First, let’s look at how soap works:
1. It’s made out of sodium hydroxide and fat
2. When these are combined, fatty acids separate from triglycerides and bind to hydroxide–making a salt we call “soap”
3. One part of the soap attracts water and the other part repels it
4. The hydrophobic fatty acids bind to other hydrophobic substances (dirt, bacteria, etc)
5. The bound dirt and bacteria become encapsulated in water droplets and are washed away
Ordinary soap does get rid of bacteria. So the real question is whether or not antibacterial soap does a better job, and if so, do we need that?
Support for regular soap use:
- Having some bacteria is beneficial to us because it “eats” sweat and protects against some dangerous bacteria
- bacteria may develop resistance to antibacterial agents over time
- antibacterial agents in soap actually need to be left on the skin for 2 minutes to work—who washes their hands for two minutes!?
- many sicknesses we experience are viruses and antibacterial soaps are useless against a virus
Considering these points, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that washing your hands with warm water and soap is the best method. Wash for at least 20 seconds (sing the ABCs if you’d rather not count!). It makes a difference when you do wash, but hesitate before you reach for the antibacterial soap.