Tag Archives: Bad Science

Hand Sanitizer is fine. Don’t use antibacterial soap.


A friend shared an interesting IFLScience video titled, “Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer.” The video is particularly interesting because IFLScience is usually a great source for interesting and useful science and in this post someone has confused hand sanitizer with antibacterial soap and ends up giving bad advice as a result.

The video asserts that hand sanitizers contain Triclosan and notes that studies have shown Triclosan to kill good bacteria on your skin and make your skin far more permeable to toxic chemicals like BPA.

The presenter is confusing antibacterial hand soap with hand sanitizer. Some antibacterial hand soaps contain Triclosan, but hand sanitizer does not. Hand sanitizers generally contain ethyl alcohol as the active ingredient, which kills bacteria by dissolving the lipid membrane and denaturing the proteins – http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=2160. The alcohol physically destroys bacteria, which is why bacteria can’t develop resistance to it, which is a concern with antibacterial soap and Triclosan.

A commenter on the G+ post where I found this video notes that he just found the following on the Purell website: “U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations do not allow the use of triclosan as an active ingredient in “leave on” products like hand sanitizer. PURELL hand sanitizer products do not contain triclosan.” There’s a video on the topic at http://www.purell.com/faq.

I use hand sanitizer all the time and I’ve noticed that workplaces, including hospitals, have it prominently displayed for use. Alcohol based sanitizer is demonstrably beneficial in destroying harmful bacteria. Hopefully no one will accept the IFLScience post without checking the facts. I’d like IFLScience to correct their post, but the comment area was quickly closed. Hopefully they will see this or other posts and correct their errors.