Knowing what ingredients to avoid is important, but identifying safer alternatives is an equally important next step. We recommend “plain” soap and water for the most effective and least problematic hand washing.
Always check the ingredient list! When you’re at the store, read those labels. Fragrance, triclosan and triclocarbon will be listed, making it easy to leave them on the shelf and find safer soaps.
There are liquid and bar soaps and hand sanitizers that don’t contain triclosan or fragrance, another ingredient we recommend avoiding.
SKIP THE ANTI-BACTERIAL SOAP — IT OFFERS NO BENEFITS.
Anti-bacterial soaps do kill bacteria and microbes — but so do plain soap and water. A U.S. FDA advisory committee found that use of antibacterial soaps provides no benefits over plain soap and water.
The main reason to avoid anti-bacterial soaps is its active ingredient: triclosan (and the related triclocarbon). Triclosan is an anti-bacterial chemical found in many consumer products, and it’s nearly ubiquitous in liquid hand soap. It is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and even low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Further, the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, as it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
It also affects the natural environment. Wastewater treatment does not remove all of the chemical, which means it ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources. That’s especially unfortunate since triclosan is very toxic to aquatic life
If you like the convenience of waterless hand sanitizers, alcohol-based sanitizers are a better bet because they don’t contain triclosan or triclocarbon. We suggest you choose one that doesn’t contain fragrance.
Remember: Hand sanitizers don’t prevent hand-to-mouth chemical transfers as well as soap and water, because their purpose is to kill bacteria, not to remove the dust and dirt that can harbor chemicals. Also, when washing with water, product ingredients are partially washed off, whereas all ingredients in hand sanitizers are left to fully absorb into your skin.