There’s no evidence antibacterial soaps are safe or effective, according to the FDA.
Think antibacterial hand soap is the best way to suds up? You may want to think again. Nineteen ingredients in over-the-counter antibacterial soaps, including the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, can no longer be sold, following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.
The review also found that the ingredients in antibacterial soap don’t prevent illness or infection any more effectively than plain soap and water, or that they’re safe for everyday use. In fact, some data suggests that long-term use of antibacterial products may contribute to bacterial resistance or issues with thyroid function and the endocrine system, including the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
Manufacturers of antibacterial products containing the 19 banned ingredients have one year to comply with the ruling and stop production.
Three additional ingredients will come under review in the next year. Companies using the chemicals benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol in consumer products will have one year to research and provide safety and effectiveness data to the FDA. Until then, the companies are permitted to continue producing and selling products containing the ingredients.
The FDA’s ruling doesn’t apply to antibacterial products used in doctor’s offices or hospitals, or alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels or wipes.
So, what’s the most effective way to clean your hands? Wet your hands with clean, running water and lather up with plain soap (don’t forget to clean under your fingernails!) for at least 20 seconds—or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
If you’re on the go, stick to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and avoid products containing tricolosan and triclocarban, as well as products labeled “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial.”