Is Hand Washing with Anti-bacterial or Aantimicrobial soaps or using Hand Sanitiser important?

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 03/10/18

"Doctor, If we do not eat antibiotics daily to prevent infection, then why do we use antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps or hand sanitizer daily on our skin?"


The reality is regular use of antibacterial soaps might not only increase the chance of getting infected from superbug but also contribute to extinction of aquatic life. FDA is reconsidering the safety of anti-bacterial like triclosan and Centre for disease control and prevention (CDC) also refutes the regular use of antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps or hand sanitizer at home.

Here are the reasons as to why regular use of antibacterial soaps or hand washes is NOT recommended:

  • The studies show that the bacterial count reduces to the same extent with anti-bacterial and ordinary soap when used correctly.

  • The anti-bacterial soap might kill the skin friendly bacteria as well.
  • Most widely used anti-bacterial triclosan could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.
  • Regular use of anti-bacterial in babies might affect the immunity because babies need to be exposed to bacteria to enable synthesis of antibodies that fight against infections.
  • Triclosan is toxic to aquatic animals; hence the water that drains from your washrooms might slowly diminish the aquatic life.
  • Regular use of anti-bacterial might lead to drug resistance, and development of superbugs which might not respond to normal antibiotics resulting in life threatening infections.
  • Anti-bacterial soaps do not protect you against common illnesses like cold and flu that are caused by viruses.

How do I wash my hands to promote a healthy living? 

CDC recommends the use of simple soap and warm water to clean your hands for at least 20 seconds with special attention to areas in between fingers, below nails and wrist. The hands should be dried thoroughly and the towels should be laundered in hot water. If water is not available, then alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in enough quantity so that it takes about 20 seconds before drying.The use of anti-bacterial soaps at home is recommended only if somebody is seriously ill at home or if one of the house members has a low immunity.

Dr Patrick Ottuso, author of the book "Kill 99.9%, the next Pandemic?" says “It is currently recommended to use soap and water for handwashing for approximately 30- 45 seconds (sing happy birthday twice to yourself!). Many of the hand sanitisers only kill 40-50 % of bacteria and increase bacterial resistance. In addition, people can be allergic to Triclosan and perfumes found in antibacterial soaps and sanitisers.”

CDC recommends that hands are a primary mode of fecal-oral and respiratory transmission and the specific indications for use of antiseptic hand products by the general public are:

  • Close physical contact with persons at high risk for infection (e.g., neonates, the very old, or immunosuppressed);
  • Close physical contact with infected persons;
  • Infection with an organism likely to be transmitted by direct contact (diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, skin infections); or
  • Work in a setting in which infectious disease transmission is likely (food preparation, crowded living quarters such as chronic-care residences, prisons, child-care centers, and preschools).

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