Antibacterial vs Regular Soap – Which Is Better?

I wash my hands. A lot. Every time I use the bathroom, before each client, after each client, every time I touch money, when I walk into the house, just before I walk out of the house, before I touch food, after I’ve touched any door handle…you get the picture. My hands have never been so clean or so dry and chapped!  I love scented soaps: those smells that can transport you to a tropical island or your favourite cozy holiday.  And of course, the best smells come from the anti-bacterial type of soaps, but I’m not imagining that these soaps end up hurting my hands the most. So do the anti-bacterial varieties actually do a better job of cleaning my hands than regular soap? 

According to Christy Reed, UNESCO Science Communications Consultant, water alone may rinse off dirt, but viruses and bacteria are so small they often need chemical and mechanical intervention to get their sticky nanoparticles out of the crevices that make up our unique fingerprints. Soap is made for this job. Give soap 20 seconds, at least, of thorough scrubbing and the pin-shaped molecules will penetrate the types of bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, that protect themselves with an oily lipid membrane. Like a nail popping a tire, the water-repelling end of the soap molecule, a hydrophobic tail that can bond with oil and fats, stabs COVID-19 and leaves the virus a deflated and broken sack of RNA cells. Scrubbing all parts of your hands and wrists vigorously, with a sudsy lather, is key to locking these invading particles away for good – and washing them down the drain. And whether the water is cold or warm doesn’t matter, so long as it’s soapy. And while alcohol can also break an oily membrane, washing with soap has the added benefit of physically removing even tougher to break viruses and bacteria from the skin.

I used to believe that one step better than regular soap MUST be antibacterial. Unfortunately, when it comes to fighting COVID-19, antibacterial soaps and sanitizing gels are not more helpful than regular soap. Antibacterial products do not affect viruses at all and gels are useless unless they include at least 60% alcohol. Further-more, whatever bacteria do survive can evolve to become resistant to the antibacterial products in the future. Why take the chance of making bacteria stronger when all you need is a little soap and water? Using sanitizing gel is a great alternative when soap and water are not available. It’s portable and as long as it includes at least 60% alcohol, is pretty effective.

At the end of the day, it’s more important to focus on your hand-washing technique, than what type of soap you use. Even anti-bacterial soap can’t do it’s job if you don’t put in the recommended 20 seconds of wringing and rubbing. My recommendation: Save with regular soap and splurge on a lovely moisturizer. If you’re washing right, you’re going to need it!