With us all washing our hands more than ever due to Coronavirus (a scary concept, when we should all have been washing them before hand… pun alert!) sales of antibacterial soaps have shot through the roof. But, are they really any better than the good old fashioned bar of soap?
Antibacterial soap is often found in liquid form and sold in a pump bottle. It contains active antimicrobial ingredients which are not found in bars of solid soap. Regular soap bars work by lifting dirt and germs from the skin’s surface, making it easily washed away.
Which is better?
It may surprise you to hear that antibacterial soaps are no more effective at removing germs than a soap bar, hot water and effective hand washing, using the correct method. Although a soap bar does not contain antibacterial ingredients, it has been proven to wash away virus causing germs to the same effect as antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap and a poor hand washing method will not remove germs effectively, despite the soap being antibacterial. Just because it claims to be antibacterial, it is not a magic potion for the eradication of germs.
Using antibacterial soap will of course kill bad bacteria, but it shouldn’t be over used. Overusing antibacterial products can strip your hands of essential oils and necessary good bacteria that is needed to keep your skin healthy. Over using this kind of soap can leave you with skin irritations such as eczema flare ups, dry skin and sore open wounds.
Studies have shown that heavy use of antibacterial soaps can cause bacteria resistance. Studies proved that a small subset of a bacteria population developed a random mutation allowing it to survive exposure to the chemical which kills germs. If that chemical is used frequently enough, it’ll kill other bacteria, but allowing this resistant subset to proliferate. If this happens on a large enough scale, it can essentially render that chemical useless. It’s a reason why doctors now wont prescribe antibiotics without strong reason, as we are becoming antibiotic resistant.
Soap bars still remove all of the necessary bad bacteria, but it does not remove the healthy bacteria on the skin’s surface. A bar of soap is better for the environment, using less plastic and a reduced manufacturing process. Bars of soap are often cheaper and last a lot longer. Of course you can buy antibacterial soap refills, that you simply decant into a soap dispenser or reusing a previous plastic pump bottle. But, these are still sold in plastic packaging. Yes, they can be recycled, but recycling is still far less favourable environmentally than being zero waste or compostable waste.
So, there you have it. Soap bars will do the same job as antibacterial soaps, less plastic, cost less and last longer. Of course, for any type soap to be just as effective in the fight against germs, you must wash your hands properly. A quick rinse under the tap isn’t going to do the job. Watch this video below to remind yourself how you should be doing it!
Ready, Steady, Wash
We started using soap bars when we made an effort to become a Zero Waste household. You can read more about that journey here. Along with liquid soap we also ditched bottle shower gels, bubble baths and shampoo, making the step to use bar versions of each of these items, with huge success.
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