Who wants bad guys on their hands? Literally, no one! These bad guys or rather germs are one of those creatures without whom we can’t survive and the ones who are responsible for many died at the same time.
So, before talking about the effectiveness of soap, let’s shift our question to whether it’s “right” to make our hands sterile, or is it right to kill a few harmful bacterias only? Well, only after answering this question, the effectiveness of soap will be apparently clear.
In settings which need total sterility, strong antibacterial soaps should be preferred, for example- in an ICU setting, operation theater, and other critical situation where immunity of a person is minimum, we cannot risk contamination.
Similarly, in our daily activity, it’s very fine to have few good bacteria, because if you are using a strong soap to clean your hands, it might result in your hands’ epithelial loss causing dry hands and increased chemical loads resulting in storage of chemical in our body fat. So, let’s talk about the effectiveness of soap, keeping both skincare and sterility in mind!
There is a concept in everyone’s mind that “antibacterial soap” and “regular soap” are quite different in their effectiveness. Well, that’s true to some extent, but not much difference is seen in the soap’s content.
What is Antibacterial Soap?
Those soaps which are explicitly designed to kill the micro-organism (to have a bactericidal effect) and make our hands sterile are known as antibacterial soap. These soaps contain a particular chemical agent, which makes them stand out from the regular soap that we use.
How Is Antibacterial Soap Different from Regular Soap?
Looking at the content of the soap, it’s quite strange that only a few ingredients are different, while the other material is quite similar. Regular soap contains DEA, Glycerin, Isopropyl Alcohol, BHT, Triclosan, Alkali, and sodium tallowate, while the antibacterial soaps contain: Triclosan and triclocarban in an increased amount- making it very clear that not much is different between these two varieties of soap.
Nevertheless, antibacterial soap promises to kill many bacteria than regular ones and it is right in some aspects. For example- triclosan in the antibacterial soap makes the outer membrane of bacteria permeable, resulting in increased osmolarity of the bacterial cell, which kills the organism. This is one of the reasons why antibacterial soap is considered effective, as the concentration of triclosan is very high.
Researches and Theories on Antibacterial Soap
The effectiveness of normal soap and the antibacterial soap has remained debatable ever since the “triclosan” has been added to the soap. So, here are some researches that have given fascinating conclusions on the effectiveness of both the soaps.
1. Research of Min-Suk Rhee and colleagues at Korea University, Seoul
This research was done taking 0.3% triclosan soap (antibacterial soap) and plain soap. The team exposed 20 strains of bacteria to plain soap and the antibacterial soap at room temperature of 20-degree celsius; similarly, few volunteers’ hands were exposed to Serratia marcescens bacteria, and they were asked to wash hands (one team with plain soap and the other with antibacterial soap). Not much difference was observed, and the bactericidal effect of both the soap seemed similar. The only difference was that even after 9 hours, antibacterial soap had prolonged bactericidal impact, which was not observed in regular soap.
2. Antibacterial soap use and impacts on skin microbial communities in rural Madagascar
This study was conducted by James J.Yu and the team to see the bactericidal action that triclosan and triclocarban containing soap had on skin compared to regular soaps that people used in Madagascar. Moreover, the results showed that the use of anti-bacterial soap had no or minimal impact on decreasing the incidence of disease.
3. View Of Don Schaffner
Don Schaffner at Rutgers University, who has conducted meta-analyses and risk modeling studies of triclosan, says, ‘this work adds minimally to the debate over the use of triclosan in consumer soaps.’ According to him, a well-concentrated anti-bacterial soap with the right formulation has much bactericidal effect than the regular soap that we use.
Furthermore, the antibacterial soaps were invented to make hands more sterile; however, according to most of the researches, it is quite evident that not much difference is notable between anti-bacterial and regular soap.
Reasons to Not Use Antibacterial Soap for Household purposes
We should not use Antibacterial soap for household purposes. Here are the reasons why,
- Irritant contact dermatitis is one of the most common manifestations amongst health workers who constantly use anti-bacterial soap
- Due to the removal of natural oils and emollients, the normal epithelial of hands are sloughed off resulting in cracks and skin damage
- Allergic contact dermatitis due to triclosan is very rare but can occur in individuals who is prone to hypersensitive reactions
- Chlorhexidine is also well tolerated but sometimes it might lead to anaphylaxis
From all the researches, we can conclude that regular soap and anti-bacterial soap are equally effective when it comes to removing germs; however, the anti-bacterial soaps are more bactericidal for sure due to the content. Nonetheless, it’s better to prefer regular soap over anti-bacterial ones for daily use as only making your hands sterile won’t do much, but protecting your skin’s epithelium will surely give you full benefit for sure.
Reference: NCBI | European Commission | Chemistry World