Soap and Hand Cleansing Trends 2021 and Beyond

Even before COVID, hand sanitizer and liquid soap demand was trending upwards. The onset of COVID-19 saw people lining up outside stores to stock-up on these products. Panic buying ensued with some retailers putting a cap on the number of products people could buy. 

Online retailers have played a major role in sales growth for sanitizers and liquid soaps, making assertive marketing adjustments to meet the spike in consumer interest.


As COVID-19 spread across the world, many shopping patterns changed across the soap and sanitizer aisles. Our research examined three types of messaging over the past two years:

  • Safety-focused
  • Cleanliness
  • Moisturizing

As most know, demand for liquid soap and sanitizer rose during the beginning panic stages of COVID. Unsurprisingly, demand for moisturizers also spiked up. However, soap and sanitizer sales have mostly returned to pre-pandemic levels, while moisturizers continue to be on the uptick.

Hand Washing: A Brief Spike

Messaging around “safety” increased substantially in consumer conversations and product messages while governments encouraged citizens to wash and sanitize their hands more often to reduce transmission of COVID. Consumer search followed, with the Google query “how to wash hands” rising steeply from February 16 to March 29, which we classify as the initial 6-week panic period in the United States. However, following the 6-week spike, interest normalized as consumers begun to recognize COVID as the new normal and panic-shopping subsided.

Liquid soaps: Not Down the Drain Yet

Over the same panic period, consumer interest grew 228% in liquid soap and automatic dispensers. Consumers rushed to purchase no-contact soaps in an attempt to clean the virus away and reduce their chances of catching the virus. Interestingly, however, consumer interest in solid soaps, like bar soap, remained static. This indicates that consumers may view solid soaps as a less safe alternative than liquids. Since the initial panic period, however, demand has steadily declined for liquid soaps and, in a matter of months, is expected to subside to pre-COVID levels.

In 2019, demand for liquid soap in the US exceeded $2.3 billion according to Global Market Insights. Despite being relatively expensive compared to bar soaps, demand for liquid soap is likely to continue to trend upward as people become more health conscientious. Liquid soap is expected to exceed $4.6 billion by 2026, doubling the numbers from 2019.

Dispensers: Here to Stay

In 2019, the global soap dispenser market was valued at $1.22 billion. As businesses reopened and communities socialized again following the first wave of lockdowns, consumers increased their purchasing of soap dispensers to make them available to others. During the “panic period,” there was a steep rise in demand for a variety of liquid soap dispensers, including refillable soap dispensers, sanitizer dispensers, and automatic dispensers. Consumers looked for ways to encourage their peers clean their hands by making it easy, accessible, and trendy to disinfect hands.

However, even after the panic period ended, consumer interest in dispensers continues to show elevated levels of consumer interest. Heightened consumer interest in soap and sanitizer dispensers is a sustainable trend.

The moisturizer trends

As disinfectants have become more popular, so to have moisturizers. The largest challenge posed by sanitizers is that they often dry out skin. With increased usage, more people are experiencing the side effects of dry skin. . 

As a result, there’s heightened demand for moisturizers that feature disinfectants, such as alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride (which looks harder to pronounce than it actually is). These moisturizers provide the functional benefit of assisting consumers with their sanitization needs, while avoiding the main side effects of dry skin.

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