Does Handmade Soap Kill Germs? The Dirty Truth!

Today the Center for Disease Control mentioned washing our hands multiple times a day to reduce the spread bacteria and viruses. It made me wonder if my handmade soap will kill the germs and keep me healthy.

Plain soap does not kill germs, instead soap works to lift the contaminated oils and cells off your skin so they can be washed away. Soap is an effective measure against the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses.

After learning that information, I was still skeptical. Should I throw out my fresh batch of handmade soap? What about the germs left on the bar? I had so many questions still, so I kept on digging!

How does bar soap work?

Basic soap is made from alkali salts and oils and through a chemical process called soaponification. This can be accomplished through a traditional process called “cold process” or a modern, faster process called “hot process.” Either way, or even if a soap is made with a mass produced glycerin base, the product creates a amphipathic molecule that attracts both water and oil.

It is important to note that soap can combine with both water and oil. Our skin naturally produces oil, which is like a magnet for the every natural germs, bacteria and viruses in our environment. When we wash our hands for at least 15 seconds, the lather of the soap actively attracts the germ contaminated oils from our skin and the water washes everything away!

The same goes for dirt or germs that may be remaining on the surface of a bar of soap! The soap molecules are still active on the soap sitting on the bathroom counter. Germs are easily rinsed off of the bar of soap during the washing process and do not continue to live on the surface of the handmade bar of soap.

Soap is sort of a magical ninja at being a surfactant, which means it meets water and dirt/oil at their crossroads and suspends them until they are washed away. Soap is actually amphipathic because it has molecules wich are both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating). Soap plays the “good cop” & “bad cop” field and both molecules work together to combine with the water and the also hydrophobic dirt & oils on your hands (or face or anything else).

So while soap isn’t going to kill coronavirus or staph, it is the best at preventing transfer into your body or to other people. There are other ways to sanitize as well, but with all good things come a cautionary statement! I learned about antibacterial soaps as well as alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Antibacterial Soaps

Not only are mas produced antibacterial and antimicrobial soaps made with artificial detergents, they are also made with harsh chemicals such as Triclosan and Triclocarban. These ingredients are not natural and their residue remains on your skin even after you have rinsed and dried. Keep in mind that not all bacteria is bad bacteria and we don’t have to attempt to live in a sterile environment!

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water[.] In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers are a waterless, on-the-go alternative to soap and water. These can be very helpful at times when water is not available. But they are not a replacement! Actually, alcohol hand sanitizers are only affective is the alcoholic value is above 60% and the user applies 3.5 milliliters of the gel and rubs it to every part of their hands according to a Harvard Health Newsletter, which can be found in this link!

So be sure you are applying a teaspoon amount, or up to 3 squirts, of hand sanitizer if absolutely necessary if you can not find soap and water. Actually, water itself is effective in moving contaminants off of surfaces! I sometimes wash my hands with a bottle of water in the car before I apply hand sanitizer if I need to clean my hands while out!

When and How to wash hands?

Now that we know what we can use to be effective against germs, I want to tell you what I found about how to use your bar of soap effectively!

The CDC (Center for Disease Control’s Link here) Suggests you wash your hands when participating in these 10 activities.

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

It is important to wash your hands for 20 seconds with a rich lather. The 20 seconds is so you can reach all parts of your hands including between your fingers, under your nails, and up to your wrists.

Drying your hands is also a step in cleaning as germs thrive in warm, moist places. Plan on drying your hands with a clean paper towel for 20 seconds or with an electric dryer for 45 seconds. There is some debate on what the best method is for drying hands, so until further studies prove one way or the other, just try to keep your hands dry.

I also prefer to turn off the water and open the door with the used paper towel as to keep a barrier between my freshly washed hands and the most commonly touched surfaces! Studies show that only 75-90% of people wash their hands after using a public restroom, and that study didn’t say whether or not they washed properly! EWE!

Caution when washing!

Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing! Good hygiene isn’t defined as washing, scrubbing and wearing through the skin on your hands! Here are some great tips to keeping your hands healthy, which in turn will keep your entire body healthy!

Check your hands for long nails or broken skin. These are places where germs will get caught and will be difficult to remove. Furthermore, cut or broken skin can be entrance for germs to find a new host. Keep your skin moisturized to prevent cracking.

Take your time when washing, yet don’t scrub. Even hot water can scortch your skin and cause damage, which can be another opening for an array of microbes. It should take just under a minute to wash and dry your hands properly. Don’t cut corners, this has been tested again and again for the last century to keep our sticky fingers clean.


So science and our fun hobby have concluded, handmade soap is the best! What started almost 5000 years ago has now come full circle and people around the world are making soap from raw materials once again! Stay clean and healthy while enjoying your handmade soap!


Erin is a crafty, fun-loving, mom who takes pride in her kid's creativity and talents.

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