Germs, Soap, Antibacterial Soap, & Used Shaving Gear

Posted by Leighton Tyau on

In this article I will discuss germs. How and why soap gets rid of those germs, whether antimicrobial soap is worthwhile, and whether or not germs can live on used shaving gear.

Antibacterial Soap - Does it Even Work?

Antimicrobial soap sounds like a great idea, but in recent times has come under fire. It’s supposed to kill off more microbes than regular soap, but does it do more harm than good? Maybe, but there are no definitive studies on the effects of antibacterial soap & bacterial resistance.

So, what the heck is it? In short, it’s just liquid soap (ok, actually synthetic detergent) laced with an antimicrobial agent (usually Triclosan).

It’s supposed to be more effective at killing off germs, but is it really? First off, antibacterial anything does absolutely nothing to viruses. (It's antibacterial, not antiviral.) Ok, but what about bacteria? According to the FDA, there is no evidence that antibacterial soap is any more effective at killing bacteria than regular soap.

How Soap Kills Those Germs

The possibly surprising answer is that it doesn’t. Only antibacterial soap kills bacteria (but not viruses). Soap just washes the germs down the drain. So why doesn’t that bar of soap start growing bacteria? Because it doesn't have enough water. Bacteria need water to thrive. No water, no bacteria. Same with most viruses, they can’t survive for longer than a few days outside of a controlled environment. In addition, soap is a pretty strong base. Approximately 9-10 on the pH scale.

But what about soft soaps, croaps and creams? Do they grow bacteria? Actually, unless a preservative is used, yes they can.

What about viruses? The good news is that most of the ones we should be concerned about die within hours of leaving the host body. Some are a little more resistant though. Most die after a week of exposure on a dry surface. A study published in 2010 in the AEM found that washing your hands with soap & water was the best method for removing the Norovirus, followed in efficacy by rinsing with just plain water. So, regular ol’ soap & water quite possibly the best way to get rid of those viruses short of submerging your hands in bleach or alcohol for a few minutes.

What's the Best Way to Wash Your Hands?

The best way to wash your hands is the most thorough method. The more crevices you get and time you spend, the cleaner your hands will be. As far as methods go, the WHO method is the best. See how to do it below.

Are Used Razors Safe?

First off, do not reuse a cartridge razor or the DE blade. The actual razor is not safe to share. Period. Don't do it. Unless you want to catch something nasty. A razor blade is so cheap and disposable and should not be shared.

But what about the actual razor? The good news is that metal is extremely inhospitable to life forms. A simple rinse with water will wash off most viruses according to the FDA, and the use of soap and water will wash off nearly 100% of all microbes.  But if you’re still concerned, sanitization after cleaning is an option. 5 minutes in a 90% alcohol solution or the use of Barbicide is what I recommend. Bleach also works, but might react with some finishes.

What About Used Brushes?

Just like everything else, washing the brush with soap & water will eliminate nearly all the microbes. Brushes present a slight problem for sanitization. The hairs cannot be exposed to harsh chemicals such as bleach or alcohol or even Barbicide because they might be damaged. The only sanitizing agent I personally know of to be safe would be a vinegar & water mixture. However, it’s not as effective as bleach or alcohol or Barbicide.

Now, all that said, you can also just let it sit around for 7 days or however many days necessary to kill off whatever virus you’re concerned about. But if you’re very concerned about such things, you’re better off not buying used.

What about soap? It depends. If the soap is a triple milled soap, it is extremely inhospitable to germs. Not only is there no water, but it’s a fairly basic solution. In addition, you can always scrape off or wash off the top layer of soap. As such, it’s pretty safe. If it’s a softer soap with no preservative, there is a small chance of bacterial presence.

In this author’s opinion though, metal is extremely inhospitable to anything other than the most hardy of spores, and soap & water should get rid of those. Plus, they can be soaked in alcohol/bleach/Barbicide, so buying a used DE razor is fairly safe. As for brushes, soap & water is pretty darned effective, but there is a miniscule chance of something remaining. But they’re still probably pretty safe. Regardless, purchase used shaving gear at your own risk.



Effectiveness of Liquid Soap and Hand Sanitizer against Norwalk Virus on Contaminated Hands by Pengbo Liu, Yvonne Yuen, Hui-Mien Hsiao, Lee-Ann Jaykus, and Christine Moe. January 2010, vol. 76, No. 2, p. 394-399. Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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