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Antibacterial Soap No Better And May Be Worse Than Plain Soap

  1. Aug 17, 2007 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    I have often wondered about this. AFAIK contact time is always important for antibacterial agents, but I checked some soap that we had which only says to wash hands, and rinse. .
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2007 #2

    Chi Meson

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    We have been using antibacterial hand soap for 6 years now. This coincides with changing diapers. I think that if we didn't have our fingers in **** several times a day, we wouldn't bother. And we scrub for some time too.

    Our youngest is 2 years old now, I think we're nearly done with poopers.
  4. Aug 17, 2007 #3
    I wipe my hands on my pants, like real men do. Man laws.
  5. Aug 17, 2007 #4
    I think I have read about this before.
  6. Aug 18, 2007 #5
    This is madness. The general public should not be generally using antibacterial soap or toothpaste if it is not necessary. I wonder how long it will take for us to return to the Dark Ages? I don't want to be around when broad spectrum antibiotics and general washing fails to protect us.
  7. Aug 18, 2007 #6


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    I was pretty sure this was old news.

    I have my doubts about pre-lathered soaps too. I keep encountering these more and more in public restrooms and don't understand the concept. Whether it's true or not, I always associate the foaming of soaps when you're scrubbing with them with them being effective at lifting away dirt from your hands. If the soap is already foamed, I'm not sure if that works. I also think that if you aren't taking enough time to wash your hands to lather up the soap, the problem isn't lack of soap lather, but lack of sufficient time washing your hands. What sort of lazy person can't lather up soap?

    I have to wonder how many people missed those pre-school lessons on handwashing that they think flicking their hands under the faucet does anything? 30 seconds of handwashing is the minimum for lathering up, and you need to wash ALL of your hand, not just rub your palms together...wash between your fingers too.

    Of course, I've realized it's nearly impossible to find non-antibacterial soap anymore...at least in terms of the liquid handsoaps. I prefer those over the mess a bar of soap leaves next to the sink. The last time I went shopping for them, I couldn't find any that didn't say antibacterial on it. Otherwise, I would only keep it in the cat's bathroom for when I scoop the litterbox.
  8. Aug 18, 2007 #7


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    We have a tough time finding regular liquid hand soap too, but it can be done.
  9. Aug 19, 2007 #8


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    Afaik, all liquid soaps and detergents (including shampoo) have always had fungicides and bactericides.
    Otherwise, they would quickly turn into gray goo as some life forms consider these good to eat.

    I never got around to finding out if what they are now advertising as antibacterial contains something additional or if they are just pointing out the existing condition.
  10. Aug 19, 2007 #9
    So, the question is how antibacterial soap ever became so widely used if there's no scientific evidence it's better than regular soap. Advertising hype alone?
  11. Aug 19, 2007 #10


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    Yep. The power of advertising is amazing. It came along with a whole slew of products aimed at germ-phobes. I'm trying to recall which came first, the antibacterial soap, or the hand sanitizer stuff (i.e., was the wide introduction and advertising of antibacterial soap a reaction to people going "soapless" with that hand sanitizer stuff that they perceived as better at killing germs, again, in spite of lack of any scientific evidence). The other products that have come along in the germ-phobe wake are things like disposable toilet scrubbers, bleach-soaked wipes for counter tops, etc.
  12. Aug 19, 2007 #11
    It has always been regarded as too much of a pain in the butt, even when lives are at stake:

    "He lectured publicly about his results in 1850, however, the reception by the medical community was cold, if not hostile. His observations went against the current scientific opinion of the time, which blamed diseases on an imbalance of the basical "humours" in the body. It was also argued that even if his findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman, as Semmelweis advised, would be too much work. Nor were doctors eager to admit that they had caused so many deaths."

  13. Aug 19, 2007 #12
    It's amazing. The way it was showing up everywhere as the newly accepted standard operating procedure for public soap dispensers automatically implied important official recommendation in my mind. Funny to find out it was all about catering to germophobes.
  14. Aug 19, 2007 #13
    Wonder how long it will take before they start adding vancomycin to the drinking water?
  15. Aug 19, 2007 #14


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    Didn't the USA just allow one of the last MRSA beating antibiotics to be used in beef cattle? So it probably already has been.

    Nice quote, I wonder at what point doctors will have saved enough lives to cancel out the number of people they killed?
  16. Aug 19, 2007 #15
    That would be a funny joke on the germophobes since:

    "Vancomycin never became first line treatment for Staphylococcus aureus for several reasons:

    1. The drug must be given intravenously, because it is not absorbed orally."

  17. Aug 19, 2007 #16
    In another version of the story I read it was pointed out that the majority of pregnant women being treated at the Vienna hospital were low-income or impoverished, and it wasn't considered of much importance if they and their children died. All this handwashing was really too much trouble in their case.
  18. Aug 19, 2007 #17
    Using antibacterial ingredients it in hand soap is a joke on the germophobes as well. The question was really 'what is the next ignorant thing they make up to try and save people when it is actually harmful'.
  19. Aug 19, 2007 #18
    This particular problem, increasingly resistant strains of bacteria, is allegedly primarily an iatrogenic one: a long period of doctors misprescibing antibiotics in cases of flu virus. The word has gotten out though, and they've stopped doing this.
  20. Aug 19, 2007 #19


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    The anti-bacterial hand washes they have started putting at the entrances to all the wards in the UK seem to be just alcohol - presumably bacteria aren't going to build up an immunity to having their cells dehydrated.

    Next question is do you use them on the way in or out ? Personally I try to keep my hands in my pockets in hospitals ( as well as in biochemistry and high voltage labs)
  21. Aug 19, 2007 #20
    I don't know. But if this method works, it's not clear to me why doctors and surgeons don't simply immerse their arms in a tub of alcohol rather than go through a lengthy medical wash up.
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