Ditch the Antibacterial: Soap is All You Need

Antibacterial soap

Handwashing does not often make the news. I’m still waiting for, “Crunchy Green Mom Caught Washing her Hands!” But a couple years ago, handwashing was front page.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled against 19 super common antibacterial agents, including the ubiquitous Triclosan, that were in nearly every “antibacterial,” “antimicrobial,” or “antiseptic” hand wash. With these ingredients banned, entire product lines had to be reformulated or else no longer sold. What had been a huge and successful consumer market suddenly was stopped short.

The FDA oversees “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease” as laid out in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Since antibacterial hand washes kill germs that would otherwise make us sick, they fell under the classification of “drug.”

Prior to this ruling, it sounded like the perfect match, right? Germs make us sick. Antibacterial agents kill germs. Problem solved. Case closed.

But it wasn’t that simple. Not that it ever is.

Triclosan and its buddies raised the ire of the federal government for one primary reason and a couple of secondary ones. Primarily, they gave false hope. These ingredients lulled people in to a false sense of security that if they used an “antibacterial” product, they were free from germs and immune to sickness. It turns out, this wasn’t the case. They might, in fact, get even more sick.

The secondary reasons were found in the growing body of evidence that these antibacterial agents might also promote antibiotic-resistant superbugs, disrupt human hormones, and cause skin cancer.

The FDA was pretty nice about it. They gave manufacturers a year to provide proof that their antibacterial products were more effective than soap and water and safe for long-term daily use. The stakes were high. The manufacturers had a lot of financial reason to prove their products’ claims were true. Even so, they couldn’t do it.

Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products summed up the findings in saying, “There’s no data demonstrating that these drugs provide additional protection from diseases and infections. Using these products might give people a false sense of security. If you use these products because you think they protect you more than soap and water, that’s not correct.”

Soap works

So why am I writing about an ingredient that has already been debunked?  Because I regularly get asked – usually by desperate parents fighting unending rounds of a stomach flu – if Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps or Sal Suds are antibacterial. As you’ve likely guessed, the answer is “No.” And they don’t need to be. Surfactants, such as Castile Soap and Sal Suds, remove germs and bacteria, as well as dirt and grease. Again, they don’t kill. They remove all manner of dirt and germs and grease and other ickies off of any surface. They effectively clean counters, cutting boards, sinks, door knobs, you…. They’re like the security force that surrounds the problematic intruders and escorts them out the door – or down the drain. Call them The Eliminators.

In contrast to soap and other surfactants, antibacterial agents kill germs, but do not remove them. Saying it another way, they kill but do not clean. Antibacterial hand cleansers or washes may have also contained some soap or detergent that would then remove the dead germs, but they would have removed them anyways. The antibacterial agents were superfluous.

Then there were the secondary, but personally more eyebrow-raising, concerns about potential promotion of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, hormone disruption and cancer. Let’s look at the first. “Antibiotic-resistant superbugs” refer to things like STAPH and MRSA, which are infections that take a stunningly massive quantity of novel antibiotics to get rid of.

Many a bottle of antibacterial hand wash shouted, “Kills up to 99.99% germs!” I couldn’t have stated the problem better myself. If it kills 99.99% of germs, then it doesn’t kill .01% of germs. And the .01% of the germs are those super-duper strong ones that aren’t easily killed. And these super strong, hard-to-kill germs now have the playing field to themselves. They have no other germs to compete with. While .01% is certainly a very small number, without competition they can grow and reproduce and strengthen and do their dastardly deeds with little to get in their way. This is not a good thing. In fact, this is such a not-good-thing, that on its website, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) calls “antibiotic resistance… one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.”

Waterless Hand Sanitizers

You’ve perhaps noticed that I have discussed only wash-off antibacterial cleansers. You’re very observant.

The FDA’s ruling did not apply to waterless hand sanitizers, and as of yet, they are still collecting research on the efficacy and safety of Triclosan et al in those ubiquitous gels and sprays. However, where the FDA is yet silent, the CDC recommends, “If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.” The CDC goes on to state that, while still not as good as soap and water, a 60% or greater alcohol concentration is better than any other active ingredient at killing germs in a waterless situation.

Beyond hands

The antibacterial issue goes even further than hand cleanliness, though. At the height of the antibacterial craze, which arguably is still underway, Triclosan could be found in a dizzying array of consumer goods including socks, cutting boards, sheets, makeup, deodorant, cervical collars, first aid splints, ice cream scoops, mops, underwear, shirts, shorts, pencils, binders, scissors, calculators, humidifiers, ear plugs, hockey helmets, paint, foot warmers, wallpaper, escalator handrails, air filters, towels, pet bowls, baby carriers, cart covers, vacuums, food sealers, yoga mats, coolers, grout, concrete, dog washes, horse washes, furniture, toys, and who knows what else.

Everything on this list falls outside the FDA’s jurisdiction, so we can’t look to them for a ruling on their safety.

If we are surrounded by so great a cloud of Triclosan, how much is ending up inside us? This concern is called systemic exposure, where a substance crosses through the skin or is swallowed or inhaled and accumulates in the internal organs. Do products that contain Triclosan shed it during use? Does a cutting board transmit Triclosan into food? Do sheets transmit Triclosan through the skin? Or does any product outgas Triclosan which can then be inhaled? There isn’t research on this yet, although the government has recommended that more be done. In the meantime, the long-term testing continues on the consumer. I for one will excuse myself from this test.

What to do now

As we enter the time of year where we stay indoors and breathe on each other (otherwise known as “cold and flu season”), it becomes increasingly imperative that we wash our hands with soap and water. Early and often. And teach our children to do the same. Let me say this very clearly:

The single most important way to keep your kids healthy is to teach them to wash their hands well.  

This goes for surfaces around us as well. Spraying them with a leave-on antibacterial spray (yes, I mean Lysol), or even a spray and wipe disinfectant, is not nearly as effective at removing germs, dirt, and grease with a soap and water spray.

You know those memes about things we didn’t have when we were kids? Waterless hand sanitizer is on that list. They came about sometime in between my childhood and my parenthood. When I was a kid, we just had soap and water. If our hands were dirty, we had to go to a sink and wash them. Turns out that’s the best way after all.

Further reading

This use and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Michael says:

Hi Lisa,
I’ve been a fan for 3 decades and one discovery I made early on was that DR Bronner’s Castile soaps are great for washing off engine grease from my hands/skin after working on my car. I let folks in on one more cleaning secret it’s phenomenal for removing stains from clothing and fabric.
Cleanliness is next to godliness 🦉

Dustin says:


I am curious to know if any of the oils in your soaps are hydrogenated. Please let me know.


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Dustin- None of the oils we use are hydrogenated. While the primary oils found in our soaps are refined, bleached, and deodorized, the fatty acids are kept in their natural state.

Kelsey says:

Hello I am wondering how Castile soap affects the skins “good bacteria”? I’m trying to find a soap to clean my and my family’s body with out harming the good bacteria on our skin. Does Castile soap also wash away good bacteria?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kelsey – Soap works by surrounding any oils it encounters and whisking it away. Most bacteria are surrounded by a lipid (fat) layer which the soap molecules would be attracted to and surround. All soap and surfactants work this way, although some are more aggressive and are able to pull oils out of the skin, thereby stripping it of moisture. All that being said, yes, the soap would carry off any bacteria it encounters. However, the body is in a constant state of replenishment and soon replaces the microbiome at its healthy levels. This is why, however, excessively washing is depleting to our skin. There is definitely a balance to be found in the frequency of washing.

Edgar says:

When one filters out the BS in this article one sees the flaws. No company’s’ lawyers would let the company state that their product removes 100% of germs. This is common knowledge in the legal community.
While Bronner’s family products “clean”, and she has not clearly defined that term, I would much prefer to have a product that cleans AND disinfects. Wouldn’t you?
Her false spin continues with putting the .01% or germs into the super germ category.
Bottom line: Bronner’s family products will not kill germs. She admits to this. But killing germs is what we want, yes? Surficant’s and the other ingredients in Bronner’s products make for selling organic, left coast BS but I’ll stick with what works and that isn’t any product Bronner sells.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Edgar- Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts! Certainly the topic of tackling germs has been front and center over the past year and a half. Although I’ve been writing on the topic for many years now, I’ve never had such an avid audience for how soap works! It’ll be no surprise to hear that I find soap fascinating. It is so old – no new technology here – and yet it is still what the CDC recommends first and foremost for both hand washing and housecleaning. Disinfecting should be reserved for times when there is sickness present, or of course in medical facilities. It’s the idea to use the least intensive strategy necessary for the situation and to reserve the more intense measures for circumstances that merit them. This preserves the effectiveness of the intense measures and avoids their potential negative side effects.

Cheryle says:

Very good article well wrote and researched. Enjoyed reading it and learned a lot especially now during Covid-19. Thanks for the update and article.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Cheryl. I’m glad you found this helpful.

Brandon says:

Hi Lisa,

I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in the past and want to start using it again. But looking at EWG for ratings, all of the scents (and unscented) have medium-level concern for use restrictions. I think part of that is the tocopherol included in the soap. Tocopherol has “cancer (low)” but that’s still concerning to see from a third-party reviewer.

Also, can you please elaborate how effective is the castile soap against COVID-19 if it doesn’t “kill” it?

Thank you in advance!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Brandon- The EWG database is an excellent resource, but it is somewhat challenging to decipher in regard to our soaps. It’s helpful to understand why EWG sometimes gives a poor rating to certain ingredients, and how this affects the overall rating of our soaps. The word “tocopherol” is an INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) name for vitamin E and does not imply that a synthetic or toxic ingredient has been used. We use natural tocopherols (vitamin E) derived from non-GMO sunflower oils from Spain as an antioxidant to keep the oils in our personal care products from going rancid. Tocopherol occurs at only a 0.1% concentration in our soaps. Additionally, EWG assigns a safety rating of 2 to ingredients such as hemp seed oil and citric acid, simply because of insufficient testing data, but we believe that these ingredients are very safe (note that our citric acid is derived from non-GMO sugar beets). In the case of our Rose and Almond scents, the use of the term “fragrance” sends up a red flag for the database and knocks our overall safety rating down. While EWG is right to be concerned about the use of the term “fragrance,” in that many unscrupulous companies use it to hide synthetic or petrochemical-derived ingredients without having to reveal their true composition, in our case we use the term “fragrance” because we use a blend of floral essential oils instead of pure rose oil (which costs about $5,000/lb.) and cassia flower extract instead of pure bitter almond oil (which can be toxic).
We have not tested our Castile Soap against COVID-19, but we know it is an effective cleaner. Soaps work by latching on to germs, dirt and grime and washing them away, thus leaving clean surfaces (or hands!) behind. For more on how soap works against dirt and germs, see my blog post, While our soaps are effective cleaners, they are not disinfectants because they do not contain a pesticide and do not kill. Disinfectants are chemicals used on hard surfaces and are registered with the EPA. During this time of COVID-19, the CDC recommends a two-step process of cleaning then disinfecting surfaces. For cleaning, they are recommending a general household cleaner or detergent and water – Castile Soap fits this bill – prior to the second step of disinfection with an EPA-registered product. For more information about disinfectants visit the CDC’s website:

Linda Andreasen says:

I just want to know what would work well on athletics foot fungus. I also see. To be loosing my hair on the top sides of skull. Im wondering if there isnt some sort of bacteria there also. Could u rec one kind of kill &remove all bacteria type of wash

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Linda- Athletes foot, as a fungal growth, can be tougher than bacteria to cure. I have heard from customers that the Tea Tree Castile soap has been part of their recovery from athletes foot, but you may also need to seek medical advice. Hair loss has so many possible causes from stress to genetics to other medical issues. Soap does remove bacteria, but I cannot speak to its helping with hair loss. The Organic Sugar Soaps are our gentlest soaps and may be helpful.

Green Cleaning Your Bathroom | Going Green with a Bronner Mom says:

[…] What a difference from what the marketing machine will tell you! That you need a different product for every different surface in the bathroom! If you’re a bit dubious about the efficacy of soap to tackle germs and grime, check out a couple articles I’ve written that discuss how soap works and why it’s all you need: “Who Gave Soap a Bad Name” – one of the first blog posts I ever wrote – and “Ditch the Antibacterial: Soap Is All You Need.”  […]

Megan Alder says:

I like that you recommend going beyond just washing your hands, and how you made a list of the different places where you can find bacteria and also have to be cautious with. My husband and I have been very careful with everything as of right now, but we want to always be protected, and find new strategies to live his “new normal”. Thank you for writing this post, I will start to look for options to be able to avoid touching what you talked about.

Angel lubeck says:

I have seborrheic dermatologist. Dr bronners soap may not work for but neither does plain soap and water. I get rashes and burns. I go for what really works. Not nonsense. Tea tree soap not always the oil is better than soap. My melanin production is very low. I used to tan naturally all the time. Yes sunscreen is good but only certain kinds depending on skin type. I don’t get dermatitis from the sun. My Dr said so. I’m entitled to my opinion but I think you should do a little more research on your claims. God bless and have a good future.

Joni says:

Does the liquid castile soap need to be rinsed off the body? I am asking due to an area in which there is no access to running water and trying to figure out what to make that you can clean the hands and body without available water.

Jaclyn says:

Hi Lisa,
I have been using Dr Bronners to make my hand soap for the past year and it has been great!! I was looking into the effectiveness of this in terms of the coronavirus and it is great to know that soap & water is better than anything else. Although, after reading up on this more today, I was wondering if there is anything to worry about as the internet has a lot of people who say that the use of water can promote bacterial growth in the soap and a some sort of preservative is required to prevent this.
Could you possibly explain if there is any truth in this?
Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jaclyn- Our Castile soap is naturally preserved because of its alkalinity, and we also add Tocopherols (vitamin E) as an extra preservative. Certainly, when you dilute the soap, you are diluting the preservative. The issue is that bacteria in the water might eventually get into the solution and there wouldn’t be enough preservative to combat it. After diluting the soaps with water, the typical shelf life would be about a month. Follow your nose – if it is smelling off, then dump and remake. If you find you don’t go through it fast enough, mix-up a smaller batch.

Kirsten says:

We are new to Dr. Bronners but are thrilled with how we are feeling from not breathing in the other soaps and cleaners, and our skin is doing so much better as well! I was researching making my own sugar scrub and body wash and read about oils clogging pipes. I know that coconut oil will clog pipes when it gets cold and solidifies, but do any of these oils clog drains as well?

Many thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kirsten- Welcome to the family! While our soaps are made from several vegetable oils, the soaps do not contain relevant amounts of the actual oil. Rather, oils are “saponified”, that is, they are turned into soaps with very different physical and chemical properties. There are a slew of sugar scrub recipes out there, but I’ve found these two to work well:

Emma says:

Hi Lisa
I feel dr.bronners in 1:3 ratio is extremely dryes out my hands i cant even try 1:1 ratio. i even added jojoba oils to it and it still felt very dry . What else i could add to it to make it moisturizing and how much of those? Would it still work if i diluted to 1:10 like they suggest i think for using laundry but cant remember exactly ?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Emma- Frequent hand washing can certainly do a number on one’s hands. Some of the essential oils in our soaps, such as Peppermint and Eucalyptus can be more drying than others. Opt for a more gentle scent like Rose, Citrus or Almond, or our Unscented, which has no essential oils and double the olive oil. A few drops of jojoba oil can be added but keep in mind that soap grabs hold of oils. This is its primary purpose. So if you add too much of any oil, then the soap is going to be busy chasing the oil you’ve added instead of the grime on your body. Add no more than ¼ – ½ tsp (1.25-2.5 mL) per 1 cup (250 mL) of soap. The Unscented Magic Balm helps heal and protect hands as well. If your skin is on the dry side, you may like our Sugar Pump Soap. Its made with natural humectants that nourish skin and draw in moisture.

Karena says:

I know this is a little late, but for anyone still reading: I add glycerin.

R hawk says:

Hi, sorry I want to make hand soap, just the diluted Castile soap. I don’t understand “parts” can I get a measurement like 2 table spoons to a cup of water or something like that.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi R- Our Castile Soap works best in a foaming pump dispenser. In a regular dispenser it can clog and squirt out unexpectedly in odd directions. If you’re mixing up one cup use ¼ cup soap and 3/4 cup water.

Michelle Randall says:

After becoming sensitized to products with Triclosan and methylisothiazolinone, Dr Bronners is safe for me.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Michelle- Glad to hear our soaps are working for you.

Amanda Dorr says:

Hi Lisa,

I’ve been using your soaps for years, and love them! I would like to make disinfectant wipes for my husband & his workers. He’s a Contractor (he works with his hands), so it’s very important to me that the wipes are effective. What do you suggest? Thank you so much for your guidance!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amanda- I have a wipes recipe here that would work for this. Customize them with with any Castile soap or essential oils you like: As you’ve read above, detergents and soaps, like our Pure-Castile Soap, work effectively by attaching to dirt, germs, and grime and rinsing them away, leaving clean surfaces behind. Dr. Bronner’s soap products are effective cleaners but are not disinfectants because they do not contain a pesticide and do not kill, but instead remove germs, dirt and grime from surfaces.

Island Essentials Serene Dream Castile Soap | | Inherent Skin Care says:

[…] Soap is not antibacterial, it is a plantbased soap that will clean the hands and remove surfactants, grease, and […]

TraMi says:

Hello Lisa, I am new to Castile soap (since the start of Covid-19 outbreak) and so glad to come across your post. I would like to make hand soap for the bathroom in a foam pump (as you suggested over regular pump) and have been researching for a formula. I have some questions and hope you could help me. I have dry skin

1) You suggested the solution of 1:3 ratio of Castile soap to water. Is it ok if I increase and use 1:1?

2) Most people said to add a “carrier” oil and an “essential” oil to the solution of water and Castile soap. What does each do? and is there a need?

3) can the same solution be use as body bath soap?

Thanks so much for your help.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi TraMi- A dilution of 1:3 is good place to start. Then adjust to your preference. You can certainly use in the shower, in which case go with the more concentrated dilution as the water in the shower will also dilute the soap. Neither an essential nor carrier oil is needed. An essential oil is an aromatic oil that is extracted from various botanicals – lavender, orange, etc. A carrier oil is a neutral oil such as olive oil that can be used to dilute the essential oils. Neither are necessary for a foaming pump. You can add a couple drops of an essential oil if you like the scent, but it doesn’t increase the efficacy of the soap.

Toxin Free Ways to Clean Baby Toys | Blossoming Motherhood says:

[…] squirt in a couple squeezes of Dr. Bonner’s soap. It is probably about 1 tablespoon of soap. Dr. Bonner’s is effective at removing dirt, germs and grease off of any surface. Dr. Bronner’s soap uses simple, organic, and ethically found ingredients for their soaps. […]

Kim says:

Can I use your soap to make my own dish washing soap? Sorry if this question has been answered already.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kim- Our soaps do excellent work of hand washing dishes. Use a small squirt of Castile Soap or 1/2 – 1 1/2 tsp. Sal Suds in a large sink of water. We don’t recommend them for the dishwasher though. They are too bubbly and can seep through the seems. The ranks products by ingredients and environmental impact, and would be a good place to research a dishwashing detergent.

Kerri says:

I tried the citrus soap to hand wash dishes but didn’t love it. I felt it didn’t get the grease off that well. I also tried the 1:10 ratio & felt it was a little watery. I would really like to try again. Do you think the peppermint one would be better?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kerri- You can increase the concentration, especially if you’re washing really greasy stuff. Keep in mind that Castile doesn’t produce the copious bubbles of a conventional detergent. As much as we’ve been trained to think otherwise, bubbles aren’t a sign of cleaning power. If you have particularly hard water, you might prefer Sal Suds, our household cleaner.It doesn’t interact with minerals in hard water the way Castile Soap does, and is tough on grease.

Lori says:

Thanks for this article on Triclosan. Eye opening and scary! I just started using Dr Bronner’s – wanting to rid my home of any and all toxins. I only the unscented castille soap (hands, dishes, general all purpose cleaning, body & hair etc…) but I’ve noticed, surprisingly, that when I spray the cleaner, it often makes me cough or sneeze. Why would that be if it’s non toxic and no chemicals? I’ve never had that reaction to other cleaning products I’ve used….and I switched to Dr Bronner’s to avoid negative reactions to toxins. thanks Lisa

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lori- I’m glad you found this article helpful. Regarding why the spray would still make you cough, it is part of the protective defenses of our lungs to reject any foreign materials. While the soap spray is not toxic to your body, even if inhaled, your lungs have an automatic reaction to anything that isn’t air or water vapor.

Lori says:

Lisa if that were true, than why in all the years when I was using products that were toxic (and I was unaware that they were) did I never have this reaction? Clearly there is something in this product (unscented liquid castille soap) that my body/lungs are reacting to…and only from the spray bottle. Doesn’t happen when I use it undiluted or in foaming hand soap form.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lori- Good question. Here are a couple possibilities. The consistency of the conventional cleaners is often thicker than water. The result is that when it sprays, it is heavier and falls to the surface rather than floating. With my recommended dilution, you have mostly water which is not very thick in the bottle. It hangs in the air more easily than a thicker liquid. The other possibility is in the sprayer itself. It could be that the one you are using for the Castile dilution creates a more vaporized spray than what occurs with the conventional product sprayer. This vaporized spray may hang in the air longer, or this sprayer gives a broader spray that misses the target more. Perhaps try to twist the spray tip to concentrate the spray a bit more.

Loir says:

Ok that makes sense. And i’ll try to see if I can adjust the spray tip. Thanks Lisa

Roger W Crowell says:

do you recommend using castile soap for washing vegetables?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Roger- The Castile Soap works great for this. Under normal circumstances, when we’re washing produce we’re just trying to get rid of field dirt and maybe aphids or the like, I recommend a small squirt of Castile in a bowl of water and then dunk the produce, swish and rinse. However, these days we’re usually talking about germs. For germ-eradication, my All-Purpose Spray dilution, ¼ c. Castile Soap in 1 qt. water, which is much stronger than the squirt in a bowl, will do the job. Spray the produce with the All-Purpose Spray, rub it around the produce (if we’re talking lettuce, spray the leaves and massage it around) for 20 seconds and then rinse thoroughly.

Guide to Green Disinfecting | Oregon Environmental Council says:

[…] In contrast to common antimicrobial agents like Tricoslan and Benzethonium chloride that kill but don’t remove contagions, castile soap cleans surfaces by lifting off dirt, grime, and other contagions, including bacteria […]

Maureen chappell says:

Lisa, am making my own hand pump soaps for bathroom and kitchen, is there something I can add to make it a bit thicker, now it comes out like water, would like it a bit thicker. Thanks. Loving your site! Maureen

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Maureen- I’m glad you find my blog helpful! We don’t recommend using our soaps in a regular pump dispenser. Even diluted, the soap tends to clog and squirt out in unexpected directions. It works fabulously in foaming pump dispenser though. This would functionally “thicken” the soap with water and air. I recommend diluting the soap at a ratio of 1 part soap to 3 parts water. This seems to work great and doesn’t create issues with clogging that using undiluted soap would.

SJ says:

Hi Lisa,

Is it possible to make hand sanitizer on the go with castile soap and tea tree oil? Obviously washing hands is my first choice but wondering if that’s not an option how castile soap can help!



Lisa Bronner says:

Hi SJ- Soap is only effective if it is washed off. Soap works by bonding with dirt and germs, and unless it is rinsed away with water or a damp cloth, it just sits there. So a spray-on hand sanitizer made with our soaps would not be effective. When soap and water is not available, the CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Dr. Bronner’s makes one, but it’s in such demand that it’s temporarily out of stock in our webstore. Check back soon or look for it in a natural food store in your area or online.

Sam says:

How do I dilute Castile soap for an all purpose/ germ removing spray for my home? Do I need to spray, leave on for a certain time and then wipe off?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sam- There’s a lot to wrap your brain around these days, isn’t there? To help prevent the spread of germs on household surfaces, the CDC recommends a two-step process of cleaning then disinfecting. For cleaning, they are recommending a general household cleaner or detergent and water prior to the second step of disinfection. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps and Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner can be made into a household cleaning spray by combining ¼ c. of the Castile OR 1 Tbsp. of the Sal Suds in 1 qt. of water in a spray bottle, with an optional 20 drops of Tea Tree essential oil. Detergents and soaps, including our Pure-Castile Soap and Sal Suds, work effectively by attaching to dirt, germs, and grime and rinsing them away, leaving clean surfaces behind. Dr. Bronner’s soap products are effective cleaners but are not disinfectants since they do not contain a pesticide and do not kill, but instead remove germs, dirt and grime from surfaces. Disinfectants are chemicals used on hard surfaces and are registered with the EPA. For more information on the CDC’s recommended disinfectants and more advice on household preparedness, please visit

Cold & Flu Prevention Tips (and a Homemade Soap Recipe) - Just Homemaking says:

[…] soaps sound good, but it completely kills ALL the bacteria from your hands. Good and bad. Check out this link for a little more […]

Environmental Responsibility - Reducing Waste Part 7 DIY says:

[…] a staple in my home over the last year. I found it useful for making DIY dish soap, it’s very effective at removing germs and bacteria. Previously, I had Mrs. Meyers biodegradable dish soap but once I […]

Esta Hirsh says:

I use some of your products, and since reading some of questions, and your answers plan to order additional products.

My Hand Sanitizer – Armed and Ready says:

[…] Hand sanitizer does not replace handwashing with soap and water if available.  Soap and water is more effective and if it is feasible to wash with soap and water, please do so.*  However, the hand sanitizer […]

My Hand Sanitizer – Armed and Ready says:

[…] this disclaimer:  Hand sanitizer does not replace handwashing with soap and water if available.  Soap and water is more effective and if it is feasible to wash with soap and water, please do so.*  However, the hand sanitizer is […]

Elisa says:

Hi Lisa,
I’m curious about how much rinsing is necessary?
I’ve found this article and the one where you explain the surfactant properties of soaps and detergents ( very helpful. In both cases the soap or detergent work by surrounding the germs or oil and washing them away with water. To effectively do that with household cleaning, do I need to add a rinsing step? For example, when I clean my counters, does that mean I need to rinse the counter with a wet cloth after I’ve wiped the counter down using your all-purpose spray?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Elisa- I love how closely you’re reading my blog! If you wipe with a damp cloth after spraying, you do not need to do an additional rinsing step. The cloth will pick it up. Microfiber cloths are my go-to because they are so grabby.

Konnie says:

Hi Lisa!

Thank you for the post! I’m sorry if you’ve answer this question before. How long does the Castile soap keep for? I see the production date on there and didn’t know if at some point it loses its effectiveness. Any word on the unscented lotion?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Konnie- In general, we recommend using our soaps within three years of purchase. After that they may develop an off odor, but are still effective. We’re still working on an Unscented Lotion.

Jim says:

Great article. When it is time to disinfect what is a good green disinfectant? Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jim- Glad you liked the article. A good cleaning with soap and water replaces the need to disinfect. Soap removes the germs, so there’s nothing left to disinfect. For extra grubby situations, you can add a couple of drops of tea tree oil or scour with baking soda. The use of bleach and such contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kimberly – For hand soap, the Castile soap works best in a foaming pump dispenser diluted at a ratio of 1 part soap to 3 parts water. It tends to clog and squirt out in unexpected directions in a regular pump, even if you dilute it.

Handwashing How-To and How-Not-To says:

[…] lately because the FDA just banned the ubiquitous ingredient Triclosan in antibacterial soaps. (Soap is all you need anyway.) Which takes us back to my […]

Karen Daniels says:

I couldn’t agree more with the facts in this post. My ex-husbands wife is a teacher. She’s all about the antibacterial soaps, Sanitizers, etc. My daughter became sick while at their house and she came home to me loaded up on antibiotics that wouldn’t work. She built up a tolerance to them all at the age of 6. That house always had a sick person in it. I insisted on keeping our daughter for two full weeks. I kept her organic the entire time. What do you know! She became healthy again and she stayed that way. She’s now 27 and never gets sick. She’s a nurse so she is exposed to every germ known.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Cindy Green says:

I owe my great health to the lack of hand washing. It is very rare that I get sick.

Andy S says:

Hi Lisa, I was wondering if this includes the all purpose spray that I make using Sal Suds and tea tree oil? Should we limit the use of tea tree oil and other oils too because it will over kill the bacteria? Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Andy – That’s a good question! Tea tree oil does have microbial properties, as well as being a great skin balancer. But it’s not strong enough to work alone, which is why it should be added to soap. The soap is needed though to eliminate the bad stuff, and tea tree oil is a natural way to give it a little extra boost. The good news is that tea tree has not shown to contribute to antibiotic resistance. Although too high of a concentration of tea tree oil and it will burn you. Just 10-20 drops in a quart of Sal Suds or Castile soap All-Purpose Spray is all you need.

Michelle Randall says:

Since becoming sensitized to Triclosan and Methylisothiozolinone 7 years ago, I’ve trusted all of Dr. Bronner products. My skin looked blistered and raw from the allergy to these chemicals, not to mention the itching. Flare ups do happen due to air fresheners and sprays but at least it is somewhat manageable.
Thank you for a trustworthy product, I recommend it to everyone.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Michelle – I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but happy to hear you found a solution in Dr. Bronner’s.

Susan Gwin says:

Wonderful and informative article, Lisa!! Thank you! I will share this with friends! In the meantime, I still use your lavender scented hand sanitizer until I reach soap and water. Keep us posted! I love your writing!!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Susan! Glad you found the article to be helpful.

Joy Masada says:

Thanks for the info – I had no idea triclosan was in so many things! Are products like furniture, cutting boards, toys, etc. that contain triclosan required to label their products as such? If not, is there any reasonable way to identify and avoid such products? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Joy- No, there is no requirement that cutting boards, coolers, sheets and such be labeled has having triclosan. If an item is labeled as microbial, we as consumers, can assume that it contains triclosan or a similar ingredient.

Kathleen Almeter says:

I work at a nursing home as a housekeeper and they expect us to use their harsh liquid sanitizer soap that surgeons use before gloving, and then sanitised before entering and gloving, then remove our gloves, wash with the surgeon hand soap AND use the hand sanitizer again on the way out. My hands look like hamburger as my cuticle are crispy, I have fine cracks in my fingertips, fine lines of hand cracks that bleed, and sore hands from all of this skin injuries caused by constant use of hand sanitizer and strong chemical liquid soaps. Not only are the .01 of germs left on my skin, they fall into my open skin cracks that bleed. Housekeepers seem to always get sick and the management says it is because we do not use their sanitizer enough, I have always said that it is because we use them to much. This article makes me understand that I am correct. Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kathleen – Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizers can most certainly do a number on one’s hands. You might want to try the Unscented Magic Balm to help heal and protect your hands. I’ve even used our Unscented Lip Balm on my cuticles in a pinch, and those fit easily into a pocket.

Grady Knowles says:

Wow Lisa Bronner, this piece is not only timely and important, it’s also extremely well written. Thank you for that. It’s one thing to plow through an important article because you need the content. It’s quite another to enjoy the ride because the writing delivers the information with style and focus. Now I have to get another spray bottle for wiping down my counters with sal suds and water. Bravo!

Hannah says:

What about essential oil hand sanitizer, such as Doterra’s Onguard or Young Living’s Thieves? Are these sanitizers better to use than the typical store bought alcohol included hand sanitizers? I alway prefer soap and water handwashing, but when out and about and not able to do so, do you think this type of sanitizer is better than the other?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Hannah – The key to an on-the-go hand sanitizer is that it be alcohol-based and contain at least 60% alcohol to effectively kill germs when soap and water are not available. I am not familiar with the ingredients in those products, but if they have that alcohol content, they should be effective. My go-to hand sanitizer is – no surprise here! – the Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer which contains 62% organic fair trade alcohol, organic glycerin, water and organic lavender essential oil.

Margarita Cramer says:

Love Dr. Bronner’s Lavender hand sanitizer – smells sinful. Highly recommend it! I keep one in my purse and one in each car (always use it at the pump after filling up the car with gas).

Usually, I trust non-conventional medicine, social and environmental responsible information to make more informed decisions on things. From the beginning, it was a “no” on antibacterial stuff. Those manufacturers have sure made lots of money.

“Recent studies indicate that triclosan is commonly found in breast milk, urine, and plasma and has been flagged for concern over endocrine disruptor properties in low doses, particularly thyroid hormone and possibly reproductive functioning. Most healthcare settings have now abandoned the use of triclosan and instead use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.” I learned this during an online environmental medicine class at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

Great article Lisa Bronner!

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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