+1 for Manista hand cleanser - it has abrasives in it so it's way better than Swarfega or Fairy+sugar in terms of getting the dirt out but has lanolin in it too so can be used regularly without drying your skin. I don't use anything else now and I'm a landscape gardener by trade so have constantly grubby and dried out hands. Also, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream is one of the few that actually makes any difference without being greasy!
Hi, I've found the best stuff for getting ingrained dirt out is clean grease, really work it into the hands then wipe off with paper towel and then wash with soap and water. Another tip is do the washing up, brownie points to be won here, because the long soak helps as said above. The cracking is dermatitis and should be dealt with separately.
I think I really ought to start using gloves, it will save a whole lot of bother. Trouble is I normally manage to destroy them within the first few minutes of wearing them - fingers through the ends, weird condom-like bangle round my wrist... Although just popping them off and having clean paws for handling smokes and coffee cups is a blessing.
Wear gloves - end of - or get nasty skin problems up to and including cancer. Used engine oil is carcinogenic. Don't keep oily rags in your front pocket either.
If I'm doing mechanical work I wear the black nitrile gloves from GSF and similar - they're thicker than the blue ones and last longer. They generally stand up to most things, but sharp metal will tear them (rather than tearing your skin). For bodywork I find I get more feel with the blue nitrile vinyl ones, but they rip too easily for mechanical stuff. Occasionally you have to take them off to do something delicate for feel for a burr or something with a fingernail, but it's worth it.
When I take the gloves out of the box at the start of the day I stick a spare pair in my pocket... saves me going back to the box too often. By the time I've gone through two pairs, it's probably time for a brew anyway ;o)
For metal fabrication I wear leather work gloves I bought from costco (3 pairs for about 16 quid). I've caught them with the grinder wire brush a few times and it's probably saved me from a painful visit to casualty.
Washing up liquid is designed to strip the oil and grease out of things - it'll really strip the natural oils out of your skin. I used to use it but never do now. A big bottle of Fast Orange hand cleaner lasts for ages.
I usually just wipe my hands on the rag a lot as I work so the oil and stuff doesn't get a chance to dry on. This of course makes hand washing at the end of the job much easier. I still sometimes end up using laundry powder as handcleaner though. There is an Eco-store powdered bleach product available in NZ that is quite good for this but it stings a lot on any cuts although so does the iodine spray from the veterinarian that we use because it is better quality than the one from the human pharmacy. One thing that annoys me is having to wash my hands before going to the toilet. Don't want oil and grease down there. I think this has been mentioned before by someone else on another thread. To the guy who works as a chauffeur, could you wear driving gloves at work to conceal your less than perfect hands?
I've found that washing with glycerine soap works pretty well on oil and grease. For hand cleaner the W5 wood chip stuff from Lidl is great but they don't always have it. If your hands are a bit roughed up the Hemp cream from the Body Shop is good but you might get some funny looks due to the smell of it.
My wife was recommended it when she was pregnant to help stretch marks, I got the job of rubbing it in, I ended up with lovely smooth soft hands use it regularly now after working on the car. Not cheap but you don't need much so a jar lasts ages.