Antibacterial Soaps: Products of the Past?

Antibacterial soaps earn FDA disapproval in final ruling

(RxWiki News) Whether antibacterial soap is truly safe to use has been a longstanding question — and it's one that may have finally been answered.

The answer comes from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has issued a final ruling on its stance on antibacterial soap. The agency advised against companies continuing to market these products.

That's because these companies did not show that the ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, are safe to use daily for long periods of time, nor have they shown them to be more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of infections.

In fact, use of soaps and body washes that are labeled "antibacterial" for a long period of time has raised some safety concerns. Long-term use of antibacterial products may be tied to bacterial resistance and hormonal effects.

Triclosan and triclocarban are just two of the 19 specific ingredients the FDA is warning about. This ruling does not include hand sanitizers or antibacterial products that are used in health care settings. 

Washing with plain soap and water remains the best way the public can reduce the chance of becoming sick and prevent the spread of germs. If for any reason plain soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends choosing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Some companies have started removing active ingredients like triclosan and triclocarban from their antibacterial products.

The FDA has given companies one year to either remove their products from the market or change the formula to no longer contain antibacterial active ingredients.

What to look out for in over-the-counter products? The word "antibacterial" — antibacterial products generally include the word on their labels. In addition, if the soap or body wash product has a drug facts label, that means the product likely contains antibacterial ingredients.

Instead, skip the antibacterial soap and use plain soap and water, the FDA recommends.