The Dirt on Soap
Although it's increasingly difficult now to find liquid hand soap that isn't antibacterial, a new study shows that these antimicrobial cleansers are no more effective at killing germs than plain old soap and water. The review, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, evaluated the findings of 27 past studies and found that people who washed their hands with soap containing the chemical triclosan didn't have lower levels of bacteria on their skin -- or a reduced likelihood of catching infections such as upper-respiratory illnesses or stomach flu. The review also suggests that antimicrobial cleansers could lead to antibiotic resistance -- but that's just in a lab.
The bottom line: If your family uses antibacterial soap, don't let your kids get away with doing a rush job at the sink. They still need to scrub their hands for at least 20 to 30 seconds -- the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice -- to get them clean.