The Best Hand Soaps for Kids

For them, 20 seconds is an eternity. These soaps will help.

by Donna Freydkin

At this point, it’s probably (hopefully) second nature in your home: singing happy birthday twice to make sure you, and your kids, wash your hands for the optimal amount of time to help prevent the spread of germs and potentially, the beast known as coronavirus.

Handwashing has been called the best form of preventative medicine. That being said, which soap do you choose?

“They’re all pretty much the same. There’s no advantage to any particular brand. The differences are mostly aesthetic. Liquid versus bar is a personal choice,” says Dr. Elaine L. Larson, the associate dean for research and professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research at Columbia University.

What matters is not so much the size of the wave, so to speak, but the motion of the ocean. Translation: It’s not what’s in the bottle, as much as how you use it. Liquid soaps are easier for kids to master, because they squirt, lather up, and rinse the nasty germs down the drain. Some packaging on soaps can be more fun or eye-catching, but that’s really where the differences end.

“With kids, it’s important that it’s mild enough that they’re happy to use it. There’s no special kind of soap for kids, to be clear,” says Larson.

Unless your child is Doogie Howser and is scrubbing up for surgery, there’s absolutely no need to spring for antibacterial soap. Furthermore, if you find it, it probably is a knock-off. The FDA ruled in 2013 that, because there’s no proof that antibacterial soaps are any more effective than their regular cousins and the ingredients do environmental damage, manufacturers are no longer allowed to market “antibacterial” soaps to consumers, outside of a hospital setting. The short of it? If you see it, it likely isn’t it. Besides, it’s unnecessary.

“Most soap is not killing the germs. It’s physically removing them and washing them down the drain. You need a good soap that lathers up. You can use bar soap, but you just have to rinse it off if it’s sitting in a pool of water so bacteria doesn’t grow on it,” says Larson.

Larson says there can be, however, too much of a good thing. Don’t wash your hands so much that they crack and bleed. Because bacteria then grows in the cracks. Really. Use tepid water not because it’s more effective at getting hands clean, but because it’s gentler on the skin.

“Friction is what matters. The common mistake is, people rub their palms together. The area where we’re touching the most things is with the fingertips. Be conscious and mindful of covering the surfaces on your hands. Focus on the area around your nails and fingertips,” says Larson.

So what kind of soap should you buy? Whichever one you want. The soaps on our list are of the liquid variety, for ease of use. Scents and colors are up to you.

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