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The FDA Confirms Antibacterial Soap Doesn’t Actually Work

by
author image Hoku Krueger
Hoku Krueger recently graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature Studies and a minor in French Language Studies. During her time there she wrote for the Occidental Weekly and interned with The Maui News.
Antibacterial soaps don’t clean any better than plain soap. In fact, they might pose long-term dangers.
Antibacterial soaps don’t clean any better than plain soap. In fact, they might pose long-term dangers. Photo Credit jayzynism/Adobe Stock

It turns out that plain old soap and water works just as well for cleaning your hands as fancy, scented antibacterial soaps. What's more, antibacterial soaps contain ingredients that are potentially dangerous to our health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing 19 different active ingredients, including the controversial triclosan and triclocarban, can no longer be marketed, according to a press release from September 2.

This is after companies failed to demonstrate that the antibacterial ingredients are safe for long-term daily use (yikes!) and more effective than soap and water for preventing illness and the spread of infection.

Companies will no longer be able to sell products that contain 19 specific active ingredients, including the common ingredients triclosan, found in liquid soaps, and triclocarban, found in bar soaps. However, the ruling does not affect hand sanitizer or wipes that you don’t wash off, but they recommend using a product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), says in the press release. “In fact, some data suggest that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

The FDA issued a proposed rule back in 2013 when they discovered that certain active ingredients in antibacterial products, “could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance and hormonal effects,” the release says. Manufacturers began to phase out certain ingredients at that time. Now, they’ve got one year to comply with the rule, either by reformulating their products or removing them from the shelves altogether.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop washing your hands. The FDA’s release reminds us that cleaning with plain soap and water is still key. In fact, with cold and flu season coming, washing your hands with soap is necessary to avoid spreading germs.

So, for now, be careful out there. It’s time to get back to basics.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised that antibacterial soap doesn’t work better than soap? Are you going to miss your antibacterial soap? Tell us your reaction in the comments below.

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