Can Body Wash Be Used As Hand Soap?

With the hustle and bustle of the modern world, it’s easy not to realize how low different soaps have gotten around the house. When this happens, some soaps can be used for other purposes. 

Body wash can be used as hand soap due to the similar surfactants used in their making. Though some ingredients are different, the surfactants needed to clean the skin are the same. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss why body wash can be used as hand soap if you’re in a pinch. I’ll also explain if body wash can be used on hair or as a detergent. Finally, I’ll share how to identify if body wash has expired and what to do when it does. 

Can Body Wash Be Used As Hand Soap?

You can use body wash to clean your hands because they have similar ingredients. They both contain surfactants that fight to clean germs and grim. Surfactants are soluble in oil on one end and in water on the other, causing them to work together to fight germs on your skin. 

Surfactants are crucial in cleaning the skin, and their presence in body wash and hand soap allows for interchangeable usage. 

The purpose of any soap is to clean dirt and grim from various surfaces. Either body wash or hand soap will be effective when used following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The CDC recommends washing hands for at least twenty seconds to ensure cleanliness. 

If body wash and hand soap are unavailable, there are a few other less preferable alternatives: 

  • Shampoo. While still able to get the job done, shampoo can leave residues on the hands due to the different ingredients used to make it. 
  • Bar soap. Bar soap is a low-cost alternative to liquid hand soap. It contains the same surfactants as body wash and hand soap. 
  • Dish soap. If used too frequently, dish soap can dry out the skin on your hands. 

These alternatives will work to clean your hands, but they are not the top choice. The first option for washing hands should always be hand soap. When hand soap is not available, body wash will do the trick. 

Can Body Wash Be Used on Hair?

Body wash can be used on hair as shampoo in a pinch. However, it’s not recommended to do this often. Body wash and shampoo both contain surfactants, but they are designed to be used for different cleaning purposes. 

Ingredients/UsesBody WashShampoo
pH levels5-6.54-6
OilsMade to remove oils on skinEnhances natural oils
Cleansing strengthMildStrong
FormulationGlycerinSilicone to keep hair shiny
Table comparison between body wash and hand soap

As shown in this table, there are many differences between body wash and shampoo. Body wash has higher pH levels but is made of milder ingredients. Since hair tends to be dirtier than the skin, body wash will not be as effective on hair as shampoo. 

Each product is made for specific purposes. Body wash is made to rid skin of oils that are not meant to be there, while shampoo is different for all hair conditions. You can find shampoos for frizziness, dryness, oiliness, damage, and many others. For this reason, using a generic body wash on certain hair types could cause damage. 

That said, if you are in your shower and realize the shampoo bottle is empty, you can use body wash. It shouldn’t be used regularly or in place of shampoo, but it can somewhat clean your hair when nothing else is available. 

Can Body Wash Be Used as Detergent?

Body wash cannot be used as a detergent substitution because it was not designed to be used in machines like washers or dishwashers. Body wash will become more bubbly than these machines can handle. Occasionally, however, it can be used in small amounts to wash clothes by hand. 

Detergents are made with more synthetic chemicals than soaps. Manufactured sulfates in detergents help rid clothes and dishes of stains and dirt. These sulfates are derived from petrochemicals that body washes do not contain. While such sulfates work well on clothes and dishes, they would not help the skin and can actually be hazardous if used directly on the body. 

Notably, body washes and other soaps are made with more fats and oils to help clean the skin. Since oils are nonpolar and water is polar, their opposite ends can work together to fight germs on your skin in ways detergent cannot. Because of this, body wash does not have enough chemicals to use in the same way as detergent. 

Does Body Wash Expire?

Body wash does expire, yet it may still be usable after expiration. Being FDA-regulated, soaps are required to have an expiration date. The expiration dates are generally listed on the bottles, but a good rule of thumb is about three years. Washes with more natural ingredients last about a year. 

Signs Body Wash Has Gone Bad

You’ll know that your body has gone bad when:

  • The body wash no longer lathers during use
  • The viscosity has changed (thicker or thinner than it should be)
  • The original fragrance is gone
  • The ingredients appear to have separated

If any of these statements are true of the body wash in your house, it is probably best to head to the store to get something new. However, if none of these are accurate and the body wash is past expiration, it is likely still okay to use it. 


Body wash can be used in place of hand soap. Since it contains the same surfactants needed to clean skin, it is safe to use on all body parts, including your hands. The same is not true of shampoo or detergent. 

Keep in mind that body wash can expire. Still, that doesn’t mean it can no longer be used. Body wash can be used for around three years or until it no longer lathers or starts to crack and dry out. Washes with more natural ingredients will go bad quicker.