The Best Hand Soap Is a Chic, Scented Sink Accessory
Eight picks backed by Team Domino.
Updated Sep 27, 2018 5:59 PM
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Has a product more indispensable than hand soap emerged in the last couple of years? (Sanitizer? A close second.) It’s likely the first thing we reach for upon entering our homes, lathering away any germs gathered during the day from shopping baskets and elevator buttons and doorknobs. By now many of us have learned the hard way that quality soap means the difference between dry, scaly palms and soft skin. So it’s time to elevate that everyday routine with a little something extra, whether that’s from the department of good bottle design or a refreshing, clean scent that lingers throughout the day.
If you’re still searching for that perfect pump of bubbles, these are the best hand soaps Team Domino relies on to keep our digits squeaky clean and our countertops looking chic.
- Best scent: Le Labo Hand Soap
- Best design: Eddi Hand Soap
- Best texture: La Compagnie de Provence Liquid Marseilles Soap
- Best value: A La Maison de Provence Liquid Hand Soap
- Best exfoliating: Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash
- Best no-frills: Public Goods Hand Soap
- Best luxury: Esker Calendula Hand Cleanser
- Best bar: Mater Soap Geranium Bar
Best Scent: Le Labo Hand Soap
Why we chose it: A fresh, clean smell that will linger on your hands hours after use.
Channel the feeling of walking among Hinoki trees on Japan’s Mount Koya with this pick from Le Labo. The hand soap’s intoxicating aroma is what earned it a cult following since it burst onto the scene back in 2018. Our photo director, Linda Denahan, is a fan. “I love that it’s a very strong scent that lingers,” she notes. “After using this soap for a while, my entire bathroom smells amazing!” Though smaller than other bottles here (you can pay extra for the larger, 16.9-ounce size, but it’s harder to find), a little goes a long way thanks to its thick formula and, of course, long-lasting scent.
[Scent: Strong | Size: 8.5 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? Yes]
Best Design: Eddi Hand Soap
Why we chose it: A seriously stylish dispenser with a sweet sustainability story.
At first, deputy editor Julie Vadnal was a bit perplexed by how Eddi’s dispenser would work. (What she did know: It looked great). And once she read the directions, she became obsessed. The dispenser, designed by Box Clever to address the problem of single-use plastic, is chic enough to take up permanent residence on your counters and can be refilled mess-free, since the recyclable aluminum package drops right into the dispenser, no pouring needed. Choose between three fragrances: Happy Hour (wood smoke and amber); Park Day (green neroli blossom, sweet grass, and citrus); and Sunday Drive (cucumber, salt air, and eucalyptus). The colorways range from a creamy white and terracotta to cornflower purple and midnight blue, and can be paired with either a matte or metallic rubber base in brass or polished nickel.
[Scent: Mild | Size: 9.5 fluid ounces| Contains sulfates? No]
Best Texture: La Compagnie de Provence Liquid Marseilles Soap
Why we chose it: A fun, French-made bottle covered in a trendy typeface.
A bold typeface, romantic palette, sweet scent, and refillable bottle—what’s not to love about this soap? Not surprisingly, both Vadnal and our market intuit, Cat Dash, love, love, love it. “It has always come in a glass bottle, and you can buy bulk containers for refills,” shares Dash. “The soap itself is super-slippy and smells amazing.” While Vadnal prefers the Wild Rose, Dash is a devotee of the Fig of Provence. Why not get a little joy out of cleaning your hands? This soap—an antibacterial, dye-free formula with a scent that will transport you to the French seaside—certainly does just that.
[Scent: Medium | Weight: 16.7 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
Best Value: A La Maison de Provence Liquid Hand Soap
Why we chose it: Feels like you scored homemade soap from a farmers’ market in the South of France.
Described by our deputy commerce editor, Samantha Weiss-Hills, as her “budget bodega buy,” A La Maison’s Fresh Sea Salt is the reliable workhorse your kitchen sink needs. It won’t break the bank (the biggest bang for your buck is the two-pack for $18 versus the single buy that retails around $11) and won’t ever leave your palms feeling dry. And with a smell reminiscent of a refreshing beach breeze, it’s woody musk is a nice departure from the synthetically potent florals of brands at comparable price points. A modern revisit of the French-milled process (or cooking down vegetable oil into glycerin) created by artisans in Marseille centuries ago, A La Maison’s recipe may not be quite as old, but it still boasts an impressive 1828 origin story that the company’s cofounder sought to revive for modern shoppers in the U.S. Pro tip: If the design leaves you wanting, you can always decant it into a dispenser of your choosing.
[Scent: Mild | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
Best Exfoliating: Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash
Why we chose it: A classic cult favorite that’s been spotted at hip bars and in influencer bathrooms for years.
Our commerce content director, Sophie Miura, is all in on Aesop. Of course, who doesn’t love the balanced, herbaceous scent—it’s more woody and smoky, not floral, despite the presence of lavender—but her favorite detail might be the crushed pumice beads that make every rinse feel like a trip to the spa. The pebbly addition gives the hand soap’s thick, gel-like consistency a granular feel for a truly fresh cleansing on par with a facial (but for your hands). Sure, its price tag is steeper than most, which could have easily given it splurge status, but here’s the thing: The oversize amber-hued bottle more than makes up for it with an ample supply that feels never-ending.
[Scent: Strong | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
Best No-Frills: Public Goods Hand Soap
Why we chose it: This utilitarian bottle for less than $5 is far more luxurious than its price tag suggests.
With a price comparable to the soaps you’d find in the aisles of your local grocery store or pharmacy, this bottle smells, feels, and looks three times as expensive—and lasts, thanks to an easy-to-use pump with a quality spring. (Don’t you hate it when liquid soap aggressively squirts out or the pump gets locked? Because same.) As a certified sucker for citrus scents myself, I’ve found that Public Goods blends just the right amount of grapefruit and orange, marrying the lovely smell of fresh fruit with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, plus a balancing hint of vetiver (an uncommon ingredient also found in Aesop’s soaps). Packaged in a white, larger-than-you’d-expect 12-ounce bottle, and marked in a clear, trendy sans serif font, you won’t find any sulfates listed on the back of this New Jersey–made cutie (or any parabens or phthalates).
[Scent: Medium | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
Best Luxury: Esker Calendula Hand Cleanser
Why we chose it: The It bottle will grace the guest bathroom sink and really impress your visitors.
If your sink is in need of a little life, you can count on the naturally rosy color of Esker’s Calendula plant-based formula housed in a sleek, transparent bottle for a hint of blush. It mixes only a few botanicals—clove, palo santo, litsea, and helichrysum essential oils—plus the petals of the bottle’s namesake, which can be peeped through the transparent capsule, for a truly soothing, luxurious handwashing experience. Seriously, this easily could have been the best gentle option on our list (one reviewer with eczema noted their breakouts have reduced greatly since using this soap), but the $52 price tag makes it more of a splurge (a worthy indulgence, at that).
[Scent: Mild | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
Best Bar: Mater Soap Geranium Bar
Why we chose it: This bar soap made us actually want bar soap.
Honestly, this soap is one of the most versatile on this list—safe to use not just on your hands but face and body—and it has our associate design editor, Kate McGregor, contemplating converting to the bar permanently. “The smell is incredible, and I feel like my hands actually feel clean after using rather than having a weird residue I’ve noticed with other bars,” she shares. “I’m also a sucker for the packaging; it makes a good gift (are people still gifting soap?).” Cold processed and cured over four weeks’ time, this bar has no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or fragrances (it’s just olive oil, water, coconut oil, lye, shea, and kaolinite clay), making it a dream come true for those with skin sensitivities.
[Scent: Mild | Weight: 5 ounces | Contains sulfates? No]
- Blueland Hand Soap: Dash has also been working to make the switch from solid products where it makes sense, including to this tablet buy. Though she admits the scents aren’t as amazing, it’s worth avoiding the single-use plastic guilt trip. Our tip: Buy the tablets in bulk for major convenience.
- Molton Brown Orange Bergamot Liquid Hand Soap: This soap definitely flirts with the title of best splurge at $30 a pop. The scent is one of its top features, but, be aware, it can come off a little strong for those who are sensitive.
Our Shopping Checklist
Ingredients: We love hand soap with an all-natural ingredients list. We’d also advise avoiding faux fragrances, which can upset delicate skin; essential oils are what makes the most lovely smells linger. If hydration is a main concern, look out for vitamin E or aloe for an extra-soothing wash. Nearly every hand soap includes glycerine, a byproduct of the saponification process (i.e., breaking down fats with heat—chemistry!) that naturally retains moisture. Hard oils like coconut, shea, and cocoa are what thicken a soap, whereas liquid oils such as olive, castor, and almond give it that soft feel. Although a few ingredients are inherently antibacterial—think: tea tree and rosemary—some brands will add triclosan, or a type of chloride, though we don’t recommend them. And you don’t need it! The best way to remove germs is the actual friction created by scrubbing in between your fingers.
Alcohol content: Alcohol will only be found in soaps that are suited for heavy-duty tasks rather than everyday cleaning. In fact, Eddi’s cofounder, Sarah Pura, reveals alcohol is best left to sanitizers, and according to the CDC, you’ll only want to reach for an alcohol mixture (a minimum of 60 percent) in those instances when soap and water are not readily available.
Foam vs. liquid: Though these foaming and lathering soaps often share similar ingredients, the latter typically has a higher water content to work with than a foaming pump, points out Pura. “Both can be highly effective with cleansing, but it’s important we spend time working soap around our hands and through our fingers as we wash. A thicker soap, for instance, encourages users to spend more time lathering their hands,” she adds.
Q: Can I use dish soap instead of hand soap?
We wouldn’t recommend using the same stuff that helps you wipe down pasta sauce–caked pans and burnt cast-iron skillets as an all-purpose cleanser, no matter how dirty your hands are. Dish soap is like a detergent, with chemicals and additives to get greasy food off your plates, which can consequently strip oils from your hands, leaving them as dry as the desert.
Q: How long do hand soaps last?
Use-wise, it depends on a number of factors—how much a bottle dispenses, how much you use to wash your hands, and the volume of the given product—but most people replace their hand soap every month. Otherwise, expiration shouldn’t be a concern. “Most soaps will last for years,” explains Pura. “Eddi has a shelf life of at least two years, at which point the natural fragrances may begin to lose their potency. The soap itself will remain effective at cleansing long after that point.”
The Last Word
Regardless if you’re on the hunt for something mildly- or strongly scented, the best hand soaps should be gentle, refreshing cleansers that come in superchic, countertop-appropriate packaging.
How We Chose These Products
Whether they’ve been gracing our bathroom and kitchen sinks for years or just a few months, Team Domino shared the best hand soaps we’re currently enamored with for nailing the trifecta of quality ingredients, lush scents, and—of course!—good design.