Soap bars are just as effective as hand wash and sanitiser, according to experts

Bar soap is making a comeback which is great news for our health and the health of the planet. Unfortunately, many people perceive an old fashioned bar of soap as less effective at keeping us healthy than modern liquid antibacterial hand washes and sanitisers. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Here’s what experts say about the effectiveness of soap bars:

How does soap work?

Microbes stick to the oil our hands naturally produce. When you wash your hands with soap and water, the soap breaks down the oil chemically while the friction from rubbing your hands together does it mechanically.

Medical experts often recommend bar soaps over liquid hand wash because rubbing the bar between our hands while lathering creates more friction. Yep, your grandma's florally pink soap does the job just as well as the most expensive antibacterial sanitiser on the market.

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Soap bars are just as effective as hand wash and sanitiser


Experts agree bar soap can be just as, if not more, effective than liquid soap and hand sanitisers

While aiming for zero waste living is important, our health and the health of others is always the priority. Don't get us wrong, antibacterial liquid soaps and sanitisers are still very effective. But many medical experts tend to regard them as a plan B compared to washing with soap and warm water with the correct technique.

Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Joseph Sirven told ABC bar soaps protect against COVID-19 because of its chemical composition which includes fat, “You need this fat compound – that’s what the soap is – to break down that virus... it will not survive that."

Dr. Tiffany Wells at River City OB-GYN said, “... having a bar of soap would be perfectly effective, reasonable, and typically cheaper... Also, less use of plastic.”

Head of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children’s Hospital Dr. Mobeen Rathore said “Soap and water is the preferred mechanism for washing your hands and good hygiene, over even hand sanitizers.”

Antibacterial soaps can be bad for your health and for the planet

Antibacterial soaps can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria and may weaken our immune systems. Animal studies have shown that triclosan, an ingredient present in many antibacterial products, alters hormones.



Many countries are looking into banning this ingredient because manufacturers of antibacterial products haven’t been able to prove that these ingredients are safe for daily use over a long period of time. But this could take years...

Benefits of bar soap

  • Bar soap is nearly all active ingredients and isn't made up of 80%+ water like liquid hand wash
  • Bar soap usually comes in eco-friendly packaging that's plastic-free
  • Bar soap has a smaller carbon footprint because it contains no water and is, therefore, lighter to ship around
  • Bar soap doesn't need to contain synthetic preservatives to stop mould growth because it has no or a low water content
  • Bar soap can easily be found palm oil-free, which is important for rainforests and orangutang

Don't get sucked into the marketing messages for expensive liquid hand washes and antibacterial sanitisers. A bar of soap does the job just as well, according to medical experts. 

**This article certainly isn't medical advice and is simply a compilation of information from some health experts. Always check your local government health guidelines for the most current information.