• Featured News

    Infectious Diseases A-Z: Antibacterial soaps

closeup of adult male hands washing with soap and running water in a sink

Washing your hands is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of disease, and you don't need more than simple soap and water to do so.  The  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with soap and water. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh agrees, stating, "There is no evidence that adding antibacterial material to products have any improvement in the detergent's effect of the soap."

Watch: Dr. Pritish Tosh discuss anti-bacterial soaps.

"It appears as though the addition of anti-bacterial material to soap is marketing only," says Dr. Tosh. "On top of that, we are running into issues internationally of multi-drug-resistant organisms, and the more antibiotics we use, the more we are contributing to the growing issue of antibiotic drug resistance. We have a product that has not shown to have any benefits over regular soap, and has potential harm in perpetuating multi-drug-resistant organisms."

Anti-bacterial soaps, sometimes called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps, often contain triclosan. Research shows the compound may alter hormone regulation in animals, contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, and harm the immune system.

The FDA says some over-the-counter consumer products can not be marketed. These include liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes, which contain the majority of the antibacterial active ingredients with triclosan and triclocarban.  The bottom line: The next time you reach for the soap to wash your hands, keep it simple, and use soap and water.