Antibacterial soap no better than regular soap for killing germs

Washing hands

If you cling to the idea that antibacterial soap is superior to plain soap, think again. A new study out of South Korea found no significant difference in bacteria-busting ability.

For the study, researchers zeroed in on antibacterial soap containing an ingredient called triclosan, a popular antiseptic. They started by first exposing bacteria to both plain soap and antibacterial soap with triclosan for 20 seconds in a lab setting. What they found was that the antibacterial version wasn’t any more effective than regular soap when it came to killing germs.

It should be noted, however, that when the bacteria was exposed to triclosan for a nine-hour period, it was significantly more effective. But since most folks only wash their hands for six seconds, these benefits seem irrelevant. Even when you consider the CDC’s current recommendation that we wash our hands for 20 seconds, the study still found no real superiority with antibacterial soap.

For the study, researchers also exposed 16 healthy adult volunteers to bacteria, which they applied on their hands. After they washed their hands, researchers again found no significant difference between the two soaps.

“Advertisement and consumer belief regarding the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps needs to be addressed,” lead author Min-Suk Rhee of Korea University said in a press release.

When it comes to getting your hands germs-free, the CDC says that washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes in most situations. If you’re unable to do so, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is the next best thing.

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