Does antibacterial soap work chemically?

Does antibacterial soap work chemically?

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Normal soap requires scrubbing, does anti-bacterial soap require scrubbing too? Since it (I assume) works chemically, can I produce the same cleansing effect without lathering with soap and using anti-bacterial soap instead? It could save me a lot of time showering in the morning.

What the comments are trying to say might go something like this.

The antibiotic triclosan that's used in almost all 'antibacterial' products works pretty quickly - by interfering with several processes in the bacterial and fungal membrane. It doesn't need much more than contact to work.

That being said, the longer your exposure to the antibiotic, the more thoroughly it will work. Triclosan can penetrate the blood stream through the skin. If you have soap suds scrubbing may or may not get the triclosan into more contact with a greater surface area as it diffuses into the skin, but probably won't affect the substantial effect it has killing surface bacteria and fungi/yeasts.

Its worth noting that the FDA doesn't recommend the use of antibacterial soap or other antibacterial products. Soap itself is a powerful agent for killing bacteria and other microorganisms and biocides like triclosan probably encourage the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains which present a medical risk to people.

This is a very good question, and a very important topic in the healthcare and biological world. It is something that everyone should consider, as the answer is not as self-evident as it may appear. The responses here are excellent. I would like to add a few things from a healthcare perspective.

This is the WHO recommendation on how to wash your hands. It is in agreement with the CDC recommendations. This includes use of antibacterial soaps.

The reason for friction in handwashing is as Chris and WYSIWYG said: removal of oils, dirt, bacteria and other things accumulated in the crevasses of your skin and nails (including microbes and biological residues).

Regular soap on its own is a surfactant; it is a molecule with a polar end (and a non-polar end. It basically dissolves in both oils and waters. It is perfect for removing oils and rinsing them off in water. Detergents such as soaps are cell membrane disrupters, and as such, it is capable of rupturing cell membranes of many microbes on its own.

Shigeta is right-on with the FDA recommendations to not use antibacterial soaps. They are completely unnecessary is most situations and actually do harm by putting selective pressure on bacteria strains to become stronger by killing off all but the most resistant ones, which then breed and overgrow.

In daily use, alcohol foams are a convenient way to sanitize if soap and water are unavailable, but it's often overused. Soap and water are better in the daily environment, and always better before eating, because alcohol does not kill spores nor denature toxins.

Overuse of antibiotics in general is the reason why MRSA and other multi-drug resistant bacteria have emerged, and these are extremely dangerous because they are so difficult to treat. We're struggling to catch up with antibiotics to kill the newly emerging strands. There are cases I have seen where all efforts to treat an infection failed due to resistance. So I guess I'm saying all this to emphasize that yeah, it's important to not go overboard on antibacterial cleansing :) /end soapbox.

Well, one more quick thing - I do want to add that healthcare settings are slightly different. The use of antibacterial soap in hospitals is approved for the purpose of reducing the microbial load on skin between patients, to reduce transmission as much as possible. Alcohol foams have been found to be comparable, but are insufficient in several cases (such as spores). (See the CDC for more info on alcohol foams: In daily use, alcohol foams are a convenient way to sanitize if soap and water are unavailable, but it's often overused. Soap and water are better in the daily environment, and always better before eating, because alcohol does not kill spores nor denature toxins.

References for following information: I personally have been involved in patient counseling discussions in clinic with a patient and an attending physician (a supervisory teaching doctor) discussing best practices in hygiene. This includes two dermatologists, two Emergency physicians, an OB/Gyn physician, and a pediatrician - and all concur:

For general washing in the shower, unless you sweat a great deal or are exposed to dirt and chemicals, the majority of your exposed skin does not require extensive scrubbing to become clean. In fact, scrubbing can irritate skin, worsen dry skin, or exacerbate conditions such as eczema. Warm water, normal soap (or even better for sensitive skin / eczema, moisturizing body wash like Dove), and a soft washcloth are completely sufficient. If using a pouf or exfoliator, only apply light pressure, never aggressive. Armpits, groin, and feet do require more attention, but hard scrubbing is unnecessary.

Interestingly (and hopefully not TMI in this post), I learned from the OB/Gyn's patient counseling that it is unnecessary (and actually irritating to the mucous membranes) for women to use more than warm water to clean between the labia majora. I looked this up and found supporting information for this. Other genital surfaces should be washed well, but as mucous membranes, that area has a self-cleaning system of secretions. This is similar to the strong recommendation for women not to use vaginal douching - it upsets the balance of natural bacteria (flora) in the vaginal canal.

The WHO handwashing instructions:

How Soap Works

Soaps are sodium or potassium fatty acids salts, produced from the hydrolysis of fats in a chemical reaction called saponification. Each soap molecule has a long hydrocarbon chain, sometimes called its 'tail', with a carboxylate 'head'. In water, the sodium or potassium ions float free, leaving a negatively-charged head.

Key Takeaways: Soap

  • Soap is a fatty acid of a salt.
  • Soaps are used as cleansers and lubricants.
  • Soap cleans by acting as a surfactant and emulsifier. It can surround oil, making it easier to rinse it away with water.

Best Antifungal Soap Reviews

1. Defense Antifungal Medicated Bar Soap

Some of the most common fungal infections—like athlete’s foot and jock itch—are contracted often by athletes because they sweat a lot. It can be a hassle for them because if their skin is ridden with lesions and rashes, they can’t play their sport.

Luckily, athletes and skincare experts came together to develop this Defense antifungal soap. Its active ingredients include tolnaftate, an antifungal agent that helps kill fungi and stops its growth. It’s a great ingredient to combat fungal infections athletes catch in the locker rooms.

This antibacterial soap for athlete’s foot is infused with tea tree and eucalyptus oils. These are both known to soothe and relieve the skin of itching, burning, and cracking—all symptoms of fungal infections manifesting in the skin. These essential oils also bring about a minty, relaxing aroma that stays on the skin.

Because tolnaftate stops more fungi from growing and developing, the soap prevents the recurrence of fungal infections. It’s a great daily soap to use if you sweat a lot and are susceptible to contracting these skin infections.

One bonus of this athlete’s foot antibacterial soap is that it comes with a free snap-tight case. This product is suitable for athletes and gym buffs who need to bring their soap around with them in a bag.

  • Contains 1% tolnaftate, which kills fungi in the infected area
  • Relieves itching, burning, scaling, and cracking of the skin
  • Tea tree and eucalyptus oils to soothe the skin
  • Gives a refreshing, minty smell
  • Helps prevent future locker-room fungal infections
  • Comes with a snap-tight case to bring around easily

2. Solpri Shield Antifungal Soap Bar

For a more nourishing option, look into this antifungal bar soap by Solpri—a brand designed by athletes for athletes. It’s made of many natural ingredients, making it very suitable for itchy skin with some cracking because of a fungal infection.

This soap is made with rich, nourishing oils like safflower, coconut, and palm oils. Together with other ingredients, these three work together to make sure the skin stays soft and bouncy. They leave the skin touchable too, as there is no greasy, oily film left on the skin when using this soap.

This natural antifungal soap contains lemongrass, which is proven to be more effective than tea tree oil for washing away infectious fungi and bacteria. It is also infused with vegetable glycerin, which can help soothe rashes and lesions from infections like athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm.

It has a unique blend of essential oils to thoroughly clean the body and give the soap a nice, refreshing scent. Aside from lemongrass, the combination includes tea tree, eucalyptus, orange, and lime oils. Some of these have soothing properties in them, while others are known to help brighten blemished skin.

  • Safflower, coconut, and palm oils help to nourish and moisturize the skin
  • Lemongrass washes away fungus and bacteria from the skin
  • Contains vegetable glycerin, which soothes and hydrates the skin
  • Has a unique blend of essential oils
  • Designed by athletes for athletes who tend to catch fungal infections

3. Purely Northwest Tea Tree Oil Foot and Body Wash

Fungal infections can show up anywhere on the body. It can manifest in your feet, your back, even your fingernails. Because of this, it’s a brilliant idea to always have a versatile body wash that you can use for various parts of the skin attacked by a fungal infection.

Pure Northwest’s antifungal soap for feet and body does precisely that. Contrary to what its name suggests, this body wash isn’t exclusive for treating fungal infections on the body and feet only.

It can be used on the scalp as a shampoo and even a cleaning agent for nail fungus. Not only that, but this versatile product can even help treat other sensitive skin conditions, like eczema and acne.

The formula works to unclog pores filled with oil and bacteria. It also clarifies the skin to keep it clear and free of fungal acne on the body.

This formula contains many essential oils that work wonders for chapped, itchy, infected skin. It has tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, and oregano oils to soothe dry, painful skin. These oils also give a gorgeously fresh scent to the body wash, which deodorizes infections like athlete’s foot.

  • A versatile body wash that can treat fungal infections, acne, and eczema
  • Oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, and peppermint soothe the skin
  • A blend of invigorating essential oils helps to deodorize smelly odors
  • Can be used as a shampoo for dry, itchy scalps
  • Unclogs pores and clarifies the skin, keeping it acne-free

4. Defense Original Daily Clean Soap

Now I know what you’re thinking. Does soap kill fungus even if it’s not specifically a medicated soap for fungal infection? The short answer is yes. As long as the soap has properties that can kill all kinds of bacteria, there’s a good chance it can sort out and prevent problems with fungus.

Defense’s daily soap in the original variant leaves the skin squeaky clean and fresh. It washes off impurities left on the skin after a tough day, like sweat, grime, dirt, gym crud, and bacteria. That means it can be useful in washing away fungus, preventing infections from developing.

This soap contains natural and pharmaceutical-grade tea tree and eucalyptus oil. The latter even provides a refreshing and energizing herbal scent that stays a long time on the skin post-shower. These oils also help to soothe itching or burning sensations if you’re dealing with an infection.

Because it’s triple-milled, the soap has a smooth, high-quality texture that creates a foamy, bubbly lather quickly. It also lasts a long time and doesn’t easily melt. The formula is also hypoallergenic, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin.

This comes in a pack of two bar soaps, providing significant value for money as well.

  • Leaves you squeaky clean
  • Contains natural, pharmaceutical-grade tea tree and eucalyptus oils
  • Creates a bubbly and foamy lather quickly in the shower
  • A triple-milled formula for longevity and high-quality consistency
  • Value for money because you get two bar soaps at an affordable price

5. Candida Freedom Probiotic Soap with Lavender

Candida Freedom is a soap making company on a mission to address concerns of candida overgrowth. Candida is a yeast that naturally lives in many parts of our body but can cause skin troubles when too many colonies develop.

The brand’s probiotic soap is an all-natural anti yeast soap with many soothing, moisturizing, and skin-strengthening ingredients. That makes it great not only for those fighting against candida overgrowth but fungal infections too.

It contains olive, palm, and coconut oils to moisturize the skin and keep it soft. It also has kaolin clay, known to thoroughly cleanse the skin by detoxifying and unclogging impurities deep in the pores. Lavender essential oil helps soothe irritated skin while giving the soap a relaxing aroma.

This soap’s unique ingredients are bacillus coagulans (a friendly bacteria) and alpha-lipoic acid (an antioxidant). These fight free radicals and protect the skin, making it stronger and less prone to infections.

This soap is effective in gently washing areas with fungal infections. It’s especially great for areas that have cuts or lesions and tend to bleed. Because the natural formula is gentle, it soothes the skin and doesn’t irritate it further. It’s also a superb soap for rosacea, acne, and poison ivy.

  • Contains nourishing olive, palm, and coconut oils
  • Made with kaolin clay for a deep, detoxifying cleanse
  • Has a calming lavender scent that also helps soothe irritated, itchy skin
  • Contains bacillus coagulans and alpha-lipoic acid to fight free radicals
  • Can be used for fungal infections, rosacea, acne, and more

6. New York Biology Anti-Fungal Tea Tree Body and Foot Wash

New York Biology’s antifungal body wash smells of lively and exciting tea tree oil while treating your skin to the best of its abilities.

It kills fungus and bacteria that latch onto the skin and helps wash them away. That means it can treat and manage existing fungal infections, but can also prevent future ones. The body wash works great for various conditions, like athlete’s foot, jock itch, eczema, nail fungus, and ringworm.

Tea tree and peppermint oils lend a beautiful, almost therapeutic scent to this shower gel for a relaxing shower. These oils can also relieve the skin of any itchiness or burning sensations from fungal infections.

The formula uses the highest concentration for tea tree oil currently allowed, which is at 5%. It is also infused with coconut oil to make the skin supple and moisturized.

This body wash packs a punch when it comes to value for money. You get a huge 500ml bottle of the stuff for a reasonable price, which is bigger than what usual body washes come in.

  • Helps kill and wash away fungus and bacteria on the skin
  • Relieves therapeutic relief because of tea tree and peppermint oils
  • Uses the highest concentration allowed for tea tree oil, which is at 5%
  • Coconut oil helps nourish and moisturize the skin
  • Comes in a giant 500ml bottle at an economical price

7. Terrasil Anti-Fungal Medicated Cleansing Bar

Terrasil is a brand of antifungal products that is doctor-approved and backed by over 15 years of research. Their advocacy is to heal people from fungal infections as fast as possible so that they can get back on track with life.

That is exactly what their medicated cleansing bar does. It claims to fight fungus up to six times faster than popular, leading antifungal soaps out there. It curbs the growth of candida and other fungi in as quickly as one hour.

It contains an active ingredient called Thuja occidentalis, which is amazing at getting rid of fungus in the skin and nails. It relieves most infection symptoms, from scaliness to downright pain from lesions. It is also effective for warts and itchy skin.

While this soap is highly recommended for fungus problems in the foot, nails, and toes, it is also very useful for eliminating jock itch, pityriasis versicolor, ringworm, and more.

Another thing I love about this soap is that it’s highly hydrating and moisturizing. The soap is charged with glycerin, which helps hydrate the skin in its deeper layers. Occlusives like shea butter and olive oil then help lock in that moisture to leave the skin supple and soft.

All in all, the formula consists of pure and natural ingredients. That makes this soap very skin-friendly and gentle enough to use for irritated skin.

  • Fights fungus up to six times faster than leading antifungal soap brands
  • Contains antifungal active ingredients to relieve most infection symptoms
  • Especially great for fungal infections near the foot, toe, and nail areas
  • Glycerin hydrates the skin, shea butter and olive oil lock in all the moisture
  • Pure and all-natural, so the formula is friendly to the skin

8. FungiCure Medicated Anti-Fungal Jock Itch Wash

Many people know that a fungal infection like jock itch can be a hassle to treat because it requires complicated creams and powders. But FungiCure has come out with an all-natural, homeopathic body wash so you can easily treat and soothe jock itch in the shower.

This medicated body wash contains tea tree oil to help soothe and control rashes and itchiness of jock itch. Because tea tree oil helps fight many kinds of fungi and bacteria, this body wash would make a great athlete’s foot, tinea versicolor, and ringworm soap too.

The active ingredient of this body wash is sepia. Sepia is a homeopathic remedy people use to relieve menopause and PMS symptoms, like headaches, hot flashes, and menstrual irregularities. Sepia’s role in this body wash is to calm the skin near the genitals, where jock itch often appears.

This formula is made with natural, skin-safe ingredients that shouldn’t irritate the skin. Even those with the extremely sensitive skin type will find this formula mild and non-irritating. It’s so gentle that it is possible to use it twice daily—morning and night.

  • Contains tea tree oil that soothes and controls jock itch, athlete’s foot, etc.
  • Can treat jock itch in the shower without creams and powders
  • Active ingredient sepia calms infected skin, especially near the genitals
  • Made only with skin-safe, natural ingredients
  • Gentle enough to be used twice daily

9. The Yellow Bird Peppermint and Tea Tree Soap Bar

If handmade soaps are your thing, you’ll love The Yellow Bird’s peppermint and tea tree soap. This Castile bar soap helps kill fungus and moisturizes your skin with pure, natural, organic ingredients.

The main ingredients of this soap are rich, nourishing oils. Infused with coconut, olive, palm, and sunflower oils, this soap gives intense moisturization. Even though heavy in natural oils, it still makes a great lather in the shower.

It also contains peppermint and tea tree oils to deodorize foul smells, whether from sweat or a fungal infection. It also helps to treat and get rid of acne. Cajeput oil is another fabulous ingredient in this soap. It has antifungal properties to fight against infections, and can also work as an astringent to dry out acne properly.

Overall, this soap provides relief for fungal infection symptoms like scaliness, itching, and even cuts and small wounds. Its biggest benefit is moisturizing dry skin to make it soft and supple to the touch.

It’s very safe to use on sensitive, infected skin. It’s chemical-free and doesn’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients like parabens, sulfates, alcohol, synthetic dyes, and fragrances.

  • A castile soap bar made of rich, nourishing oils like coconut and olive oils
  • Peppermint and tea tree oil help to deodorize smells and eliminate acne
  • Cajeput oil has antifungal properties for acne, eczema, and infections
  • Provides antifungal relief, especially for itchiness and dryness
  • Chemical-free and doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates, alcohol, and more

10. TruRemedy Naturals All-Natural Remedy Soap

Another all-natural antifungal soap for ringworm, athlete’s foot, and other common infections is this body wash by TruRemedy. It is curated from rich, organic base oils and healing essential oils to help you eliminate that distracting fungal infection.

Its hero ingredients are tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and aloe. While the two oils work to kill fungi, aloe hydrates the skin by drawing in moisture into its deeper layers. All three have soothing properties that can tame skin irritation, even when the infected area is so bad that it starts to develop scales and lesions.

The blend of essential oils in this body wash also lend a lively, zesty, herbally smell that will leave you feeling fresh after your shower. The scent is definitely one that is great to start your mornings with.

The formula also includes organic jojoba, coconut, and olive oils. These three are some of the best in moisturizing the skin intensely, to leave it bouncy and healthy.

This is a relatively strong soap that can wash away all of the dirt and fungi you might have picked up in the locker room, gym, outdoor field, or pool. It washes off sweat and grime, too

  • Tea tree, mint, and aloe help to kill fungi, soothe and tame skin irritation
  • Its blend of essential oils deodorizes and refreshes the body
  • Effective on a wide range of skin conditions
  • Organic jojoba, coconut, and olive oils moisturize the skin
  • A strong soap that can wash away all dirt, sweat, and grime

11. Solpri Shield Antifungal Soap Bar

We talked about Solpri’s antifungal soap made by athletes for athletes. If that soap caught your attention and you’re thinking about doing a haul, then here’s a treat for you. Solpri offers that soap in a bundle of six.

It’s the same Solpri soap made with safflower, coconut, and palm oils for intense moisturization. That is a great way to ensure that if fungal infections dry out your skin, you can replenish it with nourishment.

Lemongrass is another key ingredient. This essential oil is allegedly stronger and more effective than tea tree oil in killing fungi. It’s the kind of extra strength athletes need to get rid of fungi they’re likely to catch on the skin and feet.

The soaps are infused with glycerin, a humectant that hydrates the skin by sucking moisture from the air into the deep layers of skin. It also is a soothing compound—perfect for scaliness and rashes.

This soap fights against the itchiness of fungal infections like athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and more. Aside from lemongrass, its blend of multiple essential oils helps out with soothing the skin.

I like this bundle because it provides value for money. Getting six soaps is definitely the smarter choice if you’re an athlete who wants to protect yourself from fungus at all times.

  • Has safflower, coconut, and palm oils to moisturize the skin
  • Contains lemongrass with better effect than tea tree oil
  • Glycerin, which gives deeper layers of the skin more hydration
  • Fights against itchiness of fungal infections
  • Significant value for money, because you get six in one pack

12. Majestic Pure Cosmeceuticals Tea Tree Wash

Let’s close the list with my favorite essential oil proven to be quite the hero for fungal infections—tea tree oil. Majestic Pure body wash is made of pure, organic tea tree oil of the highest quality. This helps to soothe the skin infected by athlete’s feet and other infections.

Because it’s constantly working to wash away impurities and bacteria from the skin, it can help prevent future recurrences of fungal infections too.

Now let’s talk about the rest of the ingredients. While many liquid soaps are purely water-based, this body wash also incorporates coconut water in its base liquid. Coconut water is amazing for hydrating the skin’s deeper layers, making it healthier, and strengthening the skin barrier.

This body wash has many rich oils, like olive, coconut, and jojoba oils—three of the most popular when it comes to moisturization. They are also joined by shea and cocoa butter, which makes the soap even more nourishing. All these work together to make sure the skin is bouncy and silky smooth.

The formula is very safe for the skin because there are no potentially harmful chemicals like parabens or dyes that can further irritate the skin.

  • Pure tea tree oil soothes skin infected by fungi
  • Helps wash away athlete’s foot and defend against recurrence
  • Infused with coconut water to hydrate the skin
  • Made of rich, nourishing oils and butter to moisturize the skin
  • Safe for the skin, as there are no chemicals, parabens, and artificial colors

How should you wash your hands?

So what's the proper way to clean hands? It involves more than a splash of water and a pat dry on a hand towel. Experts recommend that people wash their hands for a full 20 seconds to clean off bacteria. They suggest tracking the time by singing. Most people recommend “Happy Birthday” or the alphabet song for children, but McGee said any song will do.

“There's probably a few other drunken sailor songs you can sing, too,” he said. “But, it’s just making sure that you spend enough time washing.”

In fact, people already exhausted of humming (or belting out) "Happy Birthday" shared new song recommendations on social media. A picture on Facebook listed a few suggested tunes with choruses that last 20 seconds, including "Good as Hell" by Lizzo and "Africa" by Toto (sung twice).

Dr. Mehmet Oz showed Carson Daly how to properly wash hands and stressed the importance of keeping fingertips clean.

"What will touch our face is our index finger or our thumb," he explained.

ELI5: What is the difference between antibacterial soaps and regular soaps?

I've heard that antibacterial soaps aren't any different from regular soaps and don't get your hands any cleaner than a regular soap and regular soap is all you need to get your hands just as clean to get rid of germs and bacteria. Are antibacterial soaps for certain instances where people actually need it? (ie: doctors, nurses and surgeons) and handling raw food. Or is antibacterial soap just another marketing ploy to convince people into thinking the antibacterial soap is the better soap that does a better job of cleaning so that they buy it? Is there actually a main difference between antibacterial soap and regular soap?

Antibacterial soap doesn’t get your hands cleaner. It’s actually very bad to use and here’s why. It may kill some bacteria but those that survive are made stronger by it. Then they reproduce stronger bacteria. This is how antibiotic-resistant bacteria come to be. When antibiotics first came into use, people would stop taking them when they felt better. So instructions to take for 10 days (because it takes 10 days to kill them all) resulted in some surviving and reproducing bacteria unaffected by that antibiotic. Antibacterial soap will have the same results over time so it’s bad for the planet to use it plus unnecessary because your hands ARE NOT CLEANER

Do antibacterial soaps really work?

Soaps with added &ldquoantibacterial&rdquo chemicals are not better at protecting people against infection and illness. The added chemicals may be harmful.

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Does antibacterial soap work chemically? - Biology

Asking how antiseptic soaps work is a great question even though we use them daily, most people probably never think to ask what actually makes antiseptic soaps antiseptic.

To understand how antiseptic (i.e. antibacterial) soaps work, well first look at how soap functions in general. Most molecules are either water-loving (hydrophilic) or water-hating (hydrophobic). The reason water alone doesnt clean off dirt and germs is because those molecules are mostly hydrophobic. When water runs over these hydrophobic molecules, they dont get picked up by it because they do not get dissolved in water easily (think of pouring olive oil in water when youre cooking pasta the oil sticks together in a pot of water because the oil is hydrophobic).

Soap is made up of fatty acids (derived from oils or fats) and a base (like sodium hydroxide salt). The soap molecules have hydrophobic (fatty acid chain) and hydrophilic (salt) ends. This combination allows soap molecules to suspend the oils, dirt and germs that are washed away when you soap up. This happens because soap molecules act as a bridge between hydrophobic oil particles (the dirt and germs) and the hydrophilic water itself.

Soap alone is fairly good at removing dirt and germs from our skin however, it doesnt remove or kill all of the microbes that live on us. Antibacterial soaps are increasingly popular because they are marketed as killing the bacteria on us when used. The goal of antiseptic soaps is to prevent the bacteria from reproducing, limiting the amount of bacteria present on a person's skin after using an antibacterial soap. Theoretically, less bacteria should mean less risk for infection or illness. (Side note: Its important to remember that we have microorganisms that live on us that are necessary for our own survival. These good microbes are also affected by antimicrobials.) The difference between regular soaps and antiseptic soaps are the antibacterial compounds triclosan and sometimes triclocarban. Triclosan and is also found in a lot of other goods, including cosmetics, toothpaste and plastic used in toys, kitchen and table utensils. Triclosan and triclocarban are hydrophobic, so they dont dissolve well in water, but do go through fatty substances, like the membranes of bacterial cells. Once they are in microbes cells, triclosan poisons a specific enzyme (enzymes are proteins that have particular functions, think of them as cellular machinery) that is used in making microbes cell membranes. Humans dont have this enzyme, so triclosan doesnt poison us. One molecule of triclosan permanently disables this microbial enzyme, which is why triclosan is such a strong antibiotic action even at very low concentrations. Triclocarban has a similar molecular structure, and probably kills microbes like triclosan does.

Because of the highly specific way that triclosan kills microbes and the amount in our environment, researchers concerned about its role in fostering antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Researchers have demonstrated that mutations in the bacterial gene that produces the enzyme that triclosan poisons can produce triclosan-resistant bacteria. That is bad, because when people get infections with antibiotic or antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, the infections can become very difficult to treat and doctors need to find different antibiotics that the bacteria have not evolved resistance to. That is why scientists now suggest limiting the use of strong antiseptic products unless necessary. In fact, a study recently demonstrated that plain soaps are as effective as antibacterial soaps with triclosan in preventing illness and removing bacteria from the hands.

Soap molecules are both hydrophilic (likes water and goes into solution) and hydrophobic (repels water). Bacteria (and dirt and oils) get bound to the hydrophobic end of the soap molecules and the hydrophilic end helps it get washed away with water. This is just basic soap with no antibacterials in it.

Some soaps have antibiotics that kill bacteria. These antibiotics have different ways of killing bacteria. For example, the antibiotic triclosan is commonly used in soaps and targets an enzyme involved in making bacterial membranes. This enzyme is only found in bacteria and not in humans thus only killing bacterial cells.

How Does Hand Soap Work to Kill Bacteria?

Now you know it's critical to use soap when washing your hands. But it's important to note that soap helps to remove germs from your hands—not necessarily kill them.

More specifically, it's the surfactants in hand soap that remove the germs, according to the CDC. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of water and break down molecular barriers. In other words, surfactants make your hands slippery and make it harder for dirt, debris, or germs to grab hold and stay.

Whether you use a bar or liquid soap, it reduces the microbe count on your skin by mechanical measures. Soap "pulls" off debris and anything else on your hands and moves it into the running water.


The earliest antibacterial soap was carbolic soap, which used up to 5% phenols (carbolic acid). Fears about the safety of carbolic soaps chemical components on the skin brought about a ban on some of these chemical components. [4]

Triclosan and other antibacterial agents have long been used in commercial cleaning products for hospitals and other healthcare settings, however they began to be used in home cleaning products during the 1990s. [3]

Triclosan and triclocarban are the most common compounds used as antibacterials in soaps. [5] However, other common antibacterial ingredients in soaps include benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. [6]

Claims that antibacterial soap is effective stem from the long-standing knowledge that triclosan can inhibit the growth of various bacteria, as well as some fungi. [2] However, more recent reviews have suggested that antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soaps at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on the hands of users. [2] [7]

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of the common antibacterial ingredients triclosan and triclocarban, and 17 other ingredients frequently used in "antibacterial" soaps and washes, due to insufficient information on the long-term health effects of their use and a lack of evidence on their effectiveness. The FDA stated "There is no data demonstrating that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water". [6] The agency also asserted that despite requests for such information, the FDA did not receive sufficient data from manufacturers on the long-term health effects of these chemicals. This ban does not apply to hand sanitizer. [5] This is due to the fact that hand sanitizer typically utilizes alcohol to kill microbes rather than triclosan or similar ingredients.

A 2017 statement by 200 scientists and medics published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives warns that anti-bacterial soaps and gels are useless and may cause harm [ citation needed ] . The statement also cautioned against the use of antimicrobial agents in food storage containers, exercise mats and paints. [8] [ medical citation needed ] British firm Unilever claimed in 2017 to be phasing triclosan and triclocarban out of their products by the end of the year, adding they would be replaced by “a range of alternatives, including natural and nature-inspired antibacterial ingredients”.

Claims have been made in the media that antibacterial soap is more effective than plain soap in the prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration both recommend plain soap there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are any better, and limited evidence that they might be worse long-term. [9]

The science of soap – here’s how it kills the coronavirus

V iruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days. Disinfectants, liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol are all useful at getting rid of them – but they are not quite as good as normal soap.

When I shared the information above using Twitter, it went viral. I think I have worked out why. Health authorities have been giving us two messages: once you have the virus there are no drugs that can kill it or help you get rid of it. But also, wash your hands to stop the virus spreading. This seems odd. You can’t, even for a million dollars, get a drug for the coronavirus – but your grandmother’s bar of soap kills the virus.

So why does soap work so well on the Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? The short story: because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.

The slightly longer story is that most viruses consist of three key building blocks: ribonucleic acid (RNA), proteins and lipids. A virus-infected cell makes lots of these building blocks, which then spontaneously self-assemble to form the virus. Critically, there are no strong covalent bonds holding these units together, which means you do not necessarily need harsh chemicals to split those units apart. When an infected cell dies, all these new viruses escape and go on to infect other cells. Some end up also in the airways of lungs.

When you cough, or especially when you sneeze, tiny droplets from the airways can fly up to 10 metres. The larger ones are thought to be the main coronavirus carriers and they can go at least two metres.

These tiny droplets end on surfaces and often dry out quickly. But the viruses remain active. Human skin is an ideal surface for a virus. It is “organic” and the proteins and fatty acids in the dead cells on the surface interact with the virus.

When you touch, say, a steel surface with a virus particle on it, it will stick to your skin and hence get transferred on to your hands. If you then touch your face, especially your eyes, nostrils or mouth, you can get infected. And it turns out that most people touch their face once every two to five minutes.

Washing the virus off with water alone might work. But water is not good at competing with the strong, glue-like interactions between the skin and the virus. Water isn’t enough.

Soapy water is totally different. Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, some of which are structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane. The soap molecules “compete” with the lipids in the virus membrane. This is more or less how soap also removes normal dirt from the skin.

The soap not only loosens the “glue” between the virus and the skin but also the Velcro-like interactions that hold the proteins, lipids and RNA in the virus together.