Study shows hand washing with antibacterial soap is more effective in reducing bacteria

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

New research into the differences between antibacterial and non-antibacterial soaps has found that hand washing with the former produces statistically greater reductions in bacteria on the skin.

The findings analysed the effectiveness of the personal care products and formed part of a review carried out by researchers from the Rutgers University in New Jersey which featured in the November 2011 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Food Protection.

Determine the differences

University researchers Donald Schaffner and Rebecca Montville conducted analysis of existing data in order to determine if there was a difference in effectiveness between antibacterial and non-antibacterial soaps

"A difference in the effectiveness of antimicrobial and non-antimicrobial soaps appears to exist and is repeatedly observed through a variety of analyses; antimicrobial soap is consistently and statistically always more effective than non-antimicrobial soap,"​ they stated.

"Although differences in efficacy between antimicrobial and non-antimicrobial soap may be relatively small, they do exist, and small but significant differences in pathogen levels on hands can have a significant effect on public health,"​ they continued.

Affects variety of bacteria

Schaffner added that as well as the initial findings on antimicrobial effectiveness, both he and Montville were struck by the similar behavior of very different species of bacteria in response to antibacterial soap.

“In other words, we found that antibacterial soap did its job against a variety of bacteria, including E. coli and Staph,"​ he said.

The research article, ‘A Meta-Analysis of the Published Literature on the Effectiveness of Antimicrobial Soap,’ reviewed a total of 25 publications containing 374 observations found to have examined use of both antibacterial and non-antibacterial soap in the same study.

The research in the Journal of Food Protection (Vol. 74, No. 11 2011, Pages 1875-1882) was supported by the Topical Antimicrobial Coalition, which consists of the American Cleaning Institute and the Personal Care Products Council.

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