Health

Antibacterial Wipes Are Far from a Clean Sweep

If you didn't know it by now, your mama was right about that good old soap and water — and a whole lot more

Antibacterial wipes sound like a great idea. Teachers put them on school supply lists, hoping to minimize the risk of germs spreading like wildfire through their classrooms. Moms and dads dutifully wipe down children’s toys, particularly during flu season. And countless others use wipes in the kitchen in an effort to ensure food-making surfaces in the home are as bacteria-free as possible.

It all seems completely logical and common-sensical.

Unfortunately, the wipes don’t really work. At least not for long.

In fact, Dr. Clare Lanyon, a biomedical scientist from Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, said that if even a single cell escapes an antibacterial-fueled wipeout attempt, it only takes about 20 minutes before the microbe colony is back up and running again at full speed, The Telegraph reported. She shared those results after conducting an experiment for the BBC program “Trust Me, I’m A Doctor.”

So unless you want to camp out in your kitchen to spritz or wipe the surfaces with antibacterial products three times an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week — you’re out of luck.

There is some good news, though.

Soap and water is a much more effective weapon of mass destruction when it comes to slaying the germy menace, as it turns out. Bar soap does a better job because it tends to contain ingredients that break down cell walls, Lanyon further explained.

On a related note, you can probably put hand sanitizers on the chopping block, too.

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Many experts agree that hand sanitizers such as Purell leave a lot to be desired. Scrubbing with soap and water is almost always the preferred option.

From the Centers for Disease Control’s fact sheet on hand-washing and hand sanitizer use, consumers get an easy-to-understand, side-by-side list of situations when soap and water should be used. Right next to that list is one containing situations in which hand sanitizer is a reasonable choice.

In a nutshell, the CDC suggests just two situations in which hand sanitizer can be used — and one of those comes with a caveat. Though you can use hand sanitizer before and after visiting someone who is ill, this recommendation does not apply when visiting someone with an illness such as Clostridium difficile.

Hand sanitizer doesn’t wipe out buggers like C-diff — and it’s not very effective against the norovirus, either.

Related: Yes, Your Dog Can Catch the Flu, Too

The other situation in which the CDC says consumers would be OK with using hand sanitizer is when standard soap and water aren’t available. Even then, it should be alcohol-based, preferably 60 percent or better, and you should wash with soap and water as soon as you can afterward. Also, you shouldn’t rely on it if your hands are visibly dirty or oily unless there is no other option.

When all is said and done, you’re better off washing your hands with good old soap and water — just like your mama told you. The same holds true for cleaning surfaces in the kitchen.

Keep it clean out there, folks. You’ll save a little money and be better protected by swapping out antibacterial products for standard bar soap.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.

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