Liquid hand soap is a product of natural origin, while hand wash is a product of synthetic origin. Hand soap is non-toxic and biodegradable, but handwash is actually classified as a detergent. Handwash, or detergent, is quicker, cheaper and easier to manufacture than soap.
Handwashes are liquid, just like liquid soaps, but most handwashes are synthetic detergents - similar to the kind under your kitchen or laundry sink. If you use liquid handwash, check the label. If it is soap based, it is highly likely the label will tell you. If the label reads handwash, not hand soap, then it’s detergent.
It is useful to carefully read the ingredients. Look for petrochemicals, detergents, palm oil, sulphates (SLS & SLES), parabens, mineral oil compounds, PEGS, PPA, DEA, glycols, phthalates, synthetic perfumes, surfactants, colours and additives.
True liquid ‘soap’ is fairly uncommon, as it’s relatively difficult to make. Traditional soap bars are essentially a mixture of animal or vegetable fats and oils that are combined with a strong alkali solution, and often some type of scent and moisturiser. Liquid products have become popular because the are both easy to dispense and the contamination risk is perceived to be lower.
For your own health and the environment, at home, choose bar soap. Choosing bar soap immediately excludes the use of unnecessary water and plastic packaging. If you do choose to use a liquid hand cleaner, choose a liquid soap from someone like WØRKS or choose add water products like those made by Ethique or Single Use Ain't Sexy.