigh,
      I did just read the ingredients on the method soap and saw that it has SLS, which is something that I generally try to avoid, but I found on the method website that the SLS is naturally derived from coconut. But, I still may consider switching to a different type of soap. I SO wish that we had a Trader Joe’s here, the closest one is in Chicago, but the next time I am visiting, I will definitely take a look at their soap! It’s good to know that SLS might be a cause of dry, cracked skin. That is always a problem for me in the winter when it’s already dry and it seems like you’re washing your hands a lot. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Hannah says

        Hi – just a quick tip for getting castile to lather more – add a teaspoon of coconut milk per tablespoon of castille and add about a cup or two of water. Works like a dream! I use it for my shampoo and handsoap.

  2. says

    Great suggestion for using the castile soap in a foaming dispenser. I use the baby version so I know there are no extra fragrances in it that will irritate my hands.

    I too try to avoid SLS, didn’t know it was derived from coconut…it’s really hard to find soap that doesn’t contain it. Only one brand out of about 20 at my local grocery store doesn’t contain SLS.

    Found you from your guest post at Kitchen Stewardship. Looking forward to reading part 2.

    • Emily says

      Hi Emily!
      Welcome! I’ve been doing a little more reading and realized that even though SLS can be derived from coconut or palm oil, that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily safe because of the manufacturing process. Another example that “natural” does not equal safe. I think I’m going try to find a different brand of soap to use in the kitchen, maybe Cleanwell, and I’ll update my post when I do.
      Thanks so much for stopping by Live Renewed! I’d love to see more of you!

  3. says

    Have you ever seen a place you can buy a foaming hand soap pump that doesn’t have soap in it? I just bought some Castile soap and was thinking this would be a simple, easy switch to make.

    Also, out of curiosity, why don’t you use the Castile soap mixture in your kitchen hand soap pump? Thanks! I enjoy reading your blog as I feel like God has our family on the same path, only a few steps behind you!

    • Emily says

      Hi Kristen!
      I have not personally seen a foaming hand soap dispenser at the store, but I think that my sister told me she bought one at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I have found them for sale online, just google foaming soap dispenser. We re-use a method foaming dispenser that I bought specifically to use with castile soap after the method soap was gone.
      The reason that we don’t use it in the kitchen was just that I kind of felt like we needed something “stronger” for after handling raw meat or eggs, and other kitchen stuff like that. I’m sure the castile soap would be fine in the kitchen, but the other thing is that we only have the one foaming soap dispenser right now – so we just use it in the bathroom. :) Great questions, thanks for asking!

  4. Lowbudget says

    This morning I just made 4 bottles of soap from one bar of ivory soap. I just grated the soap and then added 3 cups of water to it. Boiled this mixture in the microwave. The mixture melted. I then waited for it to cool before pouring into my recycled dial soap, softsoap and one other soap pump that I have. I just found a foam soap dispenser and will be using it to make hand soap from the castile soap I have. Thanks for all of your ideas. They are great. I cannot say enough about being frugal and the importance of not spending more and more money. There are so many resources within our own homes!

  5. says

    Thanks for all the info! I had no idea it was so bad for us and the environment. I’ll be finishing up what is already at home..and then looking into another alternative.

  6. says

    Thanks for the idea for the foaming soap dispenser. Never would have thought of that! Found this one online, for those who didn’t want to actually buy a “bad” soap just for the dispenser!

    Also- had to smile at your comment about the word “natural” not meaning safe. The thought of SLS coming from coconuts reminds me of HFCS “made from corn.” Just had to chuckle.

    Great blog! I too stumbled on you from MoneySavingMom. Subscribed! (AND made the homemade clorox wipes!)

    • Emily says

      Hi Joy,
      I usually get castile soap at Target, or online through Vitacost or Amazon. You have to compare prices a bit, but I’ve found those to be the best price. Castile soap seems a little expensive at first, but I assure you – it will last you FOREVER! It is really concentrated and one bottle goes a long, long way. So, don’t be put off by the price at first, it is definitely a cheap and frugal option because it is multifunctional and can replace other products around your home. Hope that helps!

  7. says

    I have been using the Castille soap, and I really do like it. It will definitely be cheaper!

    My one question… have you found a great lotion? I have really dry skin to begin with, and this soap is really drying them out. Any ideas? Anything you found that you like?

  8. Michelle says

    You can find a foam style soap dispenser in the kitchen dept. of Target. It’s just the bottle and you add your own soap. I use a bar of Kirk’s castille soap for about $1 per bar. I melt it like someone suggested above, but use less water. For the person who who thought Bonner’s was too thin, you would justYou ne adjust how much soap vs. water, but use it in a pump bottle. If you are using a foam action bottle, you would need it thin to foam. I use it in the kitchen also and simply wash well and under hot running water. I will wash a second time when handling chicken, eggs, etc. First time to get the yek off and the second time to clean.

  9. says

    Hi! Great post – I’ve been using Ivory dish soap for years, and I put a tablespoon or so into the pump, them fill with water. I’ve heard that Ivory is one of the more simple soaps, so we also use them as bath bars for the shower.

    Thanks for your helpful tips!

    • Emily says

      Thanks Mindy!
      I’ve heard that Ivory is a natural simple soap too, but I would double check the ingredients just to be sure – it probably still contains SLS, which is one of the ingredients I try to avoid.
      Thanks for stopping by Live Renewed!

  10. says

    Don’t use store bought foaming soaps and then add Castile soap! Buy True Handmade only. The extra glycerin you get will change the way you look at all liquid soaps. Store bought hand and dish soap are still jam packed with chemicals that just dry out your skin.

  11. Angie says

    My kids love bubble bath…does anyone have a “natural” way of doing this and getting lots of great foamy bubbles?

  12. says

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but once I got one THOSE phone calls, the kind where they want to sell you something. This guy wanted to sell me the stuff you flush once a month into your septic system. I already had some, so we chatted about it a minute. He asked if we used anti bacterial soaps. I said yes. He explained that we were killing the good bacteria in out septic system. I changed my soap to regular. Then when we had our tank pumped, the guy told me NOT to buy the expensive stuff to flush down the system. just go get a little package of yeast and flush that. That that was what the other stuff was, just mixed with sawdust. Sheesh! Thanks for all these cool posts! Great info!

  13. says

    Soap (with or without coconut milk) may LATHER like crazy in a small amount of water, but as to mixing with a bathtub of water and getting great foamy bubbles — nah, unless you use a lot of soap, more so the “harder” the water. As you can see from my link, I’m an expert on this subject. I’ve made masses of foam using real soap soap (castile or otherwise) in the small amount of water in an upholstery shampooer attachment and blowing it over a bathtub using a vacuum cleaner exhaust or a spa blower, but for conventional bath foam made by mixing it with the bath water, you’ve got to use real bubble bath ingredients, which you can find out from their labels. These are substances that foam regardless of water minerals and at concentrations much lower than useful for detergency. Suds made with actual soap soap will be of such concentration to have considerable grease cutting and therefore not good for long skin exposure, although it was done by some people using soap powder, flakes, or liquid before many alternatives existed.


  1. […] Hand Soap – Use a foaming soap dispenser and fill it up with water and then add a few squirts of castile soap. (Another great way to avoid triclosan!) I bought some rose scented castile soap on clearance at Target only to get it home and realize that I didn’t really like the scent.  So, I’ve been using it this way for hand soap and because it’s so diluted, the smell isn’t as much of an issue. It’s also great for kids because it makes a lot of fun bubbles to wash with, but without the nasty chemicals in popular kids’ soaps like Kandoo. […]

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