Does Bar Soap Kill Germs?

handwashing with bar soap
Bar soaps contain alkaline compounds that can kill germs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both bar soap and liquid soap can be used to wash your hands effectively. Bar soaps contain alkaline compounds that can kill germs by damaging the cell walls of bacteria.

Studies also show that there is no difference in effectiveness between antibacterial soap and plain soap; both can help prevent you from getting sick.

How does handwashing with soap and water remove germs and chemicals?

When you work soap and water into a lather, it traps germs and chemicals and removes them from your hands. Wetting your hands with clean water before applying soap can help you work up a better lather, which forms pockets (micelles) that trap germs from your hands. Then when you rinse your hands, these germs are washed away.

Scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds is important to this process because the action helps to physically destroy the germs and remove them from your skin.

How does hand hygiene help prevent infections?

Good hand hygiene helps prevent infections by stopping the spread of germs:

  • Touching your eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands introduces germs into your body.
  • Preparing or eating food with unwashed hands causes germs to grow in some types of foods and make people sick.
  • Germs can transfer from unwashed hands to doorknobs, tables or toys, causing other people who touch these items to get sick.

What is the right way to wash your hands?

Washing your hands correctly is especially important in light of the pandemic. Follow these steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water, either warm or cold.
  • Apply soap and lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
  • Rub all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers and under your nails. 
  • Keep scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice to help you time this. 
  • Rinse your hands well with clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air-dry them.

How often should you wash your hands?

How often you should wash your hands depends entirely on your activities. CDC recommends washing them:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom, changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal food, or treating animal cages or dealing with animal stools
  • After touching garbage
  • If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy

Avoid overdoing it. Our hands aren’t meant to be sterile, and having some bacteria on the skin is perfectly fine. Washing your hands too frequently may damage your skin, worsen cuts or cause cracks.


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