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With all of the extra hand-washing we’ve been doing over the past year, a good soap has become more significant than ever. Although most soaps on the market will rid your hands of harmful germs and bacteria as long as you use warm water and scrub for 20 seconds, there are some products on the market that are less drying, contain fewer synthetic materials, and have more appealing scents. With that in mind, we’ve researched a variety of different soaps and brands in order to help you find the best option for your needs.
Here, the best hand soaps on the market right now.
Best Antimicrobial: CleanBoss Hand Sanitizer Foaming Soap
If you’re looking for a soap that's gentle and effective, this antimicrobial soap from well-known cleaning and organizing entrepreneur Joy Mangano may be a good choice for you. While most antibacterial soaps rely on triclosan and other chemicals that may actually do more harm than good, CleanBoss Hand Sanitizer Foaming Soap uses a patented formulation that quickly kills 99.99 percent of germs. Unlike most hand sanitizers, this soap will leave your hands feeling soft and silky. As an added bonus, the foam format ensures that the 16.5 ounces of soap will last for well over a thousand uses.
Best Budget: Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap
While most bottles on this list are affordable, none of them are quite as affordable as Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap: When you buy a six-pack, each bottle costs less than a dollar. Still, it’s surprisingly high-quality. The creamy, moisturizing soap is dermatologist-tested and has a crisp, refreshing scent.
The dispenser is lightweight and the pump is wide which is great for small hands. That being said, it may be too easy for kids to use; in order to prevent them from using more soap than they need, it might be helpful to wrap a rubber band around the neck of the pump so that they don’t get carried away.
Best Splurge: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash
Instead of spending your hard-earned funds on fancy shoes that you can only wear when the weather is at its finest, or lovely china that you only pull out for the most significant occasions, why not invest in products that you use every day? Aesop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash will make one of our most important duties feel like a meditative moment in the middle of your hectic day.
In a classy, 16.9-ounce dispenser that recalls an antique apothecary bottle, the low-foaming gel is thick, creamy, and vegan. Its thoughtful formula prevents moisture loss and is packed with a diverse mix of essential oils to create a complex scent that is simultaneously bright and woodsy.
Best for Eczema: MADE OF Organic Fragrance-Free Hand Soap, 10 Oz
MADE OF’s Foaming Organic Hand Soap is gentle enough for babies, so you know that it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin. While 81 percent of its formula is made of organic ingredients such as aloe vera and essential oils, the other 19 percent is made of plant-derived ingredients such as glycerin and vitamin E. All of these ingredients come together to create a soothing, hydrating soap.
MADE OF puts their products through rigorous, independent testing to ensure that they are safe for everyone. In the case of this hand soap, both pediatricians and dermatologists performed six-week tests to ensure that it wouldn’t cause allergic reactions.
Best Foaming: Puracy Natural Foaming Hand Soap
Foaming soap not only feels great on the skin, but it will also help you and your kids pump out just the right amount of soap. When that happens, an 8.5-ounce dispenser of Puracy’s Natural Foaming Hand Soap can clean 650 hands! We highly recommend checking out the 64-ounce refill pouch as well, because it uses 90 percent less plastic than the dispenser.
The formula for this soap is 99.4 percent biodegradable, so it’s safe for homes that use septic systems or greywater.
"We believe that biodegradable cleaners are very important in order to help minimize the impact that chemicals can have on aquatic life," says Christine McNerney, Senior Director of Merchandising, Non-Food, at Thrive Market. "A lot of cleaning products wind up going down the drain, which is why we believe it’s an important consideration to keep in mind while selecting products."
This soap is a great choice for those with sensitive skin, as the formula has hydrating and soothing ingredients such as vitamin E and aloe vera.
Best Gel: Method Gel Hand Wash
Method Gel Hand Wash is surprisingly well-priced for such an upscale product. Plus, the style of the dispenser ensures that one pump gives you exactly as much as you need! That’s great, because the gel’s thick consistency ensures that a little goes a long way.
This biodegradable gel soap has a light, inoffensive scent that won’t linger. The 12-ounce bottle is made up of 100 percent recycled plastic and comes in an attractive teardrop shape that will look great on your countertops. Method doesn’t stop there: They use sustainable energy to power their factory and are always looking for new ways to make products that are as gentle on the planet as this soap is on our hands.
Best Natural: Everyone Hand Soap
Made of plant-based ingredients and food-grade extracts, Everyone Hand Soap is a fantastic choice for those who want to rid their sink of synthetic ingredients. The parent company of Everyone hand soap, EO Products, is so transparent when discussing their ingredients that they actually provide an ingredient glossary on their website so that you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin.
With a coconut base and other plant-based ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, and white tea extract, Everyone Hand Soap is soothing and gentle on skin sensitivities. To top it off, you’ll get a light whiff of ruby grapefruit every time you pump soap out of the attractive amber bottle which is made of 100 percent recycled post-consumer plastic.
Best for Dry Hands: Soapbox Deep Moisture Liquid Hand Soap
All of the extra hand-washing we’re doing is really doing a number on our skin, and the dry, winter air isn’t helping. Cracked, scaly hands are no match for Soapbox’s Deep Moisture Liquid Hand Soap. Layered with vitamins, fatty acids, and a base of shea butter and aloe vera, this moisture-rich formula will revitalize your skin.
If you’re not a fan of the scent of coconut or sandalwood, Soapbox offers a host of other scents with distinct benefits. While the batua fruit oil in the Citrus & Peach Rose formula will improve the elasticity of your skin, the astringent qualities of the Meyer Lemon & Tea Leaves soap will feel refreshing.
Best Refill: Mrs. Meyer's Liquid Hand Soap Refill
If you prefer to pump soap out of your own stylish dispensers, you can’t go wrong with this 33-ounce jug of Mrs. Meyer’s. It’s a great way to save money on a high-quality soap that’s free of harsh cleaning agents and full of soothing ingredients such as olive oil, aloe vera, and glycerin.
The structured jug won’t take up much space in your cabinet and is easy to pour so that you won’t waste any soap by spilling it on the counter. It’s available in three garden-inspired fragrances—rainwater, basil, and honeysuckle—all of which are light and refreshing.
What to Look for When Buying Hand Soap
Even if you aren’t sensitive to strong fragrances, you’re better off choosing more neutral scents that’ll be inoffensive to everyone in the house. If you suffer from migraines or allergies, choosing a soap that's fragrance-free might be especially important. Some soaps are lightly scented with essential oils, such as lavender or mandarin peel oil, which can be a good alternative to chemical-based or artificial fragrances.
Although we still don’t have enough information about many of the synthetic ingredients found in our beauty and home products, there are a few that likely do more harm than good. A good rule of thumb is to look for marketing that claims that the soap is free of triclosan, parabens, or phthalates. Generally, plant-based products with transparent ingredient lists are the safest options.
Most soaps work well in terms of cleansing your hands of dirt and harmful germs. However, some soaps with harsher formulas can actually break down your skin’s moisture barrier which is why frequent hand-washing can result in dry skin. For that reason, we define effective soap as being gentle enough that it won’t break the moisture barrier.
If you tend to get dry skin, you can look for formulas for hydrating ingredients. "When it comes to hand soap you want to look for ingredients like glycerin, shea butter, and certain hydrating oils like coconut, jojoba or olive oil," says McNerney.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Emily Shwake, a freelance writer who has written dozens of stories about both beauty and home products. In addition to The Spruce, she writes about home and lifestyle topics for BuzzFeed, Apartment Therapy, and Martha Stewart.
For additional background on hand soap, we spoke to Christine McNerney, Senior Director of Merchandising, Non-Food, at Thrive Market who spoke about ingredients to look for.