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3 Reasons to Avoid Antibacterial Soaps and Products

Updated on July 7, 2009

Antibacterial soap, hand sanitizers, house cleaning products, and air fresheners are popular items in these germ-phobic times-but they are some of the worst things you can introduce to your body, family, and environment for a variety of reasons. In short, antibacterial soap and products are bad news. Here's why you should avoid antibacterial products:

1. Antibacterial products don't work.

The chemicals in antibacterial products need approximately 5 to 20 minutes to kill bacteria. Now unless you are bathing in your antibacterial soap for extended periods, the 30 seconds you spend washing your hands with this stuff isn't going to do a thing to kill the bacteria. Further, gel hand sanitizer, in which the active ingredient is isopropyl alcohol, evaporates within seconds of application, rendering the antibacterial properties useless. Cleaning solutions and air fresheners also evaporate, losing their abilities to kill microorganisms. So all you are doing when you use this stuff is introducing powerful, potentially harmful chemicals onto your hands, which you then touch to your nose and eyes, the sandwich you're eating, or even your child. Now you have harmful chemicals in your system-and no less bacteria in your environment!

2. Antibacterial products are harmful to you.

The way the chemicals in antibacterial products kill bacteria is by destroying elements of their cellular structure-often the cell membrane or their DNA. The problem is you are composed of cells with the same structures (science mumbo-jumbo-phospholipid bilayer cell membrane, aqueous cytoplasm, RNA and DNA). The chemicals can't discern between the bacterial cells you want dead and your body's cells that you don't, and the damage they do to the microorganisms can extend to you!

3. Bacteria are evolving resistance to antibacterial products.

This is very frightening, but true. Our overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial products is causing bacteria to become resistant to our most tried and true methods. There are already terrifyingly resistant strains of tuberculosis and staph (MRSA-methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) arising around the country, and the constant use of these products only aids these germs in becoming even better at infecting us.

So what to do? The best bet is your good, old-fashioned immune system, which has evolved for thousands of years to beat the bacteria that live among us every day. The most effective method to rid yourself, your family, and your environment of microorganisms is mechanical removal-washing with soap and water (science mumbo-jumbo: the long hydrocarbon chains in the chemical makeup of soap mechanically lift cells off surfaces). Keep your immune system healthy by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. If you want to give it some assistance, try eating naturally antibacterial foods.

And keep the chemicals out of your home by using natural, green cleaning products.


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    • Candelish profile image

      Mindy 6 years ago from Florida

      Great Hub! Your information is absolutely correct and still very relevant even after 2 years. Dr. Germ (The University of Arizona's Professor Dr. Charles Gerba.) I just finished a Hub on germs, viruses and the expectations of the cleaning industry. To think that consumers are STILL confused about anti-bacterial soaps is frankly, just scary. Thank you for the still relevant Hub!

    • jonaitis profile image

      jonaitis 9 years ago from San Francisco

      That's a great idea contrywoman. I'm on the case!

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      Thanx will try to avoid it and scout for green cleaning products. Or instead can you write a hub about green cleaning products? Also mention the popular brands and their pros and cons. Thanks Jonaitis for educating so many of us.

    • jonaitis profile image

      jonaitis 9 years ago from San Francisco


      I often hear allergic reaction stories; soap and water is definitely best!


      I would avoid Purell--it evaporates too quickly for the isopropyl alcohol to have much antibacterial effect, but you'll have chemicals all over your hands, which you might touch to your eyes or your food--not good!

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      To wash hands is Purell Hand Sanitizer good?

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I had a co-worker who had an allergic reaction to my anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. She said it was way too strong since it was one of those scented ones from bath and body works. My sister also said the same thing, so I have not used it since. Using old fashioned soap and water is the best way to wash our hands.