Keeping Our Hands Clean: Is Your Soap Safe?

Teenie tiny has a lot of energy, and I do mean a lot. In order to keep my sanity (and hers), I try to have a lot of active time planned for us during the week. Most of the time, that means a lot of running and playing in our garden/backyard (which she has lovingly named “the woods”), or trips to the park or the library. Once a week though, she goes to an organized gym class, where she gets to jump, sing, and dance even more. The class is great, and she loves it, but I have a little secret to share.

I Internally Cringe Every Time This Class Ends

As soon as the class ends, parents and children hurriedly line up to wash their hands with a common antibacterial hand soap. Parents pour a huge amount of soap over their toddler’s hands and sing “Happy Birthday” twice to make sure that those hands are properly cleaned. I’ll confess, this is a long, arduous process, but that’s not what causes me to cringe.

Teaching our kids about proper hygiene and hand washing is good parenting. After all, toddlers. touch. everything. (Yikes) My issue is not with the parents or the hand washing; it’s with the soap. Antibacterial soap is the worst choice for our health. Not only is it made with toxic chemicals, but numerous studies show that it’s responsible for creating antibiotic resistant “super bugs.”

It might seem like I’m overthinking this,  but hear me out. When you look closer at the ingredients list of popular antibacterial soaps, you might start agreeing with me too.

Lets Start with the Active Ingredient for this Particular Soap: Triclosanliquid-triclosan-soap

Triclosan has been a subject of controversy for quite a few years. The FDA has even challenged manufacturers by requiring them to prove that triclosan is actually safe and effective in their products. (There’s currently no research showing that it’s any more effective than regular soap and water.) Minnesota has also recently banned the sale of any items with triclosan.

What Makes Triclosan so Bad?

For starters, it’s an endocrine disruptor. Studies have shown that it upsets the hormonal balance in animals. Additionally, it has been linked to birth defects, and a weakened immune system. Because of its overuse in hand soaps and other items, triclosan has been found in breastmilk, and it has, oddly enough, even been found in dolphins.

dolphinWhen it interacts with the chlorine (that’s added to disinfect municipal water) it produces chloroform. Did I mention that it can also stay on your skin for hours?

The Inactive Ingredients are No Better.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate has been tied to eye and skin irritation, and it can damage cell membranes. The ingredient “fragrance” could truly be anything since it’s not specified, but many times it means phthalates. Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors. I hope you see my point.

A lot of times we don’t think twice about what we put on our skin, but it truly is important. Think about it; whatever we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bodies and ends up in our bloodstream. Our skin is supposed to serve as a barrier to protect us, so why would we purposely use toxic chemicals that compromise this barrier?

All Things in Moderation?

I know that some of you may be thinking, “It’s just once a week, so what’s the big deal?” We can use our own soap at home and be a little more flexible when we’re out, right? To me though, it’s an additional challenge as we try to make the healthiest choices for ourselves and for the environment. We’ve worked really hard to make positive changes, and the thought of making this exception really feels like a step backward. It also challenges me about what and how I’m teaching Teenie Tiny.

On the one hand, I really want her to understand and practice proper hygiene. I want her to practice getting up on the step stool, getting her own soap, and running her hands under the water; I just don’t want her exposed to all of the harmful chemicals in the hand soap.

So what do I do in this situation?


Well, Teenie Tiny loves washing her hands,  so I let her. She’ll happily wash her hands with water, and then I’ll clean them with our nontoxic wipes after she’s done.

Is there a better solution?

Maybe, but it’s currently the best solution that I came up with while she’s too young to understand my choice.

At home, we use Dr. Bronner’s organic castille soap, but when we’re out, we’ll stick with this solution for now, at least until our culture changes.

Do you have a similar concern or another solution to this situation? I’d love to hear it, so leave your comment below. Thank you for reading!


One thought on “Keeping Our Hands Clean: Is Your Soap Safe?

  1. Pingback: Gardening: Truly Non-Toxic Pest Control | What We Learned This Week

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