Friday, June 30, 2006

Tip: The Antibacterial Soap Diatribe

Hey! It's still June for another few hours, and I refuse to let an entire month go by without any posts! But this is the only thing I've got already written (lots of photos, no descriptions - next month!!) So, for what it's worth, the diatribe . . .

Look, if you want to waste/spend the money on antibacterial ‘soaps,’ well, it’s your money. But if you do, learn to use them properly. If you do not, you’re asking for trouble.

First, antibacterial ‘soap’ is not soap. Soap is a type of ‘detergent.’ It works by messing about with the surface tension of water and other fluids so as to lift dirt and grease and bacteria up from the surface of your skin so you can rinse it all away with rushing water. Soap works by physically removing bacteria from your skin and floating it down the drain.

An antibacterial agent works by remaining in direct contact with the cell wall of a bacterium until it can infiltrate the cell and kill it. That process takes time. At least three minutes, for the strength of antibacterials that can be bought over the counter.

Unfortunately, if you were to put antibacterial agents into soap, the surface tension-float-it-away trick serves to keep the antibacterial away from the bacterium, just the way it lifts the bacterium from your skin. No contact, no kill, and therefore, no proper use of the term “antibacterial.” So, ‘antibacterial soaps’ use a different base emulsion to suspend the antibacterial agent and keep it in contact with the bacteria on the surface of your skin.

But if you don’t keep the goop in contact with your skin for the full three minutes (or maybe more, depending on product), you won’t kill anything. And when you rinse the goop off your hands, because it does not perform the same sort of detergent action that soap does, you leave all the live bacteria on your skin. You’ve wasted your money, your time, and you have not cleaned your hands!

So you choose. Three minutes of continuous rubbing (preferably with a brush) to give the antibacterial stuff time to do its job. Or, a quick scrub with soap, a quick rinse with water, and your hands are clean.


  1. Hell yeah! seriously, i bitch about this all the time... the surfactant effect, the surfactant effect, the surfactant effect. but does anyone ever listen to (or trust!) me! great post!

  2. Anonymous6:25 PM

    AND...the too-short-time exposure might also contribute to a mutation (pretty much along the same lines as someone not taking their antibiotic for however long the doctor ordered).

  3. Anonymous9:18 PM

    Harsh. Looks pretty disgusting.