Washing your hands is one of the easiest and best ways to help prevent the spread of germs.

While it’s particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, handwashing is always the best practice before you eat and after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose… the list goes on.

That’s a lot of handwashing, so which soap is up for the job?

We rounded up eight of the best hand soaps to keep your hands fresh, clean, and moisturized — no matter how often you wash up.

How we chose

A good hand soap effectively kills germs without causing irritation or drying out your skin.

For a cleanse that’s both gentle on your skin and tough on germs, we looked for soaps made with moisturizing ingredients like olive oil, aloe vera, and glycerin.

We also checked for high customer ratings and included soaps made with essential oils for a pleasing fragrance every time you scrub up.

Pricing guide

Prices are based on the price per bottle:

$ = under $5
$$ = $5–$10
$$$ = $11–$15

Best-smelling hand soaps

Best foaming hand soap

Puracy

Price: $$

This eco-friendly foaming hand soap is nontoxic and cruelty-free. It’s made without sulfates, parabens, phosphates, perfumes, and dyes.

Reviewers enjoy its ability to clean while leaving skin feeling smooth and refreshed. It comes in two mild scents.

If you’re not a fan of foaming soap, Puracy also offers traditional gel hand soap. You can purchase 64-ounce refills of either product to minimize plastic waste.

Best for sensitive skin

Cleancult

Price: $$$

With just nine ingredients, including nourishing vitamin E, this coconut-based formula smells like lavender and citrus thanks to the natural essential oil blend.

While some people with sensitive skin may find essential oils irritating, some reviewers say it works well for sensitive skin. Reviewers also say it doesn’t dry out skin.

Check out the 16-ounce refill, which comes in paper-based milk cartons.

Is antibacterial soap better?

Antibacterial soaps have ingredients that are intended to minimize or prevent bacterial infections. That sounds great, but those antibacterial ingredients themselves can be problematic.

For years, triclosan was the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned triclosan, pointing to a lack of evidence about safety and effectiveness.

Many manufacturers replaced the banned substances with benzalkonium chloride. However, the jury is still out whether this ingredient is safe for daily use over a long period of time.

The EWG cites strong evidence that benzalkonium chloride is an irritant to the skin and immune and respiratory systems.

In addition to concerns over their long-term health effects, research suggests that these ingredients may actually be creating antibacterial-resistant microbes.

To date, the FDA says there’s no evidence that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are more effective than plain soap and good handwashing practices.

How to wash your hands

No matter what soap you’re using, it’s important to lather up properly. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend a seven-step process for cleaning hands:

  1. Use clean, running water to wet your hands.
  2. Use enough soap to cover your hands and wrists.
  3. Rub your hands together briskly and thoroughly, scrubbing the fronts and backs and between your fingers. Don’t forget your fingertips and wrists.
  4. Continue scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with clean, running water.
  6. Dry with a clean towel, or allow your hands and wrists to air-dry.
  7. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

The takeaway

Washing your hands regularly helps keep you healthy and prevents the spread of germs. And with all the handwashing happening these days, it’s worth finding a soap that makes the experience enjoyable.

While an antibacterial soap isn’t necessary, it’s important to suds up thoroughly. Cover the entire surface of your hands, fingers, and wrists with soap before rinsing with clean, running water.