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- Hand washing is the single best way to prevent the spread of viral illnesses like colds and the flu, and it’s the best way to keep bacteria from entering your body.
- With the right hand soap, washing your hands will also be a pleasure. Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash is our top pick because it leaves hands supple, smooth, and clean and because its scent is simply unmatched.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention talk about hand washing, it doesn’t pull any punches. The CDC website bluntly states that “hand washing saves lives,” calling good hand hygiene “like a do-it-yourself vaccine” against myriad ailments. Hand washing prior to medical procedures or examinations is mandatory in all hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices in the developed world (with thanks to the work of 19th Century Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, the man credited as the pioneer of antiseptic hand washing), and is the stated employee policy of millions of restaurants, factories, offices, and more. Your parents probably made it the policy of the household when you were growing up, too.
Let’s cut to the chase: You know hand washing is important. You need to do it before meals, after using the bathroom, following contact with anyone who might have been ill, and so forth. Assuming that you’re already dedicated to hand hygiene, do you have a hand soap brand to which you’re also committed? While any decent hand soap will kill off most of the germs on your skin, that’s where the similarities often end.
Some hand soaps leave behind delightful aromas while others are almost scent-free. Some are moisturizing and soothing while others are aggressive in their slaughter of bacteria and viruses. And some hand soaps are quite low in price while others are surprisingly expensive.
We have soaps covering all those bases and more in our list, so you’ll surely find a hand soap you’ll love to use before meals, after lavatory ablutions, and at all those other times when you really should be cleaning your hands.
Here are our picks for the best hand soap you can buy:
- Best hand soap overall: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash
- Best affordable hand soap: Softsoap Coconut and Warm Ginger Liquid Hand Soap
- Best moisturizing hand soap: Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash
- Best antimicrobial hand soap: Dial Original Gold Antimicrobial Soap
- Best foaming hand soap: Method Foaming Lemon Mint Hand Soap
- Best natural hand soap: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Scented Hand Soap
Updated on 10/25/2019 by Connie Chen: Updated prices, links, and formatting.
The best hand soap overall
Using Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash leaves hands feeling moisturized and supple but genuinely imparts nutrients into the skin.
Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room right away: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash is expensive. It sells for about $39 a bottle, in fact. But one 17-ounce bottle will last a single user for many weeks or even months depending on the frequency of use.
The rich, potent, but never cloying aroma of this soap, a scent blending mandarin orange, rosemary, and cedar, will delight you every time you smell it. As for how your hands will feel after washing with this pricey elixir? A buyer named Rhian says she wishes she wasn’t “addicted to [this] beautiful product… [that] lathers and cleans” so well she has bought it “again and again.”
Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash is formulated with skin-suppling ingredients that can rejuvenate hands dried out by climate, work, or age, leaving skin feeling better and better the more often it’s used. And again, that scent.
One buyer calls it a “heavenly aroma” while another said it “smells heavenly.” Another was a bit less celestial, with her down-to-earth review calling the stuff simply the “greatest ever.”
A writer with InStyle said Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash smells “divine” and “makes your hands soft and smooth.”
Pros: Wonderful scent, nourishing formula, handsome bottle design
Cons: Very expensive
The best affordable hand soap
Softsoap Coconut and Warm Ginger Liquid Hand Soap (6-Pack) smells good and cleans well and that’s all great, but what really counts here is the low price.
The first thing you’ll notice about a bottle of Softsoap Coconut and Warm Ginger Liquid Hand Soap is that it’s larger than most other hand soap dispensers. While a common size is 7.5 ounces, these bottles hold 11.25 fluid ounces of soap. Second, you’ll notice that when you order a six-pack of these soaps, you pay about three bucks per unit, a common price for pre-filled soap dispensers. So do the math, and you’ll realize that you’re effectively getting 22.5 ounces of soap free thanks to the large bottle size.
In case that was confusing, let me be clear: This is cheap hand soap. But it’s cheap in price only. Softsoap is trusted by families, schools, offices, and other locations all around America not only because of its price but also because it works well. That claim is backed up by dermatologist testing.
As for the sweet coconut and warm ginger aroma, some people find it a bit too intense, but most people love it. I know I do — I’ve used this stuff countless times.
And so have lots of other people, based on its reviews. Softsoap Coconut and Warm Ginger Liquid Hand Soap scores a shining 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, with one buyer praising its “great scent” and calling it a family favorite. Another attests that it can “even wash away the scent of onions and fish off of your hands.”
Pros: Low price, does not leave residue, trusted brand
Cons: Scent too cloying for some people
The best moisturizing hand soap
Every time you use Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash, your hands will enjoy the cleanliness and moisturizing you get from this soap.
I’m not a huge fan of lotions, to be honest. In fact, I kind of hate the way creams feel on my hands, and I avoid using them as much as possible. But I’m also no fan of dry skin. Thus you can imagine my pleasant surprise when my wife introduced me to Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash. And by “introduced” I mean that’s the stuff that happened to be in her bathroom all those years back when we were dating.
This stuff is hand soap first and foremost: It cleans the grease or grime or pen or whatnot off your hands and kills off germs in the process. But it is infused with Jergens moisturizing lotion and leaves your hands feeling supple and nourished, yet without that vaguely oily, clammy feeling that lotion leaves behind when used on its own.
So whether you hate applying lotion to your hands after a washing or if you don’t much mind it but would just as soon save time and make cleaning and moisturizing a one-step process, this stuff a great go to.
At the time of writing, Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash has a stellar 4.7-star rating on Amazon. One customer says using this her previously dry “hands have completely recovered” thanks to this product, while many echo the sentiments of another user who says she “loves the smell.”
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the scent, but I love the hydrated skin without the need for lotion application.
Pros: Highly moisturizing, gentle cleansing, good price point
Cons: Smell off-putting to some
The best antimicrobial soap
Whether you work in a hospital, school, or you want to keep your home reliably germ-free, Dial Original Gold Antimicrobial Soap (1 Gallon) will eliminate 99.9% of the microbes it contacts during a washing.
If you’ve spent much time in hospitals, medical clinics, schools, daycare centers, and other areas prone to heavy concentrations of germs, you’ve probably already washed your hands with Dial Original Gold Antimicrobial Soap hundreds of times. Each time you used it, you killed off millions of potentially dangerous microbes.
Using this time-tested soap to keep your hands clean may just be the single best way to prevent contraction or spreading of bacterial or viral illnesses, short of moving into a clean room for the cold and flu season.
If you associate Dial soap with dry hands, then don’t worry: The brand has addressed that. While still the essentially made using the same old germ-killing formula, Dial Original Gold Antimicrobial Soap is now also infused with moisturizers. For the record, not only will this low-cost soap kill off microbes, but it also cuts through grease, lifts dirt, and cleans out cuts and scrapes.
One very satisfied buyer named Rici says she “will buy this [soap] again and again,” calling it the “best soap ever and [at a] great price.” A user named Bill happily adds that “research has shown [Dial] to be comparable and in many cases superior to much more expensive anti-microbial soaps.”
A LiveStrong write up calls Dial able “to both remove dirt and kill a broad spectrum of bacteria” thanks to its careful formulation.
Pros: Kills 99.9% of germs, light and pleasant scent, very low cost
Cons: Consumer complaints about packaging are common
The best foaming hand soap
One pump of Method Foaming Lemon Mint Hand Soap (6-Pack) is all you’ll need to quickly work up a rich, cleansing lather that will leave your hands refreshed and smelling great.
In my house, we use Method dish soap, we’ve used Method laundry detergent, and in one of the bathrooms, we use Method Foaming Lemon Mint Hand Soap. Why only in one? Because our son loves the smell of some soaps and hates others.
Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of foaming hand soaps — I prefer the good old liquid kind — but I readily admit that a big dollop of foamy soap lathers up quickly, and I certainly like the fresh, crisp scent of this soap.
I also appreciate the fact that Method Foaming Lemon Mint Hand Soap is absent of alcohol, aluminum, parabens, and phthalates, and that the formula includes aloe and vitamin E. Also, there’s an elegant simplicity to the design of Method hand soap dispensers that looks good there in the bathroom or beside the kitchen sink.
Apparently, we’re not the only family that uses Method soaps, as this stuff garners almost universal five-star reviews on Target’s site. A buyer named Janice says the “lemon mint [fragrance] smells great” and that the “dispensers are the best I have found,” while a reviewer named Emily says it “cuts through dirt and grease” and is of overall “great quality.”
Pros: Lathers up quickly, great scent, handsome and effective dispenser
Cons: Bottle does not last as long as traditional liquid soap
The best natural hand soap
If you want to avoid chemicals, then a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Scented Hand Soap (6-Pack) is the way to wash.
Alright, let’s be clear here: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Scented Hand Soap is not actually an organic or even a 100% natural product. But it’s made using 98% naturally derived ingredients, and that’s pretty darn close. Also, if you want truly clean hands, as in hands free of dirt and grime as well as microbes, you really do want to allow a bit of chemical cleaning.
The unique, refreshing scent of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Scented Hand Soap will invigorate you even as the soap cuts through and lifts away dirt and kills off germs, and the aloe vera and olive oil used in the formula will leave your fresh-smelling skin hydrated and nourished, too.
What you won’t find here are parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, or animal testing. Also, the bottle is partially made with recycled plastics, so that’s nice, too.
Mrs. Meyer’s liquid hand soaps lather up quickly, and the scent left behind is mild but lingering. How do I know all that? Well, remember how we use Method in one bathroom? Guess what brand you’ll find in another? Yeah, you guessed right: This one.
With nearly 200 reviews posted on its Bed Bath & Beyond page, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Scented Hand Soap enjoys a fine 4.4-star average rating and numerous rave reviews. One customer lauds the “lingering beautiful scent from the essential oils” while another loves that the brand makes “cruelty-free and earth-friendly products.”
A product reviewer from TreeHugger loved that Mrs. Meyer’s soaps manage to be effective while still being “biodegradable,” also noting that they “do not contain ammonia, chlorine or phosphates.
Pros: 98% naturally derived ingredients, great scent, earth-friendly brand
Cons: Leaves slight residue on skin
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