By Julia Vinokur

Bacteria got a very bad reputation in recent years.  All we hear from an early age is that these little organisms are nothing less but harmful terrible things that intend to crawl into our bodies and do a lot of harm.  To prevent this, Antibacterial soap was invented.

What is Antibacterial Soap?

Antibacterial soap is any cleaning product to which active antimicrobial ingredients have been added. These chemicals kill bacteria and microbes, but are no more effective at deactivating viruses than any other kind of soap or detergent, and they also kill nonpathogenic bacteria.  Therein lies the drawback!

Reasons to avoid antibacterial soaps:

  1. Killing good bacteria. Not everybody knows that there are more than 500 strains of bacteria on our body! In a healthy body there are bifidobacterium, acidophilous bacteria, streptococcus, eubacterium,  peptococcus, etc.  The same good bacteria are on the surface of our skin that plays vital role in protecting our body from pathogens.  Frequent use of the antibacterial soaps destroys good bacteria on our skin, allowing pathogens to enter our body. 
  2. Superbugs. Pathogens develop immunity to the antibacterial soaps, therefore some antibiotics become useless against infections. Antibacterial and antimicrobial agents were created to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals. But companies began marketing these products to everyday consumers, too. As a result, more microbes are exposed to and develop resistances to these agents.
  3. Harmful Ingredients. Most antibacterial soaps, gels and wipes have triclosan, chlorhexidine gluconate, triclocarban, phenoxyethanol paraben, and ethyl alcohol.  Depending on the amount of the certain ingredients different effect can be achieved. For example, 60% alcohol can kill 99.9% pathogens in 30 seconds.   At the same time these ingredients are very harmful to us, especially for children.  For example, phenoxyethanol paraben can cause vomiting and diarrhea in babies and toddlers.  It means that if you use antibacterial wipes and then touch your baby, or a toy that gets into baby’s mouth, you can transfer enough substance to baby’s skin to cause side effects.  Phenoxyethanol and other parabens can accumulate in our body, causing allergic reactions, eczema, skin irritation, and UV sensitivity.
  4. Unnecessary.  A lot of studies suggest that antibacterial soaps are no better at killing pathogens than regular soap. Even the US Food and Drug Administration (an authority that we question on many topics) supports this claim, finding no studies that show a link between using consumer antibacterial products and lower infection rates.  

What to use instead of the antibacterial soaps?

  • Just wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and regular soap, achieving the same or better results at a lower cost and without exposing yourself to unnecessary additional chemicals.
  • Lemon juice and vinegar changes Ph in the pathogen cells, causing them to die.  The reason why bacteria aren’t resistant to these agents is because they do not leave a residue. There is no chance for surviving bacteria to adapt without the residual environment, so bacteria are just as susceptible to vinegar and lemon juice as they were 100 years ago.  The same is the case with alcohol (I carry alcohol swabs in my purse for some emergency situations).