Is Antibacterial Soap Really Better Than Regular Soap?
I think most of us just assume that by using an antibacterial soap, our hands are cleaner, but there are rules and side effects that you may not know about.
Nowadays, we use antibacterial soap in the bathroom, antibacterial hand sanitizer, and antibacterial even lotions in between washings. We are attempting to kill any and all bacteria with the notion that all are bad and need to die.
Truth About Bacteria: More Friend Than Foe
The total number of species of bacteria is unknown, but some say it could be as many as 10 million different species. Out of that only 30% are pathogenic and only 1% is harmful to humans. 70% of bacteria are beneficial in some way, many help us digest our food and carry out daily activities.
On any given day we have around 500 species of bacteria in our mouths and swallow in a 24 hour period 100 billion microbes, many die as they hit our digestive tract. Our skin is another bacteria breeding zone, it is estimated that we have 1 trillion bacteria on our epidermis and hair follicles any given day. There is no getting away from bacteria, they are absolutely necessary to our existence.
Truth About Antibacterial Soap: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be
Antibacterial soaps came out in the 60's mainly for use by doctors, the main ingredient is Triclosan. Triclosan is currently under review by the FDA currently, yet is still on the market. It has numerous side effects with humans and many harmful effects on the environment and nature (a whole other story). Triclosan is mainly found in toothpaste and hand soaps.
What most people don't know is in order for the antibacterial soaps to work properly you need to wash hands for an extended period of time. Some say 20 to 30 seconds is enough (sing your ABCs) and others say antibacterial soaps need to be on your hands for two minutes to be effective. Either way, like the name implies, antibacterial soap is designed to kill bacteria and it does not discriminate good from bad.
Another problem is it does not kill every single bacteria, and the ones that survive are evolving and becoming resistant. Yes, we are creating super bacteria and scientists will have to come up with another chemical in order to kill them and the cycle will start all over. Of course, this is probably all part of the pharmaceutical company's genius plan, but bottom line, we cannot beat nature.
The Solution: Good Ol'fashioned Soap Is Just Fine
Regular soap works as a surfactant that solubilizes bacteria and washes it away, this is why sometimes your hands feel slippery when rinsing. Regular soap does not kill bacteria unless something is added to it to do so. The main objective, after all, is to remove bacteria from hands, which it does perfectly and precisely every time.
In between washings, it is OK to use hand sanitizer because it is mainly alcohol and ethanol. This will kill all bacteria, but poses no threat to evolving bacteria into super bacteria because alcohol leaves no residue for bacteria to adapt to. When using antibacterial soaps there is residues of Triclosan left on the surface the bacteria that survive are left in it, and just like all life on earth they adapt.
Think twice before buying antibacterial soaps please.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.