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Jul 24

Are Antibacterial Soaps a Good Idea?

By Chris Baskind | Link to Original
January 27, 2009

Using antibacterial soap? You might actually be making those microscopic nasties stronger. Here’s how to make plain liquid soap at home for just pennies.

Liquid soap is everywhere. While there’s not a thing wrong with good ole bar soap, a quick push of the pump is both convenient and sanitary.

Too sanitary, perhaps. It’s tough to find many personal cleaning products which don’t contain some sort of antibacterial agent. For the past decade, that has typically mean Triclosan. It’s an organic compound common in everything from hand soap to toothpaste.

While Triclosan is generally — but not universally — regarded as safe, numerous studies have questioned its necessity. A 2007 research project by the University of Oregon School of Public Health concluded that plain soap and water are as effective in removing bacteria from the hands, and additional research questions whether the indiscriminate use of Triclosan might contribute to the development of hardier bacteria. Want to get off the antibacterial treadmill?

It’s simple to make your own liquid soap. This recipe will produce a rich lather, and you can adjust the ingredients to reflect your family’s preferences.

You’ll need:

  • A plastic pump bottle
  • 1 cup unscented liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s works well)
  • 4 ounces of tap water
  • 4 teaspoons of vegetable-based glycerin
  • Approximately 5 drops of essential oil, such as lavender or tea tree

What to do:

Simply whisk the ingredients together in a cup or small bowl and pour into a salvaged pump dispenser. Decorative pump decanters are available at most big box and home decor outlets. The glycerin acts as a stabilizer, and helps prevent the pump nozzle from clogging. You can add more water if this becomes a problem.

Less really is more

A word about the essential oils: they’re entirely optional. It’s true that oils are “natural” and may pass along benefits well beyond their pleasant scent. But just like synthetic fragrances, they can cause irritation or allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin. If you have questions about the appropriateness of essential oils or antibacterial soaps in your home, talk to a health care professional.