Bactericidal effects of triclosan in soap both in vitro and in vivo

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2015 Dec;70(12):3345-52. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkv275. Epub 2015 Sep 15.


Objectives: On December 2013, the US FDA proposed a rule stating that manufacturers must provide data to demonstrate that antibacterial soap is more effective than plain soap or water. The objective of the present study was to examine the in vitro and in vivo bactericidal effect of triclosan (the most widely used antiseptic agent in soap) in soap.

Methods: Twenty bacterial strains (proposed by the FDA) were exposed to plain and antibacterial soaps (the same formulation as plain soap, but containing 0.3% triclosan) for 20 s at 22°C (room temperature) and 40°C (warm temperature). The temperature and time were selected to simulate the hand washing conditions and procedures used by consumers. The triclosan concentration of 0.3% is the maximum allowed by law. The decontamination efficacy of plain soap and antibacterial soap was also examined in vivo: the hands of volunteers were artificially inoculated with Serratia marcescens.

Results: There was no significant difference (P > 0.05) in bactericidal activity between plain soap and antibacterial soap at either test temperature. However, antibacterial soap showed significantly greater bactericidal effects after 9 h. These results suggest that although triclosan-containing soap does have antibacterial activity, the effects are not apparent during the short time required for hand washing.

Conclusions: Antibacterial soap containing triclosan (0.3%) was no more effective than plain soap at reducing bacterial contamination when used under 'real-life' conditions. The present study provides practical information that may prove useful for both industry and governments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects*
  • Soaps*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Triclosan / pharmacology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Soaps
  • Triclosan