How Do Antibacterial Soaps Work? Find Out If You Need One

Antibacterial products usually claim they can kill 99.9% of germs.

Is that really true? How do antibacterial soaps work? What are the benefits? Should you just stick to plain regular soap?

We will try to answer all of these questions.

For starters, let’s talk about what soaps contain. They all contain chemicals, be it regular liquid soap, body soap, or antibacterial soap. They contain alcohol or chlorine, two ingredients that kill bacteria.

Those that are labeled as antibacterial, contain more chemicals and ingredients that kill bacteria. Up to a few years ago, they contained triclosan and triclocarban.

However, since the FDA acknowledged there is no enough science that shows triclosan is safe, they banned it from usage in antibacterial soaps. Therefore, nowadays, antibacterial soaps do not contain triclosan.

The importance of handwashing

Before we talk about how do antibacterial soaps work, let’s talk a bit about the importance of handwashing. Think for a moment how many surfaces you touch with your hands on a daily basis.

The keyboard of your computer, your smartphone, table, kitchenware, and much more.

Can you be 100% sure all of those surfaces are completely clean?

Of course you cannot. Therefore, simply put, hand washing is vital for removing dirt, grime, and germs from your hands.

Regular soaps kill germs as well. But antibacterial soaps contain other ingredients that are more effective.

In addition, antibacterial soaps protect for a longer period against bacteria.

What makes any soap an antibacterial soap?

Antibacterial soaps are also known as antimicrobial and antiseptic soaps. They contain chemicals that cannot be found in regular and plain soaps.

These chemicals are added to the consumer product with the sole intention of reducing and preventing germs and bacterial infection.

How to know if a product is antibacterial? Simple, there is a label on it. You can also check the ingredients list.

As mentioned previously, before 2016, these antibacterial soaps contained triclosan, a common antibacterial, and antifungal ingredient.

However, since there was no proof it is safe for usage, the FDA banned it.

Triclosan has been tested on animals, and the results can alter the way some hormones work. It raised the concern for usage in humans.

What are some antibacterial ingredients you can look for? Well, it starts with essential oils, many of which have potent antibacterial properties.

Think tea tree oil for example. You can also look for ingredients like garlic, clove, oregano, ginger, Echinacea, honey, and more natural ingredients.

How antibacterial soaps prevent germs?

We talked about the potent antibacterial ingredients found in antibacterial soaps. In simple terms, the word antibacterial refers to something that helps kill or reduce the growth and regrowth of bacteria. That is exactly what antibacterial soaps do.

Regular soaps help you get clean, but they do not offer long protection against bacteria. Remember, bacteria can quickly return without a protective barrier.

These antibacterial soaps provide exactly that. The key ingredients in the soaps remain on the skin for a while, keeping bacteria in check.

Benefits of antibacterial soaps

Antibacterial soaps and washes have been used by consumers for home usage, but also by medical personnel in the hospital. And both use it for the same purpose, reduce and eliminate bacteria that can lead to infection, illnesses, or any commonly transmitted disease.

Here are some situations where you should use an antibacterial soap:

  • If you are in close physical contact with people at high risk of infection, for example, the elderly cared for in retirement facilities
  • If you are in close physical contact with immune-suppressed patients
  • People in contact with other people infected with an organism that can be easily transmitted by direct contact, including diarrhea, skin infections, and upper respiratory infections
  • If you are in an environment where disease transmission is likely, including chronic-care residence, childcare center, preschools, prisons, and food preparation

For millions of people around the world, these situations and environments are common and normal occurrences.

That shows you should use antibacterial soaps by default. And it shows the role antibacterial products play in our life.

The problem is a lot of misinformation that can dissuade people from engaging in normal hygiene practices.

How often to wash your hands?

You can buy the best antibacterial soap, but it will not help you if you do not practice common sense hygiene habits. Knowing how often and when to wash your hands is hygiene 101.

You should always wash your hands after you are likely to come in contact with bacteria. We explained some of the environments above, but you should also consider the following situations:

  • Using the toilet
  • Sneezing
  • Looking after a sick person
  • Handling food
  • Dealing with garbage

Is antibacterial soap enough?

In order to increase your protection from bacteria, you need to go a step further. Antibacterial soaps are not enough protection.

What more can you use alongside antibacterial soaps? For starters, get an effective cleanser that will cut off problems at their source.

Clean your hands and practice good home hygiene to protect yourself from bacteria as much as possible.

Why regular soap is not enough?

You might be wondering why should you use antibacterial soaps. We talked about the benefits of antibacterial soaps, and how do antibacterial soaps work. But if you are wondering whether regular soaps are enough, let’s discuss more.

Regular soaps are designed to decrease water’s surface tension and to lift dirt and oils off any surface. They do not contain antibacterial chemicals. They can get rid of germs and dirt, but they are not as long-lasting.

In order for regular soap to kill bacteria, you have to wash your hands thoroughly, and more often. And not all of us do that.

How to wash your hands?

Washing hands might be a simple practice. And you might think it is easy and simple. But the truth is, not many of us wash their hands properly.

Here is a step by step guide on how to wash your hands.

  1. Wet your hands first using warm and running water
  2. Add soap, and rub your hands together to make a soapy lather. Wash the front and back, and then between the fingers and under the nails. Rub for at least 20 seconds
  3. Rinse under warm and running water
  4. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer
  5. Turn off the water using a clean paper towel and dispose of it properly

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