When it comes to avoiding germs, one of the most important things you can do is frequently wash your hands. According to the Mayo Clinic, “hand-washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from germs and most infections.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, we all heard more than we probably wanted to about hand-washing. “Clean hands save lives,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, also noting that regular handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and to prevent the spread of germs to others.
To clean your hands properly, you need warm water and soap and at least 20 seconds to lather your hands. Sing “Happy Birthday,” they say, from beginning to end—twice—and that will be long enough. Then wash again before, during, and after preparing food; before eating; after using the toilet; after changing diapers; before and after treating a cut or wound; after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing; after handling trash; and after caring for someone who is sick. In the middle of the flu season or during a pandemic, it’s best to wash hands even more often than that. The problem is that all that washing can lead to dry, cracked hands that are more vulnerable to infection and less able to protect you from bacteria and viruses.
Avoid dry, irritated hands by applying moisturizer after each wash. You can also make hand-washing gentler on your skin by choosing the right type of hand soap. Which one is best? We recently reviewed dozens of them and came up with the top five most likely to suit your family’s needs. We looked at factors like quality of ingredients, delivery method (bar, liquid, foam), moisturizing capability, the presence of triclosan (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends against using this anti-bacterial), source of fragrance, germ-killing ability, and cost. All of these top-rated hand soaps can be purchased online at Amazon.
We’ve identified Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap as our top pick. It has a nice blend of cleansing and moisturizing ingredients and comes with a garden-fresh scent, yet it’s completely affordable for all families.
The 5 Top-Rated Hand Soap
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*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change.
Best Hand Soap Overall: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap
Your hands will feel clean and soft after using Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap. It’s made with coconut-based cleansers, moisturizing essential oils, aloe vera, and olive oil to help prevent dryness, plus it has a bold & cheery lemon scent to make hand-washing more enjoyable. What you won’t find in this formula are toxins like parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors, so you can feel good about allowing your whole family to use this product.
This hand soap also includes glycerin, one of the best moisturizers available, and it’s free of triclosan, which the FDA has banned because of its connection to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The bottle itself is made of 25 percent recyclable materials, and the manufacturer guarantees that none of its products are tested on animals. It’s available in several other scents, including geranium, lavender, and rosemary.
Reviewers love that the soap is less drying than other options, and comment on how it leaves their hands feeling soft.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap Key Features:
- Cleans and moisturizes at the same time
- Contains aloe vera, olive oil, and glycerin
- Made with coconut-based cleansers
- Quality hand soap for a reasonable price
- Provides a fresh lemon scent, and comes in other scents, too
Best Moisturizing Hand Soap: L’Occitane Cleansing Liquid Hand Soap
Though many hand soaps have at least some moisturizers in them, L’Occitane Cleansing Liquid Hand Soap gets serious about it. If you’re having to wash your hands more than normal, you owe it to yourself to invest in a super-moisturizing hand soap that will help prevent painful chapping, drying, and cracking. Of course, you still need to apply moisturizer after washing, but this hand soap helps prevent your hands from losing so much moisture during the washing process.
The gentle, non-drying lather maintains skin’s natural pH balance without stripping natural oils, but it still lathers up nicely so you know you’re getting your hands clean. Near the top of the ingredient list is powerful castor oil, which is one of the best oils you can get for moisturizing dry, suffering skin. Shortly after that, you’ll find calming lavender oil and sunflower seed oil, both of which add to the moisturizing power, as well as moisturizing antioxidant vitamin E.
This hand soap also has a light scent that leaves hands feeling clean and refreshed. This particular product is scented lavender, but L’Occitane provides others scents too, including verbena and citrus.
L’Occitane Cleansing Liquid Hand Soap Key Features:
- Super moisturizing with castor oil, sunflower oil, and lavender oil
- A gentle cleanser that lathers up nicely
- Maintains skin’s natural pH-balance
- Comes in a variety of fresh scents
- Helps prevent chapping, redness, and cracking
Best Budget Hand Soap: Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap
Need to make sure everyone is washing their hands more often? Fill the house or the office with Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap. You can get six of these 7.5-oz bottles for less than $10, making sure everyone is covered no matter which bathroom or sink they use to wash.
This hand soap isn’t fancy and is made with standard cleansing ingredients, so it will kill the germs but it may leave your skin feeling dry. Though some Softsoap hand soap options may contain a little aloe, most are not made to be moisturizing. To solve this issue, be sure to place a moisturizer next to it on each sink.
Where Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap excels, besides its price, is in its large variety of fun fragrances. This particular one has an aloe vera fresh scent, but there are several other alternatives, including fresh breeze, milk and honey, soft rose, clean splash, fresh citrus, coconut and warm ginger, crisp clean, coconut water and blueberry, crisp cucumber and lemon, white tea and berry fusion, and several more. You can choose a different scent for each sink if you like!
Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap Key Features:
- Fill the whole house with hand soaps for about $10
- Cleans with standard ingredients that kill germs
- Comes in a variety of fun and fresh scents
- Reviewers love the low price
Best Foaming Hand Soap: CleanWell Foaming Hand Soap
Foaming hand soap is actually liquid hand soap that’s been diluted and infused with air to create a rich and foamy lather. If you really want to kill germs, the experts say that liquid soap is more effective as it’s more concentrated, but if you love that foaming feel and you aren’t working in a high-risk area, you’ll be just fine with a foaming brand, and we recommend CleanWell Foaming Hand Soap.
This product is made with common cleansers but it also takes care of hands. Moisturizing ingredients include castor oil, aloe, and an essential oil blend, so your hands are less likely to suffer from dryness and chapping. If your skin is already irritated and you’ve been scratching at it, this may also help as it contains hydrolyzed oats, which are known to help naturally soothe and comfort skin.
Vegans will love this option as it’s made from all plant-based ingredients and is not tested on animals. It’s perfect for sensitive skin types as well, including children, and comes in a variety of essential-oil-based fragrances—no synthetic fragrances here. This particular product is spearmint lime, but you can also get lavender and orange vanilla.
CleanWell Foaming Hand Soap Key Features:
- Kills germs while moisturizing and protecting skin
- Includes castor oil and aloe
- Hydrolyzed oats help reduce itching and irritation
- Great for kids and those with sensitive skin
- Vegan-friendly; not tested on animals
Best Natural Hand Soap: Puracy Natural Liquid Hand Soap
Many of the hand soaps on this list contain natural ingredients, but Puracy Natural Liquid Hand Soap goes all the way. This award-winning, plant-powered formula contains no harsh sulfates, cleaning with coconut-based cleansers instead and using only plant-based and food-grade preservatives. You won’t find any petrochemicals, perfumes, animal by-products, or other harsh chemicals in the formula.
What it doesn’t have is not as important as what it does have, however. Developed by doctors, it contains vegetable glycerin, aloe, and lavender essential oil for a fresh scent and soft feel on the skin. It also has some Himalayan pink sea salt, which is a natural disinfectant that helps the skin retain moisture. The coconut-based cleansers are gentle and won’t strip the skin, so if you have to go without moisturizer after washing a few times, you’ll still be okay.
The plant-based formula is safe for everyone to use, including those with sensitive skin, pregnant women, children, and even pets! When you run out, you can refill the bottle with the special refill pouch, which uses 90 percent less plastic than the bottle.
Puracy Natural Liquid Hand Soap Key Features:
- 95 percent natural
- Developed by doctors and gentle enough for all skin types
- Works equally well for sensitive skin, pregnant women, and children
- Free of sulfates, perfumes, petrochemicals, and other harsh chemicals
- Naturally scented with lavender essential oil and vanilla
- Refillable bottle uses less plastic