Alternative hand contamination technique to compare the activities of antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soaps under different test conditions

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jun;74(12):3739-44. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02405-07. Epub 2008 Apr 25.


Antimicrobial hand soaps provide a greater bacterial reduction than nonantimicrobial soaps. However, the link between greater bacterial reduction and a reduction of disease has not been definitively demonstrated. Confounding factors, such as compliance, soap volume, and wash time, may all influence the outcomes of studies. The aim of this work was to examine the effects of wash time and soap volume on the relative activities and the subsequent transfer of bacteria to inanimate objects for antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soaps. Increasing the wash time from 15 to 30 seconds increased reduction of Shigella flexneri from 2.90 to 3.33 log(10) counts (P = 0.086) for the antimicrobial soap, while nonantimicrobial soap achieved reductions of 1.72 and 1.67 log(10) counts (P > 0.6). Increasing soap volume increased bacterial reductions for both the antimicrobial and the nonantimicrobial soaps. When the soap volume was normalized based on weight (approximately 3 g), nonantimicrobial soap reduced Serratia marcescens by 1.08 log(10) counts, compared to the 3.83-log(10) reduction caused by the antimicrobial soap (P < 0.001). The transfer of Escherichia coli to plastic balls following a 15-second hand wash with antimicrobial soap resulted in a bacterial recovery of 2.49 log(10) counts, compared to the 4.22-log(10) (P < 0.001) bacterial recovery on balls handled by hands washed with nonantimicrobial soap. This indicates that nonantimicrobial soap was less active and that the effectiveness of antimicrobial soaps can be improved with longer wash time and greater soap volume. The transfer of bacteria to objects was significantly reduced due to greater reduction in bacteria following the use of antimicrobial soap.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Hand / microbiology*
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Serratia marcescens / drug effects
  • Serratia marcescens / growth & development
  • Shigella flexneri / drug effects
  • Shigella flexneri / growth & development
  • Soaps / administration & dosage
  • Soaps / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Soaps