San Francisco Environment Department

Does antibacterial soap work better than regular soap?


You do not need to use soap that is labeled antibacterial or antimicrobial for hand washing.

Regular soap is just as effective at reducing germs! Soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial" contain added chemicals and may have negative health and environmental impacts.

You DO need to follow CDC Guidelines on Handwashing:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.


Need an example? Try one of these short videos:

Why Does Hand-Washing Work?
Pre-School Pop Stars Hand Washing for Kids

Additional Resources Antimicrobials
CDC: Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance
FDA: Antimicrobial Soap? You Can Skip It, Use Plain Soap and Water


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