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FDA bans antibacterial soaps, says there's no evidence they actually work

Manufacturers failed to show that antimicrobial soaps are safe for long-term use, or that they're any more effective than regular soap.


Your days are numbered, antibacterial soap.

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images, Getty Images/Blend Images

The FDA is washing its hands of antibacterial soap.

In a final ruling issued Friday, the Food and Drug Administration declared there's no evidence that antibacterial washes containing certain ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, are any more effective than regular soap. The FDA added that manufacturers hadn't demonstrated their products to be safe for long-term use.

Consequently, companies will no longer be permitted to market or sell these kinds of soaps in the United States. Manufacturers have one year to change their recipes or yank products off the shelves. The ruling does not apply to consumer hand sanitizers and wipes or to antibacterial products used in health care environments.

The FDA first set out to investigate antibacterial soaps in 2013, when it issued a call to determine the safety and efficacy of the stuff after some data suggested possible health risks associated with long-term exposure to specific ingredients found in the soaps. Now, the results are in, and the FDA says manufacturers haven't done enough to demonstrate otherwise.

To that end, the American Cleaning Institute -- the trade group for the cleaning products industry -- maintains that antibacterial soaps are safe and effective, adding in a statement, "Manufacturers are continuing their work to provide even more science and research to fill data gaps identified by FDA."

"Consumers can continue to use antibacterial soaps with confidence as they have for decades in millions of homes, offices, schools, daycare centers and other commercial settings."

Still, the FDA isn't convinced, and recommends washing with plain soap and running water, calling it "one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others."

So please, don't take this as an excuse to stop washing your hands.