Good News: You Can Skip Antibacterial Soap And Use Plain Soap & Water Instead

In this day and age, you might be feeling a little more tempted to reach for antibacterial hand soap to keep yourself and your family safe from all germs and nasty pathogens. 

But here’s the rub: you don’t actually need that antibacterial soap to kill bacteria. In fact, antibacterial soaps have their fair share of downsides that can leave you feeling even more prone to icky microbes. 

Here’s why you may be better off skipping that antibacterial soap and using a high-quality regular soap instead. 

Antibacterial soap vs. plain soap: How are they different? 

To understand the differences between antibacterial and plain soap, it’s helpful to have a quick chemistry lesson to understand why regular soap works so well in the first place! 

Regular soap is usually made with a combination of lye, water, and a fatty substance like vegetable oil. When these ingredients are combined, it creates soap, which is a surfactant that works to reduce the surface tension between water and oil. The molecular structure of soap has both a water-loving “polar” head that is attracted to water and a hydrophilic “nonpolar” tail that is more attracted to oils and fats. 

So when you lather up the soap with water and scrub it on your body, the molecular structure of soap can interact with both the oil and the water, effectively dissolving and trapping dirt, bacteria, and oil that may be on your skin inside of the bubbles. Then, you can simply wash the soap away and wash it down the drain, leaving your skin clean and free of bacteria, dirt, and other dirty compounds!

So soap on its own is already highly effective at eliminating microbes like bacteria from your skin. But antibacterial soaps take it one step further with the addition of antibacterial chemicals.

Antibacterial soap contains active ingredients like triclosan that are intended to kill bacteria on the skin. And while this sounds good, there isn’t actually much evidence to suggest that the addition of these harsh chemicals has a ton of benefits over regular soap. In fact, there’s even evidence to the contrary: that those harsh chemicals in antibacterial soap can actually be worse for your health, not to mention the health of the environment. 

Risks of using antibacterial soap 

Handwashing Sanitizer

Photo by Anna Shvets:

The chemicals that are used in antibacterial soap might actually do more harm than good, especially if you rely on antibacterial products too often. 

Promotes antibiotic-resistant bacteria 

One of the most common and well-known issues that come with the overuse of antibacterial products is the way that it can promote unhealthy bacterial colonies as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Bacteria is probably best known as a microbe that can carry various diseases and illnesses, but there are also plenty of microbes on your skin and in your body that are actually beneficial for your skin. As its very name suggests, antibacterial soaps are designed to kill bacteria, but this also means that they can kill the good bacteria that you want to remain. 

What’s worse, overuse of antibacterial products can also cause bacterial resistance: in other words, the bacteria that were evolved enough to survive the antibacterial product can reproduce and create other bacteria that are also resistant to the antibacterial soap. 

Environmental harm

The extra addition of antibacterial chemicals like triclosan can also go on to have negative impacts on the environment once you wash them down the drain. After triclosan gets into the pipes and into the main water system, it can then enter aquatic habitats and wreak havoc. There’s evidence that triclosan is toxic to a variety of environmentally sensitive species like microalgae and fish. 

What’s worse, like many other chemicals used in human manufacturing processes, triclosan is also very resistant to degradation, which means that it can stay in the water supply for a long time. 

Harsh on the skin 

Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers can sometimes contain alcohol and other harsh chemicals. Unfortunately, while they may be effective at killing germs, these ingredients can also strip away the oils on your skin more effectively than regular soap, which can lead to dry skin that is more prone to irritation. 

Not any more effective than regular soap 

Finally, the bottom line is that there isn’t actually a ton of evidence to support the idea that antibacterial soaps are superior to regular soap --- which means that all of that chemical exposure may ultimately be for nothing. The FDA has not found any evidence that the use of antibacterial products used by consumers is any better at preventing the spread of germs than plain soap and water! 

To be clear, this isn’t to say that using antibacterial soaps in and of itself is bad in every context. For example, the use of antibacterial soaps definitely has its applications in a hospital setting. However, if we’re just talking about your day-to-day hygiene and handwashing routines, you can definitely skip the antibacterial soaps and use a plain bar of soap and do just as good of a job at preventing illnesses and keeping yourself clean.

The bottom line: use plain soap and water to keep clean! 

Soap is inherently created to wash away dirt, grime, bacteria, and other microbes that can carry diseases and make you and your family sick. So by simply sticking to a regular handwashing and body washing routine with normal soap, you can keep your skin clean just as effectively (and with fewer risks) than you might if you use an antibacterial soap! 

A few of our favorite soaps for handwashing 

Pacha Soap Co. Liquid Hand Soap 

For the most sanitary handwashing every time, your best bet is liquid hand soap, and that’s where this product fits the bill. Available in either French Lavender or Vanilla Almond.

Pacha Soap Co. Bar Soap 

If you prefer washing your hands with bar soap, you can’t get much better than Pacha Soap Co.! Our signature bar soaps are available in a wide range of scents, and many of them also come with all-natural nourishing ingredients that can keep your skin clean and healthy. 

Photo by cottonbro studio:

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