Here’s what you need to know about antibacterial soap

For years, people bought soap labeled “antibacterial” because it was thought the product would offer better protection from illness-causing germs than regular soap. This seems like common sense, but health experts have long disagreed about the possible benefits and risks of adding antibacterial ingredients to soap. Given that the benefits remain unproven, but the evidence of harm continues to grow, the FDA has banned 19 of the ingredients manufacturers used to make antibacterial soap. The move does not affect hand sanitizers or the soap used in hospitals like Riverside Community Hospital.

How regular soap works
Some molecules are polar, which means they are mixable with water. Others are non-polar, which means they aren’t mixable into water. Soap molecules are amphipathic, which means they have both types of properties.

The amphipathic nature of soap molecules means that soap can dissolve many foreign molecules on the skin, allowing you to wash off grime easily. When regular soap is introduced to bacteria and viruses, these pathogens no longer adhere well to the skin, which lets you scrub them off. And since there is soap on the skin, you’ll likely rinse long enough to send these germs down the drain.

In other words, regular soap helps you scrub off germs, but it doesn’t kill them.

How antibacterial soap works
Antibacterial soap is amphipathic too, so it works the same way as regular soap. However, the antibacterial ingredients added to it are designed to prevent the replication of any bacteria still remaining on the skin. Just like antibiotics, antibacterial soap has no effect on viruses.

Why the FDA has banned antibacterial soap ingredients
Most antibacterial soaps contained triclosan—one of the 19 banned ingredients. Triclosan is also added to a variety of everyday products, from toys to interior paint, for the purpose of discouraging bacterial growth.

It’s been associated with a number of harmful effects, including drug-resistant bacteria and environmental harm. Triclosan has also been shown to cause hormonal disruptions in animals. Whether or not humans could suffer the same harm is a subject of ongoing research.

From our Ob/Gyn specialists to our organ transplant surgeons, the entire team at Riverside Community Hospital follows rigorous sanitation protocols to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Nothing is more important to us than your health and safety, since our healthcare providers live and work in the same Riverside community as you. Call a registered nurse at (951) 788-3463.