The Biggest Myth About Your Hand Soap You Can Stop Believing

Yes, hand-washing is critical amid coronavirus. But here's one thing you don't have to worry about.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long recommended at least a 20 seconds of thorough hand-washing with warm or hot water to avoid contracting or passing on the COVID-19 contagion. But you might've been under the impression that only antibacterial soap works as a preventive measure. Turns out, you'd be wrong.

Antibacterial soap may sound a lot better than the standard bar of soap. But it's important to remember that the coronavirus is just that—a virus, not a bacterial infection. So antibacterial soap doesn't offer any extra protection at all. The CDC even notes that "studies have not found any added health benefit from using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients when compared with plain soap."

In fact, antibacterial soap could be hurting you. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) notes that "some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients could do more harm than good in the long-term and more research is needed." In 2016, the FDA even banned 19 supposedly antibacterial additives commonly found in over-the-counter soaps.

"There's no data demonstrating that these drugs provide additional protection from diseases and infections. Using these products might give people a false sense of security," Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA's Division of Nonprescription Drug Products, said in a statement. "If you use these products because you think they protect you more than soap and water, that's not correct."

All soap is hydrophobic, as Time explains:

Soap has a hydrophobic end (meaning it repels and doesn't mix with water) that binds with oils, and breaks down the oily lipid molecules that make up the membrane of SARS-CoV-2, according to Dr. Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. The virus breaks apart and becomes trapped in the soap bubbles, which wash away in the water.

So don't waste money on antibacterial soap as a means to keep yourself safe from COVID-19. It turns out, it's not actually making any sort of positive difference. And for more helpful advice on staying safe, check out 7 "Safe" Places Where You Could Catch Coronavirus.

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