As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms, washing our hands with soap and water is a simple, inexpensive, and effective defense against infection and the spread of disease. Handwashing may even help us in the battle against antibiotic resistance by reducing the number of infections that require treatment with them. These days, you have plenty of options in gentler, more environmentally-friendly formulas. Whether it’s a bottle or bar of soap for the kitchen, bathroom, or workplace, you can find one that works for you when you need it most.
Buying Guide for Hand Soaps
Why buy hand soap?
If you’re an on-the-go individual—a busy mom, weekly socialite, or both—it helps to have a stash of hand soap nearby. The more people and shared objects (like handrails and shopping carts) you’re exposed to, the higher your risk of contracting and spreading bacteria. Of course, sharing germs day to day is inevitable, and we can’t wash it all away, but good hand soap and especially antibacterial hand soap, will at least give you a fighting chance against catching whatever bug is going around.
What should you consider when buying hand soap?
- Skin-loving Ingredients: Frequent hand washing can dry out your skin, so when choosing a hand soap, especially in cold months, look for additives that won’t strip your hands of their natural oils and that will help keep your skin hydrated. Ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, milk protein, coconut oil, vitamin E, and glycerin are naturally hydrating elements that form protective barriers that can help minimize rough, dry, or flaky skin.
- Avoid Potentially Harmful Ingredients: Many ingredients in hand soap have been found to be harmful to people and the environment. For example, parabens, preservatives commonly used in soaps to prevent the growth of microbes, have been shown to disrupt hormone function in humans; alternatives to parabens have been found to be safer and just as effective. Sulfates, like sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), another common soap ingredient, have been linked to skin irritation and allergic reactions. Triclosan has been linked to the disruption of thyroid hormone levels in humans and changes in the biochemistry of aquatic plants and animals.
- Liquid or Bar: When it comes to hand soap, many people prefer a pump of liquid soap. A pump can be easy to use unless it jams up. And it’s generally easy to keep clean. However, bar soap is making a comeback due to its lack of plastic packaging. Bar soap can work up a luxurious, thick lather, and some also have exfoliating ingredients such as avocado pits, dried herbs, and other bits of nature that can help your hands feel their best.
How often should you use hand soap?
Some of the most important times to use hand soap to wash your hands would be every time you use the restroom, before you eat, before and during meal preparation, before cleaning a wound, after changing a diaper, after touching garbage, and when coming home from a public place. With all this handwashing, just remember to moisturize with lotion to help keep your hands soft and hydrated.
Our Picks for the Best Hand Soaps
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day's Hand Soap
This everyday liquid hand soap is made with thoughtfully chosen ingredients.
Pros: This aromatherapeutic liquid hand soap smells like fresh rainwater, with a fresh hint of spring flowers. It’s made with essential oils, aloe vera, olive oil, and other skin-loving ingredients. And this soap does a wonderful job of getting your hands squeaky clean without over-drying them. But what’s more impressive is what’s left out of this soap: parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors. This brand is also certified cruelty-free, using sustainable plant-derived ingredients for all its household products, lotions, soaps, and cleansers.
Cons: This soap is not available in an antibacterial formula.
Bottom Line: If you love the smell of a spring day, you’re going to love this hand soap. It comes in a bottle with an easy-to-use pump. You can also buy refill bottles to fill your own dispensers.
Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
Moisturizing as it cleans, this antibacterial hand soap kills 99.9% of harmful germs.
Pros: From a soap company that’s been around since 1948, this money-saving four-pack of liquid hand soap has a lot to offer. First, it’s antibacterial, killing germs as you wash. And while it’s tough on germs, it’s also tender on hands and doesn’t contain phthalates, parabens, or silicones. It does contain plant-based glycerine that moisturizes as it cleans, so it’s gentle enough for the whole family. This soap comes in a plastic pump bottle. You simply pump it into your hands, lather for at least 20 seconds, and rinse clean with warm water. And the fresh white tea scent is soft and refreshing and never overpowering.
Cons: This hand soap is thick and may goop up on the pump.
Bottom Line: Many people trust this brand of antibacterial hand soap to deliver great results. In fact, it’s used in hospitals and doctor’s offices all around the country.
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap
With six lovely scents, this pack of hand soap will make you feel refreshed as you wash your hands.
Pros: This pack of soaps offers you one of each of their invigorating garden-fresh scents to enjoy: basil, lemon verbena, lavender, honeysuckle, rosemary, and geranium. And these soaps are great for busy hands because they’re non-drying and contain skin-loving plant-based ingredients, yet they clean hands exceptionally well. These soaps are paraben-free and made without phthalates or artificial colors. Plus, these soaps are never tested on animals and are certified cruelty-free. Best of all, these hand soaps come in nice, giftable packaging.
Cons: Some people find one or two of the fragrances a bit too strong for their liking.
Bottom Line: Many people love the scents and effectiveness of this hand soap. It’s good to use in the bathrooms and the kitchen. And considering the quality and variety you get, the price is reasonable.
Softsoap Moisturizing Liquid Hand Soap
This hand soap is great for everyday use and leaves hands feeling smooth and soft.
Pros: This well-known name-brand soap stepped up its game with this moisturizing formula that leaves hands feeling impossibly smooth and soft. The rich lather gently washes away dirt and bacteria. It has a refreshing aloe scent, is dermatologist-tested to be gentle on hands, and is pH-balanced to retain moisture. This soap contains no parabens or phthalates. And with earth-friendly, biodegradable cleaning ingredients and a recyclable bottle, this soap is not just great for your skin; it’s eco-friendly, too. Finally, this six-pack is a huge money-saver. You can place one bottle in each bathroom and one in the kitchen and still have some left over for later!
Cons: This soap does not come with protective packaging for delivery.
Bottom Line: This soap is aptly named for how it works: it makes your hands soft. It has a very light scent that most people enjoy. And the pump is easy to use and doesn’t often clog.
Pre de Provence Artisanal French Soap Bar
Natural ingredients and fresh scents meet in this triple-milled soap to make your skin smell and feel luxurious.
Pros: Who says things aren’t made the way they used to be? This traditionally crafted soap is created using old-world methods. This classic French process produces a soap that has few impurities, an incredibly smooth texture, and long-lasting use. This bar creates a rich, creamy lather to soothe and soften your skin, and the fragrances are light and lovely. You can use this soap in the bathroom or kitchen with a soap dish. Plus, it makes a great gift for holidays, birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, Mother’s Day, and weddings. And there are dozens of luxurious scents to choose from.
Cons: This bar soap isn’t as moisturizing as some other options.
Bottom Line: If you’re after a sumptuous handwashing experience, this bar soap may be just the key. The natural ingredients invigorate and massage the skin, and it’s long-lasting.
These top-rated soaps are great for everyday use. And if you don’t like the look of plastic bottles, you can purchase a few inexpensive soap dispensers and keep a bottle handy at home or work. Happy handwashing!