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Should You Toss Your Antibacterial Soap?

Tim Boyer's picture
Nineteen chemicals to be removed from antibacterial products

Should you toss your antibacterial soap? Recent news buzz has it that what you have bought in the past will not be available in the near future due to an FDA ruling. Here’s what you need to know about what is going on with the antibacterial soaps you use to protect your family from germs.


According to a recent report from NBC News, the FDA is telling manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) consumer-grade antiseptic wash products―including liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes―that those containing any of 19 identified chemicals commonly used, that manufacturers are to cease producing them and switch over to antibacterial chemicals that are proven to be both effective and safe in the long term.

However, unlike most news items you hear about the FDA, this is not because any of the 19 identified antibacterial chemical ingredients were found to be unsafe, only that the manufacturers of such products have failed to convince the FDA that any of their products are better than plain old soap and water.

“There’s no data demonstrating that these drugs [antibacterial agents such as triclosan] provide additional protection from diseases and infections. Using these products might give people a false sense of security,” says Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products.

A second issue here is based on whether long-term use of the product, i.e. exposure to chemicals used, is proven safe due to concerns that long-term exposure may be adding to the antibiotic resistance problem and/or act as potential endocrine disruptors.

Here are 17 Beauty Products You Should Avoid Just for That Reason

Here’s the NBC News Report Video:

Practical Advice on Fighting Germs

“Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” says Dr. Michele. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”

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What the FDA Ruling Does Not Include

But don’t be in a rush to toss out anything labeled “antibacterial.” You can continue to use your antibacterial soaps safely to save on money.

Furthermore, the ruling does not currently apply to other personal germ-fighting products such as hand sanitizers and hand wipes, or even antibacterial soaps that are used in health care settings, such as hospitals or the nursing home you may have a loved one living in.

However, according to the FDA, a proposed rule was made this past June requesting additional scientific data from manufacturers showing that the active ingredients in hand sanitizers are generally recognized as safe and effective to reduce bacteria on skin.

Bacteria Basics

For more about understanding what germs are and what makes them both good and bad, here is an informative article about the Top 10 FAQs about a Common Bacteria. Plus, here are 5 Things You Touch Every Day That Are Dirtier than Your Toilet!


NBC News “FDA: No Soap for You!”

FDA.gov Consumer Updates “Antibacterial Soap? You Can Skip It―Use Plain Soap and Water