Is antimicrobial soap better at killing germs?
Hands are the perfect place for germs to cultivate.
With over 5,000 germs existing on each person’s hands at any given time and flu season around the corner, washing hands thoroughly is imperative. So, why not grab the antibacterial soap that claims it will kill germs better than other soaps? Think again.
Korean scientists from Korea University in Seoul found that using antibacterial soap when handwashing is no more effective than using plain soap. Looking at the main ingredient, triclosan, the study examined the effect the active ingredient had on bacteria in two ways.
First, researchers compared hand soap and soap containing 0.3 percent triclosan into laboratory test tubes and added 20 different strains of bacteria to see how it reacted. The types of bacteria included Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella enteritidis. They also tried to mimic the handwashing conditions by exposing the bacteria for only 20 seconds at room temperature (22 degrees Celsius) and warm temperature (40 degrees Celsius).
A second test examined the soap in a real-life setting. Working with 16 adults, participants either used hand soap or antibacterial soap to wash their hands.
Dr. Min Su Rhee, co-author of the study, found that antibacterial solutions were no greater in eliminating bacteria than plain soap. They also found that the antibacterial soap was only effective after nine hours exposure, which is way too long for handwashing.
“[The] antiseptic effect of triclosan depends on its exposure concentration and time,” Dr. Rhee explained.
He also advised that the “advertisement and consumer belief regarding the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps needs to be addressed.”
Donna Currie, director of clinical outcomes at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill., on the other hand stresses that antibacterial soap in hospitals is effective for infection prevention programs.
“While there hasn’t been a definitive statement about not using the antibacterial product in the home/community setting, the FDA continues to recommend that antibacterial products be used in healthcare settings.”
She also mentions that the FDA is investigating the potential concerns of triclosan, but there hasn’t been any final determination made against using the product.
She notes that triclosan is a primary ingredient in antibacterial soap. While hand gel mainly uses alcohol or iodine.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.