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

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–$20

Best smelling hand soap

EO French Lavender Hand Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: contains nutrient-rich botanical extracts, soothing
  • Cons: Some reviewers dislike the scent
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: french lavender

Aromatherapy is the name of the game with EO soaps, which are made without parabens, artificial colors or dyes, or synthetic fragrances. Reviewers rave about all six light scents.

This is one of just two soaps on our list formulated without glycerin. Instead, amino acid-derived cleansers and aloe vera combine for a gentle, moisturizing clean.

Best splurge hand soap

Williams Sonoma Fleur de Sel Hand Soap

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: biodegradable, scented with premium essential oils
  • Cons: pricey
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: Fleur de Sel

This biodegradable formula includes olive oil, aloe vera, and glycerin. Essential oils provide a light floral fragrance that reviewers describe as fresh and calming.

Like all Williams Sonoma hand soaps, it’s made without parabens, ammonia, chlorine, or phthalates.

Best budget hand soap

Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $
  • Pros: softening, refillable, good value
  • Cons: Some reviewers find the scents to be too strong.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: lavender

Known for its signature garden-inspired scents, Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap is a cruelty-free option made without parabens, phthalates, or animal-derived ingredients. A blend of essential oils, aloe vera, olive oil, and glycerin soften and clean hands without drying them out.

Some scents are offered in a 33-ounce refill, cutting down on plastic waste. Keep an eye out for limited edition seasonal scents, too.

Best clean hand soap

Everyone Lavender Coconut Hand Soap

  • Price: $
  • Pros: affordable, no synthetic ingredients, 100 percent recyclable packaging
  • Cons: Some reviewers have issues with the pump.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: coconut

This inexpensive hand soap is verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), meaning it’s transparent about its ingredients and avoids ingredients on the EWG’s “unacceptable” list.

The sweet and citrus-y aroma is derived from essential oils. No synthetic ingredients are added.

This is another soap on our list without glycerin. Instead, the coconut-derived cleansers in the formula are balanced with vitamin E for clean, moisturized hands.

Best foaming hand soap

Puracy Natural Foaming Hand Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: refillable, subtle aroma, eco-friendly
  • Cons: Some reviewers find it drying.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: lavender and vanilla

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 hand soap for sensitive skin

Attitude Hypoallergenic Hand Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: softening, no synthetic ingredients, vegan
  • Cons: Some reviewers had issues with the bottle leaking
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: orange

Attitude hand soaps are EWG-verified and certified cruelty-free by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Biodegradable and hypoallergenic, this soap uses plant and mineral-based ingredients, including moringa seed extract, to cleanse and moisturize.

Best sustainable hand soap

Cleancult Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: paper-based packaging, recyclable, no harsh chemicals
  • Cons: irritating for some
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: lavender and citrus

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.

Best unscented hand soap

Seventh Generation Hand Wash

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: gentle, recycled bottles, cleansing
  • Cons: Some reviewers claim that it’s not unscented.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: unscented

This unscented formula is as straightforward as it gets. Made without dyes and fragrance, it’s a gentle, plant-based option well suited for those with sensitive skin or allergies. Reviewers report that it’s both nonirritating and effective.

This soap is a USDA Certified Biobased product, which means it’s made of at least 97 percent plant-based or renewable ingredients.

Best drugstore hand soap

Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $
  • Pros: affordable, refillable
  • Cons: drying for some, not cruelty-free
  • Cruelty-free: no
  • Scent: aloe vera

Softsoap is a classic in many households as it’s affordable and can be found at nearly every drug store. It gently cleanses skin with a light aloe vera scent. You also have the option to purchase a 50 fl. oz refill, which means fewer trips to the store.

Plus, it’s paraben-free, formulated without phthalates, and tested by dermatologists.

Best luxury hand soap

NEST Fragrances Grapefruit Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: wonderful scent, moisturizing, lathers well
  • Cons: pricey
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: grapefruit

With notes of pink pomelo grapefruit, lily of the valley, and coriander blossom, you might never switch back to ordinary hand soap.

This richly scented hand wash is vegan, paraben-free, and infused with natural plant extracts and antioxidants.

Best nourishing hand soap

Alaffia EveryDay Shea Foaming Hand Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: gentle, unscented options
  • Cons: Some reviewers have issues with the pump.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: vanilla mint

Each bottle contains a mixture of shea butter, virgin coconut oil, and neem leaf to cleanse and soften dry hands.

Bonus? This gentle foaming soap is free of any sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, mineral oil, artificial color or synthetic fragrance. A great option for users with sensitive skin that’s prone to irritation.

Best hand soap for giving back

Soapbox Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: leaves hands feeling soft, hydrating, charitable
  • Cons: Some reviewers have issues with the pump.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: Meyer lemon and tea leaves

Enriched with shea butter, this creamy hand soap is great for those who have dry hands. The hydrating formula is vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and contains no harsh chemicals and parabens.

For every Soapbox hand soap purchased, Soapbox donates one bar of soap to someone in need — a win-win!

Best moisturizing hand soap

Hand in Hand Nourishing Liquid Hand Soap

  • Price: $
  • Pros: hydrating, great value
  • Cons: The aluminum bottle may dent.
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Scent: lavender, pink peony, ylang ylang, sweetgrass

Organic shea butter and coconut oil work in conjunction to make sure your hands are silky smooth post-wash. We love this hand soap because of its smooth lather, clean formula, and super affordable price tag.

Each bottle is recyclable and the ingredients are sustainable and responsibly sourced.

EO French Lavender Hand Soap$$contains nutrient-rich botanical extracts, soothingSome reviewers dislike the scent.yesfrench lavender
Williams Sonoma Fleur de Sel Hand Soap$$$biodegradable, scented with premium essential oilspriceyyesFleur de Sel
Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Hand Soap$softening, refillable, good valueSome reviewers find the scents to be too strong.yeslavender
Everyone Lavender Coconut Hand Soap$affordable, no synthetic ingredients, 100% recyclable packagingSome reviewers have issues with the pump.yescoconut
Puracy Natural Foaming Hand Soap$$refillable, subtle aroma, eco-friendlySome reviewers find it drying.yeslavender and vanilla
Attitude Hypoallergenic Hand Soap$$softening, no synthetic ingredients, veganSome reviewers had issues with the bottle leaking.yesorange
Cleancult Liquid Hand Soap$$$paper-based packaging, recyclable, no harsh chemicalsirritating for someyeslavender and citrus
Seventh Generation Hand Wash$$gentle, recycled bottles, cleansingSome reviewers claim that it’s not unscentedyesunscented
Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap$affordable, refillabledrying for some, not cruelty-freenoaloe vera
NEST Fragrances Grapefruit Liquid Hand Soap$$$wonderful scent, moisturizing, lathers wellpriceyyesgrapefruit
Alaffia EveryDay Shea Foaming Hand Soap$$gentle, unscented optionsSome reviewers have issues with the pump.yesvanilla mint
Soapbox Liquid Hand Soap$$leaves hands feeling soft, hydrating, charitableSome reviewers have issues with the pump.yesMeyer lemon and tea leaves
Hand in Hand Nourishing Liquid Hand Soap$hydrating, great valuealuminum bottle may dentyeslavender, pink peony, ylang ylang, sweetgrass

To choose the best hand soap, look out for a cleansing hand soap devoid of parabens, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). If you have sensitive skin, avoid fragrances, as they can be irritating.

Formulas made of more natural ingredients may be less drying than formulas that use synthetic chemicals. Look out for hydrating ingredients on the label like coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, and glycerin.

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.

No matter what soap you’re using, it’s important to lather up properly. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) 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.

What is the difference between soap and hand wash?

Soap is a natural product, whereas hand wash is a synthetic product. Bar soaps are typically more affordable and biodegradable.

What is hand soap made of?

Hand soap is typically made of oil or fat, lye and water.

What are the uses of hand soap?

Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections.

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.