In these COVID 19 times, hand washing has been touted as one of the best ways to prevent infection. Along with that, people pose questions with regard to the tools they use when washing, and most specifically about the effectiveness of these tools in preventing infection. We’re talking about soaps – regular soaps and antibacterial soaps – and hand sanitizers.
For this particular post, we are interested to know which one is more effective than the other – regular soap or antibacterial soap. We’ll cover some interesting data that proves there is no difference between these two types in terms of effectiveness. One can even say that antibacterial soaps are quite harmful when used over the long term.
What Does Research Say?
A study was conducted in the slums in Karachi in Pakistan to answer the question whether or not antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular soaps.
The researcher formed three groups. The first group consisted of families that were provided with unlimited regular soap and weekly training on hand washing.
The second group was given antibacterial soap and the same weekly education.
The third group was the control group that was instructed to continue their normal washing practices. All three groups were randomly selected from 36 slums in Karachi.
The different soaps given to the families had the same appearance and smell, and the participants were not told about the difference in the soaps they were using. The experiment lasted for one year.
Results showed that the participants from the first group developed 53% less diarrhea, 34% less skin infection and 50% less pneumonia compared to the control group.
Here’s what is really stunning: Results from the study indicated that there was no difference in terms of effectiveness whether a family received regular soap or antibacterial soap.
On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that the use of antibacterial soap can lower the incidence of impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection affecting children and infants, by about 23%.
While antibacterial soaps appear to have a bacterial killing action in some cases or conditions, the FDA is cautious on recommending the use of such soaps. It is currently investigating whether or not antibacterial soaps have negative effects on:
- Skin condition – possibilities of developing food allergies over the long term
The main ingredient in these soaps, triclosan, has also been suspected to cause drug resistance in certain microorganisms, as well as its adverse effects on the good defence bacteria that dwells on the skin’s surface.
One thing to note at this point is that antibacterial soaps, as the name suggests, kill only bacteria and not viruses. Thus, in this COVID 19 situation that the world is in, people should be reminded that antibacterial soaps do not have special powers that make it any more effective in controlling the spread of COVID 19 infection than regular soaps.
The Key to Ultimate Protection
What does a soap actually do? It’s actually pretty simple. When you build a nice lather and rub your hands against each other, you are gently dislodging a good amount of old skin and some microorganisms found on the surface of your skin. Scientists like that idea of “flooding” at the microbial level and encourage people to always do so.
In an experiment that tackled hand washing, it was shown that most people miss their fingernail beds the most. There are some other spots poorly cleaned, but the most important thing is, whether we are using an antimicrobial soap or a regular soap, nothing can outperform effective washing techniques.
As there is no difference between regular soap and antibacterial soap in terms of germ-killing action, you are safe using any of these two types. Make sure, however, to monitor for possible side effects when using antibacterial soaps. Also, regularly check latest advisories from the CDC and the FDA.