By now, we've all been reminded how important it is to wash our hands, whether we've just touched raw chicken for tonight's dinner, carried out a load of stinky trash, or spent some time petting and playing with our adorable doggie. But did you know that the soap you use is also just as crucial as the act itself? For great hygiene and fresh-smelling hands, it’s best to find a hand soap that works for your specific skin-type. Soap is a powerhouse cleaner in your home and personal cleaning routine. But scan the store aisles, or scroll on your phone, and you'll see there are so many hand soaps out there, it’s almost impossible to pick the best one.
Luckily, we’re here to help! “All hand soaps, when used properly, have the ability to reduce and remove bacteria from the hands, regardless if they are marketed as antibacterial,” says Carla Burns, senior director of cosmetic science at the Environmental Working Group. To get down into the suds, we researched a lot of brands. Find out which one came out on top!
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap
Free from ingredients that are not eco-friendly
What can we say? We think this popular hand soap is both effective and great-smelling! It's made with plant-derived cleaning ingredients and scented with essential oils. Aloe vera extract, glycerin, and olive oil make it soapy and give it the right consistency to lather up. It's also free of parabens and phthalates.
We love that this well-known brand comes in a variety of scents, so you can find the best one for you. These comforting smells include many that are also part of a line of cleaners from Mrs. Meyer’s. Many of them work well in the kitchen, such as honeysuckle and rosemary. There are also seasonal scents that come out in the fall, winter, and spring. But what we love most is not only how great it smells, but also how it gets rid of messes and dirt when you wash your hands.
Mrs. Meyer’s is a bit expensive for hand soap, but the pleasant scents and formula that's safe for even sensitive skin and noses makes it a great option for most households. There are also foaming options, too!
Price at time of publish: $14 for 3-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 12.5 fl.oz. | Scent: Peony, Compassion Flower, Honeysuckle, Rosemary
Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap, Fresh Breeze
Safe and effective
Comes in multiple scents
Gets rid of bacteria
This trusted brand of soap is budget-friendly and very effective. It's made without parabens and phthalates and has a light scent. We love that it comes in a convenient pack of six so you can make one purchase for your entire home that will last for awhile. For sensitive noses, there's also an unscented option for those who prefer something without a fragrance. We feel good knowing that these soaps are pH balanced and work to get rid of bacteria on your skin.
These are a bit smaller than some other brands, but we can overlook that, especially because some bottles have additional nourishing ingredients, such as moisturizing aloe vera or milk and honey.
Price at time of publish: $11 for 6-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 7.5 fl.oz. | Scent: Fresh breeze
Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash
Unique, complex scent
Includes exfoliating pumice stone
Can get a refill
Talk about luxurious! This hand soap smells so amazing, as it's made from botanical extracts. Vetiver root, petitgrain, and bergamot combine for an elegant scent. It also includes tiny bits of pumice stone to exfoliate your hands while you wash. That way, you're left with wonderful-smelling and smooth hands. Aesop describes the overall scent as woody, earthy, and smoky.
It’s not surprising that this formula is quite expensive, which is why we're naming it as Best Splurge. It doesn’t include any disinfecting agents, but it's very effective at cleaning dirt and debris from your hands. When it’s time to refill, buy the slightly cheaper refill option and use the pump from your previous hand soap.
Price at time of publish: $39
Type: Liquid | Amount: 16.91 fl.oz. | Scent: Vetiver/Petitgrain/Bergamot
Best Bar Soap
Yardley London Moisturizing Bath Soap Bar
Multiple fragrances available
Large bar soap
Sometimes it's best to use a tried and true old school method. This bar soap is moisturizing as well as affordable and effective. It uses shea butter, cocoa, and vitamin E to add moisture to each wash.
Best of all, it's free of parabens or sodium lauryl sulfate, and there are six scents available. We think the cocoa butter is best to work on dry skin. It can also be used in the shower or bath as well as for your hands.
Because it is a bar soap, you’ll need a soap dish or sink caddy to keep it safe. It's unlikely that you will use an entire bar quickly, so you can keep it on hand for months to use by the sink.
Price at time of publish: $2
Type: Bar | Amount: 1 | Scent: Cocoa butter
Best Liquid Soap
Hand in Hand Nourishing Liquid Hand Soap
A lot of scent options
Uses shea butter and coconut oil for moisturizing
Some refill options available
Only in a foaming dispenser
There are so many scents from Hand in Hand, which means there are plenty of choices. There are some that are expected, such as lavender or peony, plus a collection of holiday scents. There are even less-common scents, such as cactus blossom and island mimosa. Expect these bars to be made of 100 percent vegan ingredients. The formula uses shea butter and coconut oil for moisture as well as cleaning.
This is a foaming dispenser, so you may go through it more quickly than you would traditional liquid soaps. But the soap is affordable and an especially great value based on the high-quality ingredients and multiple scent options. You can also get refills, although these are only available in the most popular scents.
Price at time of publish: $13 for 4-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 10 fl.oz. | Scent: Lavender
J.R. Watkins Foaming Hand Soap with Pump Dispenser
Comes with foaming dispenser
Refill pouches available for some scents
We think you can't go wrong with a brand that's been around since 1868. This set of three foaming hand soaps uses plant-based ingredients to clean. There are 15 scents, including some refill pouches. Some of the most popular scents include lemon, agave water, lavender, and white pine. You can get them in a set with three foaming hand soap dispensers or refill pouches. These are meant to be used with J.R. Watkins dispensers, although they work with any foaming hand soap dispenser.
While they don’t have any moisturizing formulas, we noted that these may not be the best for people with dry skin. And even though they come in a set, they are still a bit pricey. The hand soap uses high-quality ingredients (think calendula and oats) — free of dyes, parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde.
Price at time of publish: $15 for 3-pack
Type: Foam | Amount: 9 fl.oz. | Scent: Lemon
Dial Complete Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
Multiple dispensers in one purchase
Two scents available
This liquid hand soap from Dial gets rid of 99.9% of bacteria when you use it with water and wash for at least 30 seconds. Work up a substantial lather, and scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds for the full antibacterial effectiveness. It comes in a package of four pump bottles, which are each 11 fluid ounces.
While we noted that there aren’t a lot of fragrance options, you can opt for an aloe vera-scented hand soap that also works against bacteria. This soap does use more chemical-based ingredients, but it's still gentle enough for most skin.
Price at time of publish: $12 for 4-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 11 fl.oz. | Scent: Spring Water
Best for Eczema
Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser
Free of harsh chemicals
No dyes or fragrances
Won’t clog pores
This Free & Clear soap is an extra-mild formula that is free of many of the irritants that can cause eczema flare-ups. It doesn’t have parabens, sulfates, dyes, fragrances, lanolin, or formaldehyde. It's also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores. To use, all you need to do is wash and rinse, and then pat dry with a towel.
It comes in a slightly smaller quantity than most other cleaners and is a bit more expensive. You can get a larger size, but it costs even more. For those with eczema, however, having a hand soap that is effective without causing flare-ups may be worth the extra cost and protection.
Price at time of publish: $9
Type: Liquid | Amount: 8 fl.oz. | Scent: Unscented
Best for Dry Skin
Dove Nourishing Foaming Hand Wash
Five moisturizing ingredients
No alcohol, dyes, parabens, or sulfates
Scent may not be appealing to everyone
There are beneficial ingredients and moisturizers in the Dove Nourishing hand wash. It's also a rich, foaming solution that feels nice on your skin, and it's made with gentle plant-based cleaners. Bonus: It does not include alcohol, dyes, parabens, or sulfates. Plus, it's scented with aloe and eucalyptus.
But while this soap is nourishing, it's also dermatologist-approved and effective at killing 99 percent of bacteria, which is a big plus in our book. That way, your hands feel totally moisturized and clean!
Price at time of publish: $4
Type: Foam | Amount: 10.1 fl.oz. | Scent: Fresh
Everyone Lavender Coconut Hand Soap
Tops can leak
This liquid soap is great for the environment and for people with sensitivities to harsh ingredients and chemical fragrances, while still being strong against dirt and germs. It's scented with lavender and coconut from essential oils. It also uses plant-based ingredients for cleaning and sudsing. The packaging is even eco-friendly because it's made with recycled materials.
You may want to secure the top because it can be prone to leaking in shipment. They come in a three-pack of 12.75 fluid ounces with pump tops, and there is also a one gallon refill container that you can use when your smaller containers are empty.
Price at time of publish: $18 for 3-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 12.75 fl.oz. | Scent: Lavender and coconut
Best Refill Options
Gelo Foaming Hand Soap With Refill Pods
Two scents available
Dispenser costs extra
This foaming hand wash comes with a dispenser and refill pods. When it is time to refill, all you have to do is drop a pod in and fill the rest with water. The refill pods come in two scents, lemon, basil and geranium, and sea mist, mineral, and freesia. It also uses biodegradable cleansers, so you won’t have to worry about a large negative impact to the environment.
You don’t even have to use the Gelo hand dispenser, but you will need a foaming dispenser. Each container has eight refill pods that can be used for 40 ounces of hand soap total. These are very affordable, although you do need to supply a dispenser or purchase one from Gelo.
Price at time of publish: $7
Type: Refill Pods | Amount: 8 | Scent: Lemon, basil, and geranium
Our top pick, Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Hand Soap, comes in a variety of scents and uses ingredients that are good for the environment. Aloe vera extract, glycerin, and olive oil make it soapy and give it the right consistency to lather up. Plus, we love that the trusted brand has plenty of other cleaning products in its lineup, so you can use the same scents all around your home. Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap is a budget-friendly option that also has multiple scents and works well on removing bacteria.
What to Look for in a Hand Soap
Liquid hand soap is the most common type of hand soap, but foaming hand soap is another good option. Refills can come in liquid or pods. You'll need a special dispenser for foaming hand soap.
Many hand soaps have a cleaning agent as well as a scent. They can also contain moisturizing ingredients meant to nourish your hands. Parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfates, and formaldehyde are the most common ingredients that are not included in the best hand soaps. That's why we love Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Hand Soap. It's made with plant-derived cleaning ingredients and scented with essential oils. It's also free of parabens and phthalates.
Some hand soaps clean the surface, while others work on germs and bacteria. Good antibacterial hand soaps often get rid of 99.9% of germs.
A great scent that isn’t overpowering is one of the most sought-after aspects of a great hand soap. Some are derived from chemical fragrances, while others use essential oils. For those hand soaps that have refills pods or pouches, some do not come in all fragrance options. For people who have sensitive skin, scented soaps might not be the best answer.
Is liquid or foam soap better?
Generally, liquid hand soap lasts longer than foaming hand soap. Some people find the foam hand soap easier on their skin. It often creates a more luxurious lather.
What soap do dermatologists recommend?
For those who have sensitive skin, soaps without dyes and fragrances are the best options. Homes with young children should take special care when selecting ingredients.
What are the benefits of hand soap?
Hand soap removes dirt and germs from your hands. Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can prevent the spread of disease by removing germs that cause respiratory infections, skin and eye infections, and others.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer who specializes in home and family products. Melynn has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. To compile this list, she looked for hand soaps that smell nice and are effective against germs and easy to use.
This article was also researched by Sage McHugh, a home and lifestyle writer for The Spruce. For expert insight on hand soaps, she spoke to Carla Burns, senior director of cosmetic science at the Environmental Working Group.