How are antibacterial soaps so not better than plain soap?
- Unlike antibacterial soap, plain soap doesn't increase the risk of infections
- Unlike antibacterial soap, plain soap doesn't mess up your gut's good bacteria
- Unlike antibacterial soap, plain soap doesn't help bad bacteria turn into potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs
Failing the 30-second testThis all started with an objective: to create an antibacterial chemical compound that thoroughly cleans one's hands—in less than the 30 seconds required of typical soap and warm water that's been standard practice since, well, forever. Fair enough. And it seemed that the most common antibacterials found in those chemical non-soaps, called triclosan and triclocarban, could do the job—almost. They took out bacteria, but guess how long it took? Like, say, 30 seconds or more? Verdict? “There’s evidence that there is no improvement with using soaps that have these chemicals relative to washing your hands under warm water for 30 seconds with soaps without these chemicals,” says civil engineer Patrick McNamara of Marquette University in Milwaukee.
But the chemicals multiplied anyway … like bacteria
- Body washes
- Toothpastes (!!)
- Household cleaners
- Medical equipment … and more.
A nose for troubleA University of Michigan study found triclosan in the noses of 41 percent of their subjects. That's very not OK. Lab rats were exposed to triclosan and the notorious Staphylococcus aureus bacteria—a top five cause of infections after injury or surgery, affecting some 500,000 patients in US hospitals annually. Even though triclosan is supposed to kill bacteria, the triclosan rats were twice as likely to become staph-infected as those without triclosan exposure. That alone sets off alarms. But there's more.
Gut feelingI'm convinced that disruptions in our good gut bacteria (our microbiome) are the cause of most of today’s most common health problems. Guess who's a very guilty disruptor? A preliminary Oregon State University study suggests that adding triclosan to a lab animal's healthy, balanced microbiome throws its diversity and community structure way out of whack. Another study found that mother rats exposed to triclocarban passed it on to their babies, disrupting both mother's and baby's microbiomes. With 70 percent or more of our immune system dependent on a healthy microbiome, this is a wide open door for all sorts of health problems. And we're told these "soaps" are good for us?
Flush with chemicalsThen there's the matter of where these chemicals go, and what they do, after people ingest or use them. Almost all go down the drain to wastewater treatment plants. One study found that triclosan didn't just prevent the microbes designed to break down sewage from doing their job. It also sharply increased the presence of a gene that protects bacteria against the triclosan that's supposed to kill them. Research is also underway investigating whether this gene also helps create extremely dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria—superbugs. One study showed that triclocarban had the same effect as triclosan—disrupting the microbial communities that digest sewage and yes, creating superbug-friendly conditions. Superbugs, of course, are yet another unforeseen consequence of the chemical industry's miserable meddling. They're known to leak out of treatment plants into big-city and small-town water systems, where they can seriously threaten local plants, animals, and people. You don't want to be part of that problem. And you don't have to be. Healthy alternatives to "antibacterial" and "antimicrobial" "soaps." Do yourself and the environment a huge favor and rid your home of these dangerous imposters. These are
- Handwashing and bathing: Plain soap. And warm water…for at least 30 seconds.
- All-purpose cleaner and disinfectant: Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and distilled white vinegar. Spray on kitchen counters, bathroom fixtures, other surfaces to kill 90 percent of bacteria and spores. A fragrant essential oil is a nice optional addition.
- Glass cleaner: Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water, then spray.
- Toilet bowl cleaner: Pour 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar into toilet. Add 1/2-cup baking soda. Scrub bowl while the mixture bubbles and foams.
- Wood cleaner and nourisher: Mix 1 cup mild, biodegradable, vegetable-based liquid soap with 1/2 cup linseed oil and a few drops of essential oil.
- All-purpose degreaser: In a large bucket, mix 3–4 cups white vinegar with 1 cup baking soda. (It will bubble and foam—it's OK.) Great for walls, woodwork, and you—no rinsing, no residue.