Mayo Clinic Robert Sheeler, M.D.
From the desk of:
Daniel Roberts, M.D.
Medical Editor - Mayo Clinic Health Letter
Hello Steve Carrie!
Is antibacterial soap really no longer recommended?
Recent findings indicate there's no reason to use antibacterial soaps. They're no more effective than plain soap at getting rid of germs.
Lathering with soap helps lift germs from the skin so that they can be washed away. But plain soap doesn't contain specific antibacterial chemicals - such as triclosan or triclocarban - that are in many antibacterial soaps. Many people purchase antibacterial products hoping that they will help prevent illness and infection. But according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there's not enough evidence to support this claim.
There's also a concern that using antibacterial soap might contribute to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents, making it harder to kill these germs in the future.
It's generally the manufacturer's job to provide data showing product safety and whether products really work as claimed. But after an FDA call in 2013 for more data on antibacterial products, little was forthcoming. Given the lack of validation and the concern about potentially negative health effects, the FDA issued a final rule in 2016 establishing that most antibacterial active ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban, are generally not recognized as safe or effective in over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products. These products include liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes and typically include "antibacterial" on the label.
Instead, the FDA advises following basic hand-washing techniques to prevent the transmission of germs.
The ruling doesn't apply to hand sanitizers, which can be an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren't available - as long as the sanitizer is at least 60 percent alcohol. It also doesn't apply to antibacterial products used in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
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With respect, and to your health,
Daniel Roberts, M.D.
Medical Editor, Mayo Clinic Health Letter