Triclosan is a widely used antibacterial and anti-fungal ingredient; it is found in soap, detergents, and almost every cleansing products we use. However, besides its so claimed antibacterial and anti fungal properties and being chemically flagged as potentially dangerous, scientists at Korea University have finally discovered that using antibacterial soap containing triclosan is no more effective than using regular soap in killing germs.

Washing hands with antibacterial soap containing triclosan no better than regular soap.

The paper, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, examined how triclosan in soaps reacts to 20 dangerous bacterial strains (proposed by the FDA). When researchers looked at the bactericidal effects of triclosan in soaps against all 20 strains and compared the effectiveness of antibacterial soap and non-antibacterial soap in removing bacteria from human hands, they found no significant difference between the effects of plain soap and antibacterial soap.

The researchers then went on further investigation to find the difference in bactericidal effect between antibacterial and non-antibacterial soaps outside the lab, so they simulated the conditions of human hand washing and exposed the bacteria for 20 seconds at 22 degree Celsius (room temperature) and 40 degree Celsius (warm temperature) to triclosan with a concentration of 0.3% – maximum allowed in products sold in the European Union, Canada, Australia, China and Japan.

The researchers found that triclosan did not kill more bacteria than regular soaps even after 20 seconds, which is the length of time required for hand washing as recommended by the World Health Organization. However its effectiveness kicked in after more than nine hours.

So in order to kill the germs, they have to be soaked in triclosan for over nine hours. Well, I expect nobody to wash their hands for nine hours.

“Advertisement and consumer belief regarding the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps needs to be addressed,” said M.S. Rhee, lead author of the study.

The researchers said consumers need to be addressed about the ineffectiveness of the antibacterial soap and using plain non-antibacterial regular soap with water will be as effective as using antibacterial soap in removing germs from hands.

Min Suk Rhee, co-author of the study said, “It should be banned to exaggerate the effectiveness of… products which can confuse consumers.”

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