THE CLAIM: antibacterial soap keeps you healthier than regular soap.


THE ANALYSIS: Wanna obliterate 99.9% of those germs that’ll make you sick? Buy a dozen products labeled “anti-bacterial” and you’ll never catch a cold again! Do we tell this claim to bug off, or does it contain a microbe of truth?


In the olden days, long ago, soap and water used to do the trick. Today, soap and water are passé; instead, 70 percent of soap products are antibacterial along with everything from sponges to dishwashing liquid to air fresheners and even kids’ scissors (I’m not joking—I just bought a pair!). But are we really getting any healthier, or has our generation become infected with a contagious advertising campaign? Here’s the dirt…


While the thought of bacteria has us crawling to the store to buy yet another hand sanitizer, bacteria can be our friend—our bodies are actually swarming with good, healthy bacteria that is necessary for our survival. Antibacterial soaps and gels, usually featuring triclosan, a chemical prized for its antibacterial properties, may be effective at killing bacteria but have no hold over viruses, which contribute to far more common household illness such as colds and flu. By letting down our defenses, thinking we’re immune from illness by using top-of-the-line antibacterial products, we may be less cautious about taking acting measures against picking up a virus or two.


There’s a darker side to antibacterial products, and it’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers are studying the long-term effects of antibacterial soaps and their possible contribution to making bacteria resistant to antibiotic medication. And how’s this for a splash of cold water? Those antibacterial chemicals go somewhere after we lather them on our hands—right? Our wastewater, already contaminated by flushed medications and other harmful substances, becomes that much worse off by your prodigious use of Antimicrobial Palmolive.


And while we hate to burst your soap bubble, antibacterial agents usually kick in after two whole minutes of scrubbing those hands. Sure you’ve got the patience to eliminate those germs?


THE VERDICT: The only sure thing antibacterial products will kill is your budget. Try coming clean on this trend and buy good ol’ soap. It’s like making a peace truce with the germs: We’ll leave you alive. You leave us alone.


Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on

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