Cleanliness is one aspect of woodworking that is often overlooked, despite the fact that the regular cleaning of one’s hands and workspace is vital in preventing unnecessary injuries and ensuring the creation of a quality product.

Woodworking requires the handling of chemicals and substances that shouldn’t remain on human skin for prolonged periods, and while gloves offer protection, they aren’t always worn and they can leak. Residue from wood glue, epoxy, oil and water-based stains and sealants, dirt and sawdust require different methods for removing them from skin, so not every cleanser will work for every issue.

1. Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Dawn is a brand known for cleaning off tough, grimy messes, from food remnants to wildlife impacted by oil spills. As a general cleanser, it does well to remove dirt and sawdust from hands, but it may not remove the pigment or dye from wood stain - and it won’t remove wood glue or epoxy from skin.

2. Rubbing Alcohol/Acetone

As solvents, rubbing alcohol and acetone are known to be effective against staining and relatively gentle on skin. They can be used to remove the color from wood stain and can help remove glue prior to it drying. Rubbing alcohol and acetone are easily accessible and relatively cheap, however, the amount of alcohol they contain is limited, which also limits their effectiveness as cleansers.

3. Natural/Food-Based Oils

Household items, such as olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil have vastly different properties but can each be used to clean simple messes from woodworking. Natural oils can remove stains from skin, though they may not be as effective as other methods. They can also be used to help remove dried glue from skin, as oils soften skin cells, which can help loosen the glue’s adhesion. Cleaning with oils typically requires scrubbing, however, so be sure to pair this method with an exfoliating brush or tool.

4. Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a natural cleaner that balances the pH of both acids and bases. It’s a substance known for deodorizing and brightening stained surfaces, and when made into a paste with water, it can be used as an exfoliant. This means that baking soda is able to help remove dried glue and caked on messes, as well as fight against any lasting effects from wood stain.

5. Fast Orange

Fast Orange offers a multifaceted approach to cleaning woodworking messes. It is a cleanser that uses skin softeners, such as lanolin and glycerin, rather than harsh solvents to wipe away dirt and grease. It uses pumice granules to exfoliate and remove glue, epoxy, and stains. For most woodworking and laboring professionals, Fast Orange and soaps with similar ingredients are staples to be included in their workshop.

Final Thoughts

Remember, solvents like paint thinner and mineral spirits may work great on woodworking projects, but prolonged contact with them will do damage to the human body. If certain cleansers aren’t effective enough, consider pairing them with an exfoliant. Look for physical exfoliants, such as scrubs with pumice or other granules that will remove tough stains and glue from hands. without chemically conflicting with the soap you are using. Avoid using chemical exfoliants, as they may negatively react with the cleanser you are using or the chemicals on your skin.

When woodworking, do you prefer cleansers with harsh ingredients, such as dish soap or do you use rubbing alcohol? What’s your preferred hand cleaner?