From washing-up liquid to handwash, Which? finds that you may be buying antibacterial products you don’t need.
We asked expert scientists to assess whether you need five antibacterial products from leading brands: Carex Silver antibacterial handwash, Dettol Cleanse antibacterial handwash, Fairy Eucalyptus Antibacterial Action, Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser and Savlon Cleansing Wipes with Antiseptic.
Our experts concluded that in many situations these products were unnecessary, because there was another way to achieve the same effect, for example washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a standard cleaning product.
UK consumers spent an estimated £239 million on multipurpose germ-killing cleaning products last year and our survey found around a fifth (22%) consciously buy personal care products with antibacterial claims.
Around a fifth (22%) said that the claims on an antibacterial handwash would make them more likely to buy it, but our experts say that washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds can be very effective at killing bacteria and removing viruses.
Similarly, we found no evidence to suggest that antibacterial washing-up liquids are any better than standard washing-up liquids which also kill bacteria.
Almost a quarter (24%) of Which? members said that the claims made by antiseptic wipes would make them more likely to buy the product. However, Savlon Cleansing Wipes with Antiseptic claim to protect against germs but this relates to bacteria only which is no help if you’re trying to avoid colds and flu, and soap and warm water could work just as well.
Which? Editor Richard Headland, said:
“There are a few instances where antibacterial products may provide additional protection, but consumers should think about whether they really need products with antibacterial claims or whether you can achieve similar results another way such as simply using soap and water.”
Myths about germs busted:
Treat with caution any products that claim to treat ‘germs’ as this is not a technical term.
If your hands are heavily contaminated with dirt and you apply antibacterial gel without washing them first, it won’t be as effective as it should be.
Contact with low levels of bacteria and viruses can help the body maintain an effective immune system and some bacteria are actually beneficial or harmless.
However, the risks are higher if you have a diminished immune system or are very young or very old.
Notes to editors:
1. For a full copy of the article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 02077707562.
2. The experts consulted were Dr John Hoskins C.Chem, FRSC, independent consultant on the chemistry of consumer products; and Dr Ronald Cutler FIBMS, FIBIOL, FRSPH, Director of Biomedical Science Degree programmes, Queen Mary University of London. They assessed the evidence provided by companies to support their claims as well as wider scientific literature.
3. Our experts assessed five products: Carex Silver antibacterial handwash, Dettol Cleanse antibacterial handwash, Fairy Eucalyptus Antibacterial Action, Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser and Savlon Cleansing Wipes with Antiseptic.
4. Industry value of £239m in 2013 according to Mintel.
5. We asked 1009 Which? members about their antibacterial product buying habits in March 2014.