When should you use anti-bacterial soap?

Soap is a salt of a fatty acid used in a variety of cleansing and lubricating products. In a domestic setting, soaps are surfactants usually used for washing and bathing.

What Makes Soap ‘Antibacterial’

Antibacterial soaps (sometimes called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps) contain certain chemicals not found in plain soaps. Those ingredients are added to many consumer products with the intent of reducing or preventing bacterial infection.

The most common compounds used as anti-bacterial in soaps are:

Triclosan- abbreviated as TCS, is an antibacterial and antifungal agent present in some consumer products, including toothpaste, soaps, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning treatments. It is similar in its uses and mechanism of action to triclocarban. Its efficacy as an antimicrobial agent, the risk of antimicrobial resistance, and its possible role in disrupted hormonal development remains controversial. Additional research seeks to understand its potential effects on organisms and environmental health.

 Triclocarban- abbreviated as TCC, is an antibacterial chemical once common in, but now phased out of, personal care products like soaps and lotions. It was originally developed for the medical field. Although the mode of action is unknown, TCC can be effective in fighting infections by targeting the growth of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. Additional research seeks to understand its potential for causing antibacterial resistance and its effects on organismal and environmental health.

However, other common antibacterial ingredients in soaps include

Benzalkonium chloride, –  abbreviated as BZK, BKC, BAK, BAC, also known as alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride (ADBAC) and by the trade name Zephiran,  is a type of cationic surfactant. It is an organic salt classified as a quaternary ammonium compound. ADBACs have three main categories of use: as a biocide, a cationic surfactant, and a phase transfer agent. ADBACs are a mixture of alkylbenzyldimethylammonium chlorides, in which the alkyl group has various even-numbered alkyl chain lengths.

Benzethonium chloride- also known as hyamine, a synthetic quaternary ammonium salt. This compound is an odorless white solid, soluble in water. It has surfactant, antiseptic, and anti-infective properties, and it is used as a topical antimicrobial agent in first aid antiseptics. It is also found in cosmetics and toiletries such as soap, mouthwashes, anti-itch ointments, and antibacterial moist towelettes. Benzethonium chloride is also used in the food industry as a hard surface disinfectant.

Chloroxylenol- also known as para-chloro-meta-xylenol (PCMX), is an antiseptic and disinfectant which is used for skin disinfection, and together with alcohol for cleaning surgical instruments. It is also used within a number of household disinfectants and wound cleaners.It is thought to act by disrupting microbial cell walls and inactivating cellular enzymes,and is less effective than some other available agents.It is available as a liquid.

How do you tell if a product is antibacterial?

anti-bacterial liquid hand wash with anti-bacterial label

For over the counter (OCT) drugs, antibacterial products generally have the word “antibacterial” on the label. Also, a Drug Facts label on a soap or body wash is a sign a product contains antibacterial ingredients.


The earliest antibacterial soap was carbolic soap, which used up to 5% phenols (carbolic acid). Fears about the safety of carbolic soaps chemical components on the skin brought about a ban on some of these chemical components.

Triclosan and other antibacterial agents have long been used in commercial cleaning products for hospitals and other healthcare settings, however they began to be used in home cleaning products during the 1990s.

What Does Antibacterial Soap Do?

The active ingredient in Anti-Bacterial hand soaps kill 99.9% of bacteria found in household settings within 30 seconds. Antibacterial soap can better protect you from commonly transmitted bacteria better than washing your hands with non-antibacterial soap and water. Fewer bacteria on the hands may help prevent illnesses and result in fewer instances of cross-contamination of food and other household surfaces.

Benefits of Antibacterial Soap

Now that you know how antibacterial soap works, it is important to understand the key benefits of antibacterial soap.

Here are just a few advantages associated with certain types of antibacterial soaps.

Antibacterial bar soaps have similar benefits to their liquid counterparts. Anti-bacterial Bar Soap also kills 99.9% of bacteria encountered in household settings.

Those who prefer bar soap will be pleased to discover that the antibacterial bar soap’s fresh scent and round-the-clock odor protection leave the skin feeling healthy and refreshed. On top of its antibacterial achievements, bar soap can often last longer.

Who Should Use Antibacterial Soap

a person washing hand with an anti-bacterial soap

Anyone who values good personal hygiene can benefit from using antibacterial soap. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, using antibacterial soaps both before and after handling food, can also help you combat the spread of bacteria, food-borne illness and cross contamination.

Antibacterial Soap: Pros and Cons


  • Kills bad bacteria
  • Hand sanitizer is an effective alternative when you don’t have access to soap and water
  • Hand sanitizer is available in portable travel sizes so it can go everywhere you go


  • The added chemicals can remove your natural oils, which can dry out your skin
  • Tends to kills both good and bad bacteria, which may make antibiotics ineffective against new strains of bacteria
  • Costs more than regular soap
  • Too much can lead to dry skin that cracks, increasing your risk of infection

When should you use anti-bacterial soap?

bottle dispensers with hand wash (anti=bacterial) on the shelf

An individual can use anti-bacterial soap when needed and when directed by the health care provider.

If a person values good personal hygiene using anti-bacterial soap is a very good option.

Food handlers can also opt to use anti- bacterial soap before handling food.

Meanwhile it should be noted that to avoid the spread of bacteria, food-borne illness and cross contamination anti-bacterial soap must be left on your hands for about two minutes in order to have any effect on bacteria.

Generally people use soap before, during, and after preparing food. Before and after eating food. Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea. Before and after treating a cut or wound. What more, if anti-bacterial soap is used, you will be better protected from commonly transmitted bacteria.

Using antibacterial soap is a great way to maintain healthy, soft, and clear skin and prevent bad bacteria buildup.  Normally, your regular soap will do just fine, but it’s always good to give your skin a good cleanse every once in a while. If you’ve had a few dirty days at work, have bad body odor or dry and itchy skin, or just want to give your skin the care it deserves, antibacterial soap is something you’ll need.

Most soaps will clean the dirt and grime off your skin, as well as its natural oils but regular soaps are not made for removing or clearing your skin of the millions of bacteria that live on it. Some of these are harmless, and many, you will never even notice.

Some bacteria and fungi can be dangerous, infections caused by these can be painful and irritating, take a while to get rid of, and may involve time-consuming treatments or medications, so using antibacterial soap is a great option.