It took an outbreak of staph infections last fall to get people to pay attention to the number-one way we can all stay healthy: washing our hands. In September 2007, the Clean Hands Report Card from the Soap and Detergent Association revealed that one-third of adults seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing, and 24 percent don’t always wash after using the bathroom.

Even those who do scrub up regularly may think antibacterial soaps give them extra protection from germs. But a recent study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health proved that antibacterial soaps don’t clean better than traditional formulas. It’s really washing often and long (for 20 seconds or more) that gets hands clean, explains Allison Aiello, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan and one of the Report Card’s lead researchers.

Plenty went looking for hand soaps you can use with an environmentally clean conscience. Here are a half-dozen of our favorites, laid out according to scent and sudsiness.

EO Lemon & Eucalyptus Hand Soap

$8, eoproducts.com

Eucalyptus and lemon essential oils give it an invigorating scent—try it as your kitchen hand soap, since both oils are also naturally antiseptic.

JASON Lavender Satin Soap for Face and Hands

$5.50, jason-natural.com

With its lavender scent, this mild, lotion-like soap soothes your senses while you wash.

Desert Essence Castile Liquid Soap

$5–$12, drugstore.com

Organic tea tree oil is a primary cleansing ingredient in this soap; buy 32-ounce refills to save money and waste.

Kiss My Face C-Weed Organic Foaming Soap

$7, kissmyfacewebstore.com

If you love lather, this is the foamiest organic soap we found, and the zingy citrus scent lingers.

HUGO Oatmeal and Almond Liquid Hand Soap

$8, hugonaturals.com

This vanilla-spiced blend of vegan ingredients makes for a foamy yet softly scented soap.

Pure Life Soap Company Hand and Body Soap

$8, purelifesoap.com

Made from a base of organic aloe and olive oil with a hint of mint for scent, this mild cleanser claims to help skin heal.

Story by Jessica Hartshorn. This article originally appeared in Plenty in February 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.

See also:

Hand washing: The Hows and Whys