Antibacterial Soap May Not Be Better

Antibacterial soap appeared no more effective than regular soap in hand-washing


When you wash your hands, the objective is to get rid of nasty bacteria. Antibacterial soap may seem like the answer, but it may not be much better than plain bar soap.

A new study found that antibacterial soap was no more effective than plain soap bars for hand-washing. Meanwhile, Americans spend nearly $1 billion each year on antibacterial soaps and body washes, according to this study.

Lead study author Dr. M.S. Rhee, of Korea University, said in a press release that "advertisement and consumer belief regarding the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps needs to be addressed."

Antibacterial soap contains ingredients that are said to actively fight bacteria, whereas plain bar soap does not contain these ingredients. Triclosan is the most common antiseptic ingredient in antibacterial soaps.

The authors of this study gathered 16 healthy adult volunteers and asked them not to wash their hands with antibacterial soap for a week. These researchers then placed bacteria on the volunteers’ hands and had them wash their hands — with either antibacterial or regular soap. According to Dr. Rhee and team, both types of soap killed similar amounts of bacteria.

Dr. Rhee and team reached similar conclusions in a second test, in which they assessed the effectiveness of triclosan against 20 strains of bacteria in a lab setting.

There was no difference between using antibacterial soap and plain soap when used under what these researchers called “real-life” conditions.

This study was published Sept. 16 in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety funded this research.