What is Antibacterial Cleanser?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2019
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An antibacterial cleanser is a product which is designed to remove bacteria from the skin, reducing the risk of disease. Many soaps are naturally antibacterial, and they can be modified with additional ingredients which target bacteria. In addition to antibacterial cleansers which are designed to be used during washing, it is also possible to find hand wipes which are used to sanitize when water is not readily available, along with antibacterial products designed for use in household cleaning.

Antibacterial cleansers can be liquid, gel, or foam soaps, with some companies making antibacterial bar soaps or specialized antibacterial rinses. These cleansers are often positioned in bathrooms for washing hands after using the toilet, and they may also be used in hospitals and medical clinics for the purpose of washing between patients. Many come in dispensers which work automatically, so that people do not spread bacteria by handling soap dispensers.

In addition to being used on the hands, antibacterial cleansers can also be used for face washes, with some people using antibacterial face washes for acne prevention, to reduce the numbers of bacteria on the skin. Specially formulated antibacterial face wash is mild so that it does not damage the delicate skin of the face. The whole body can potentially be washed in an antibacterial cleanser, and these cleansers are sometimes used for wound management at home, with people cleaning the sites of recent injuries with an antibacterial cleanser to prevent the onset of infection.


Drug stores tend to carry a range of antibacterial cleansers, and it is also possible to receive prescriptions for stronger versions of over the counter products. Prescription cleansers tend to have greater antibacterial powers, and they are prescription-only to ensure that they are used appropriately. Prescription products come with detailed directions about proper use and handling, and it is important to follow these directions to ensure that the cleanser is effective.

Some concerns have been raised about the widespread use of antibacterial cleansers. These products can increase antibiotic resistance, by killing off bacteria which are vulnerable to antibiotics so that stronger bacteria can multiply without competition. Some contain chemicals which can be harmful to human health, which can be a problem for people using large volumes of antibacterial cleansers, or for people who use such cleansers around open wounds and sores. Old-fashioned hot water, soap, and vigorous scrubbing are often just as effective as an antibacterial cleanser, without raising the specter of antibiotic resistance.


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Post 10

Has anyone used the antibacterial cleansers for your body? Do you find they work on sensitive skin or do the chemicals in the soap irritate you?

I have started volunteering at a hospital and while I love the job, I worry about how many germs are left clinging to me after I leave work. I am thinking that the antibacterial hand soap the hospital provides may not be enough, especially these days with so many people catching things like superbugs. I have pretty sensitive skin but would like to try some antibacterial body wash for after my hospital shifts. I think it would bring me more peace of mind.

Post 9

Keeping antibacterial cleanser in your workplace is a really good idea. Our office never refills our soap so it is usually up to use to bring our own supplies in. I guess you could say our boss is a bit of a cheapskate.

I find the antibacterial cleanser great for work because so many people have been handling the papers and items I use daily. For myself I can't count the number of people that have touched a certain file before me. I always make sure to clean my hands after I am done working and before anytime I eat. It seems that using an antibacterial cleanser really saves me during flu season.

Post 8

I have very sensitive skin. It doesn't take very much for my whole face to break out in pimples. In addition, I work at a skilled nursing facility (nursing home) and I come across several people who have certain types of contagious diseases.

The owner of our facility not only supplies us with plenty of gloves, but also had antibacterial hand soap dispensers put in. On the wing that I work, we have 8 different dispensers so you can never say there isn't enough soap! It works great.

Post 7

@SurfNTurf -I know what you mean. In the last couple of years I have been on a few cruises and I have to tell you that they all of these cruise ships have had hand sanitizer stations at the entrance of all of the restaurants, in the pool areas, and in the lobby.

It makes sense because passengers on a cruise ship are in such close quarters that the possibility of catching a bacterial or viral infection is higher than average. I have heard horror stories of people on one particular cruise ship catching the Norwalk virus that caused most of the passengers to develop vomiting and severe diarrhea symptoms.

I think that this is really awful because

it ruins your whole vacation which is probably why the cruise ships are pushing the antibacterial cleansing stations all over the ship. Viruses usually pass through the hands so it is important that people have the chance to wash their hands frequently.

Post 6

@Ceilingcat - I just wanted to say that I feel more comfortable having a bottle of antibacterial cleaner in my purse. It gives me a sense of security especially when I am with my children.

You would be surprised how many germs are on the things that we touch. I especially take out my antibacterial hand cleanser whenever I am handling money especially if I am in the drive through of a fast food restaurant because money is known for having a lot of germs and the last thing I want to do is put those same germs in my mouth when I eat something.

Post 5

@Azuza - Even though it has been proven that antibacterial soaps contribute to super bugs, I don't think people will be very quick to get rid of their antibacterial products. As a society, we seem to be obsessed with being "clean."

I've also heard that using antibacterial body wash can actually help prevent staph infections. Staph infections such as MRSA are very problematic, life threatening, and growing more widespread. So I think antibacterial body wash might be a good idea for some people.

Post 4

I read somewhere that a lot of what cleans your hands when you wash them is the scrubbing. Apparently soap that is not antibacterial is just as effective for this.

I really think that we need to dial back this whole antibacterial thing. Yes, there is a time and place for it. And it does work great for preventing acne. But it's been proven that these types of soaps are contributing to the creation of super bugs. I also read awhile ago that kids don't have very strong immune systems these days because of the antibacterial soap. They aren't being exposed to bacteria enough to develop a resistance. This is not good!

Post 3

My school nurse keeps boxes of antibacterial hand wipes and solutions. It's what she cleans our wounds, paper cuts and bruises with.

My mom keeps some in her purse too but it's different than the one the nurse has.

Something I don't understand about antibacterial cleanser wipes is that some of them say "moisturizing" on it. But I thought that the antibacterial in the wipes actually makes the skin dry. How is it drying and moisturizing at the same time?

Post 2

There is also antibacterial body washes now. It's made to help clean and treat acne on the body. I'm using one for the acne on my back. When I use regular body washes, acne breaks out on my back and it's really painful. The antibacterial body wash helps prevent more breakouts. I don't want anymore because it leaves marks on my skin, it doesn't look nice.

Post 1

When I was young, liquid hand soap was not out yet. We use to keep a bar of soap by the sink and use that to wash our hands. But I never felt that it was particularly hygienic. I always felt like germs from our dirty hands remained on the soap and accumulated. That's why I would wash with it several times and make a lot of foam.

I was so happy when the antibacterial liquid hand soaps came out. It's hygienic and looks and smells more pleasant.

I understand the concerns about washing with antibacterial cleansers too often. I tell my kids to always wash their hands when they come home from school, from playing and before eating anything. I don't think that this is extreme. I also wouldn't want to switch back to the bar of soap. I wouldn't feel that my kids are safe with that.

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