What’s your go-to hand-cleaning product?

By Colin Wood
Aug 9, 2022 | soap, wash, Discussion, Cleaner, Hand cleaner

Picture this: After many hours–too many, probably–you finally finished that big thing on your project you’ve been chipping away at for weeks. Relieved it’s finally over, you put away your tools and head to the sink to clean up.

What product do you reach for? Some dish soap, a specialized cleaner or maybe some secret concoction that you made? Whatever it is, why not share it with the rest of the class? (Unless it's a secret recipe, of course. We won't force you to share that.)

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untchabl HalfDork
8/8/22 3:54 p.m.

Cherry Gel GoJo is my go to. 

1988RedT2 MegaDork
8/8/22 4:00 p.m.

I used to keep some orange hand cleaner under the sink, but eventually I came to realize that Dawn ( or a reasonable facsimile ) worked as well as anything.  Now, my hand cleaner is right there by the kitchen sink and always ready for use!  If I don't get all the grease out from under my nails, I can use it to impress the highfalutin' people I might run into  -- "Oh, so you're a mechanic!"  They are always amazed.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/8/22 4:02 p.m.

I bought a tub of these as an impulse buy. Works better on your hands than hand cleaner. They work great for cleaning surfaces (their intended use) and are now a staple product for me. 

Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/8/22 4:04 p.m.

I found some GOJO wipes that I am keeping in my shop, which is really great when you dont have water. They are also now on my "chuck in the trailer for autocrosses" list.



I have found that GOOP works pretty well with a fingernail brush for in the sink.  The fingernail brush is the big key that not many people use.  Baring that, wife's used coffee grounds with dawn dishsoap. 



Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/8/22 4:05 p.m.

The one, the only:



That's the old container. Permatex took it over, I think.

j_tso GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/8/22 4:06 p.m.

Dish soap for me as well.

I don't need to get into the fingernails regularly since I wear nitrile gloves when wrenching. 

RadBarchetta New Reader
8/8/22 4:11 p.m.

In reply to Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) :

I just emptied a Tub O Towels. Great product.

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
8/8/22 4:11 p.m.

Ditto on dawn and double down on it for clothes. 

RevRico UltimaDork
8/8/22 4:11 p.m.

Dawn. Lava if the dawn doesn't cut it. I have a gallon of gojo I haven't opened in years.

sir_mike Reader
8/8/22 4:26 p.m.

Lava or Dawn dish detergent works for me.Plus I were gloves most of the time.

wae PowerDork
8/8/22 4:29 p.m.

Zep Cherry Bomb.  I've used the Fast Orange before, but the Zep stuff does better at getting gasoline and diesel smells out of my skin.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/8/22 4:45 p.m.
j_tso said:

Dish soap for me as well.

I don't need to get into the fingernails regularly since I wear nitrile gloves when wrenching. 

Nitrile gloves, or some kind of work glove are essential for me. I earn my living with my hands, so I have to be cautious with them. Also, having grease impregnated into the grain of your callouses and fingerprints (which lasts for days, no matter what you use) is not a good look for a surgeon.

BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
8/8/22 4:58 p.m.

Fast Orange.  Never cared for towel versions of hand cleaner.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/8/22 5:50 p.m.

for hands, greasy parts, whatever. Much prefer it to Gojo and stuff like that (and smells better)


Dawn Dish Soap Guide – Howzoo

SkinnyG (Forum Supporter)
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
8/8/22 5:54 p.m.

Dish soap and coffee grinds.

I heard about it here at GRM, and it's all I use now - even in my high-school auto shop.  Best hand cleaner ever!

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/8/22 6:06 p.m.

Bar soap or liquid. No preference. I am blessed (?) with hands that do not get deeply soiled. Even working on subs. At the worst I use regular soap and a bit of green scotchbrite.

Shadeux GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/8/22 6:10 p.m.

Dawn. And when my nails are packed with black goo I use my parts washer brush which uses simple green. Works a treat for me. 

Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter)
Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/8/22 6:14 p.m.

Pinerite, dry powder base w/ some grit, it does a killer job and leaves your hands all nice & soft. I've never had good luck w/ the fast orange or similar cleaner.


Iusedtobefast Reader
8/8/22 6:41 p.m.

I'm another Tub O' Towels guy. I always keep one in my car to clean my hands after work plus one in the garage. 

Cactus HalfDork
8/8/22 8:02 p.m.

Another vote for zep cherry, but I keep one of most things in a bunch of places. The answer isn't usually which is best, it's which is handy. Pun not intended.


Lava bars are pretty great to keep in/near the shower when you discover you've got grease all down the back of your arm/leg/head.

MyMiatas Reader
8/8/22 8:13 p.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter) said:

for hands, greasy parts, whatever. Much prefer it to Gojo and stuff like that (and smells better)


Dawn Dish Soap Guide – Howzoo

If I go bare hand I rub Dawn on my hands first before I start my mechanical duties.  Then when you get gunk on them there is a "protective" surface there already. Then a squirter of more Dawn and wash away. I was told about that from a long time friend who's Dad showed him that back in the '70's. 

gbuff GRM+ Memberand New Reader
8/8/22 8:18 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Lava soap and a nail brush.

If it's really difficult, lacquer thinner.

wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/8/22 10:12 p.m.

Blue dawn and orange hand cleaner mixed.  No water until scrubbed completely, then Water just to rinse.


Gets everything off.  Even antisieze 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/8/22 10:19 p.m.

Nitrile gloves, and Lava for whatever gets by them, or up my arms or whatever.

buzzboy SuperDork
8/8/22 10:49 p.m.

Coco Scrub is the OG and the best.

I've been using Goop and it works amazing but you then have to clean it off.

ShawnG MegaDork
8/9/22 12:25 a.m.

Rath's PR88 

Use it BEFORE you get dirty. 

Crud just washes off with water most of the time. A little soap will get whats left. 

Even stops the dirt accumulating under your nails.

Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/9/22 6:05 a.m.

I really do feel there are two separate and distinct catagories, needs a sink and water and doesn't. 


My shop is an outbuilding without water, if I had a sink I wouldn't be as on about the towels.

dculberson MegaDork
8/9/22 8:49 a.m.
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) said:

Dish soap and coffee grinds.

I heard about it here at GRM, and it's all I use now - even in my high-school auto shop.  Best hand cleaner ever!

It really is legit. It even gets fish slime smell off your hands which almost nothing else will touch. We compost and three people in the house are avid coffee drinkers so there's always fresh grounds in the compost bowl and a squirt of blue dawn and anything will wash off. 

bencii New Reader
8/9/22 1:43 p.m.

I have tried many different cleaners and brushes over 50+ years. Hands down Duluth Trading Walnut Husk Hand Scrub is the best. One can't even tell I worked on a greasy dirty car after using it. If what you are using doesn't get your hands completely clean then give this a try. 

PS I have no association with this company or any of its products.

redptc New Reader
8/9/22 3:16 p.m.

My best solution is to pretreat my hands before starting the project.  I rub dishwashing liquid (usually Dawn) into the palms of my hands and wrists and let it dry.  When it's time to wash up a little more dishwashing liquid and the grease comes right off.

Opti Dork
8/9/22 4:00 p.m.

Gojo supro max. It's easier on the skin than the normal pumice stuff but still cleans well, plus I can grab it at the local parts house.

Dawn dish soap. Good enough for oily penguins means it good enough for me. Plus its such a good grease cutter I can use ot for a thousand other things

CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/9/22 4:43 p.m.

Gojo with pumice, since the time I was 4 years old and helped my older brothers fish something out of a transmission case of an f250. Their hands were too big so they went and woke me up from my nap.

Scrubbing the transmission fluid off my arms with gojo afterward is such a core memory that I don't think I'll ever use anything else. Somehow the fact that it hurt my skin meant I was all grown up. 

Memories are weird. 

fidelity101 UberDork
8/9/22 5:32 p.m.
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) said:

Dish soap and coffee grinds.

I heard about it here at GRM, and it's all I use now - even in my high-school auto shop.  Best hand cleaner ever!

This doesn't put food on your table - it's supposed to be fun. If you're not having fun - you're doing something wrong.

I have both of these things... I will give it a try sometime

frenchyd MegaDork
8/9/22 5:34 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

20 mile team Boraxo. Works wonders. 

madmrak351 Reader
8/9/22 6:26 p.m.

 I am among the Dawn dish soap crowd with the addition of sand for better scribing action. For the sake of the drain plumbing I rinse outside.

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/9/22 6:36 p.m.

I like many of the big names-GoJo, Lava, Orange power, etc, but arguably the best I've used is home made. Take used coffee grounds, wet well with dishwashing liquid, and prepare to be amazed. It flat works.

Edit: Busted for not reading the whole thread before posting. Still, the hand wash is exceptional.

aircooled MegaDork
8/9/22 7:10 p.m.

In the same spirit as gloves, which I tend to wear in dirty situations since my hands seem to rebel a bit these days when I get them too grubby, it can help a LOT to make sure your hands are well lubed up before getting grease on them.

It not only helps keep grease out of the pours / fingernails, it serves to protect the oil in you hands from getting stripped away when you wash them.

I also have found Dawn type soap to be my primary go to (harsh soap is far less necessary if you pre-lube or wear gloves a lot).

O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream 3.4 oz. - Red Hill Cutlery

spitfirebill MegaDork
8/9/22 8:07 p.m.

Regular old Gojo.


Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/9/22 10:20 p.m.

Brake cleaner and a rag

dculberson MegaDork
8/9/22 11:42 p.m.
Patrick said:

Brake cleaner and a rag

I'd be worried about developing chemical sensitivity. I know some guys that can't handle any contact with common automotive chemicals due to decades of doing stuff like this as mechanics. I'd rather take a cautious approach and avoid the nerve damage. 

Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/10/22 7:53 a.m.

In reply to dculberson :

It was mostly tongue in cheek throwback to the older guys who all used nasty chemicals to clean their hands, but i still do a brake clean wipe every now and then if nothing else is available. I do remember getting greasy helping my dad in the garage and having him wipe down my hands with turpentine or paint thinner, and the amount of lacquer thinner and mineral spirits we used installing windows and building patio enclosures would kill an army with the fumes alone. 

I really like the fast orange bars for when dawn doesn't cut it

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