Can germs survive on a bar of soap?

Standard soap doesn’t kill bacteria, it just dislodges them - so where do they go?

26th February 2015
Can germs survive on a bar of soap? (iStock)

Asked by: Shelly Lloyd, Canada

Yes. When you wash your hands, you transfer a thin film of bacteria, skin flakes and oils to the bar of soap. A 2006 study of 32 dental clinics found bacteria growing on the soap in all of them – after all, standard soap doesn’t kill bacteria, it just dislodges them. A 1988 study found that washing your hands with a dirty bar of soap doesn’t transfer any of the germs onto your hands – but then the study was conducted by a US soap manufacturer.