Does Bar Soap Really Hold Onto Germs?

Updated: Jul. 30, 2017

Washing your hands may get rid of germs but that doesn't mean that your soap is clean.


We’ve all been brought up to believe that in order to remove icky stuff from our hands and pretty much our entire bodies we should wash and clean ourselves with soap. But bar soap in essence just removes grime and germs from your skin—it doesn’t kill bacteria; it just moves it from one location to the next. So could that gross stuff that you thought that you were ridding yourself of might actually be hanging out on your favorite bar of soap? Try not to think about that the next time you lather up. “Bar soap can and likely does have germs living on it, says Debra Brooks, MD, at Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care. But don’t panic just yet because they are not likely to make you sick, she says. (But these showering mistakes might!)

In a study that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection it was found that even when participants used soap that had been contaminated, their risk of the bacteria transferring to them was unlikely. Dr. Brooks concurs. “If you are in good health, you should have no problem naturally defending against the germs on bars of soap,” says Brooks. “Plus it is easy to disinfect your soap because the top layer usually dissolves in water,” she says.

If you are still concerned and want to take extra precaution you should cover and store your soap in a dry place, as this will also help it to last longer. Also, rinse it off before and after using. Finally, if it still freaks you out and you are worried just stick to liquid soaps or shower gels instead. In other news, have you realized how icky showerheads are?