Does germ-killing soap get germs too

Hygiene in everyday life"Soap and water are completely sufficient"

They are tiny and they are numerous - microorganisms that live on our skin and in the intestines, among other things. And they absolutely belong there, says Dr. Ralf Dieckmann, chemist and at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, BfR, deals with biological safety.

"First of all, one should realize that microorganisms are all around us, in and on us, and that very few of them make us sick."

For example, they regulate digestion and protect the skin, and with regular personal hygiene we usually get rid of those that could harm us. Soap and water are sufficient, says Dr. Gunter Linsel. He is responsible for handling biological agents at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "The effect of the soaps, ie the surfactants of the surface-active substances, is more that they wash off the microorganisms, in this case also the viruses, and thus reduce the infection load, the viral load."

Normal cleaning and washing-up liquids are sufficient

This also applies to the coronavirus that we are currently dealing with. Normal cleaning and dishwashing detergents for the home and dishes and normal detergents for clothes are also sufficient now. "This is essentially the surfactant that is in there, which ensures that the virus-containing particles, the microorganism-containing particles, are washed off the surfaces." Acids that are used in cleaning agents or household remedies also serve this purpose.

"This also applies to organic acids such as vinegar, for example. Viruses and microorganisms sometimes do not like acidic environments, and so an acid also has a disinfecting, inactivating effect." Just like the chlorine that we know from swimming pools. "The chlorine has a direct germicidal function. The problem is that the chlorine gas also has an irritating effect on the respiratory tract. But this is clearly in the background compared to the disinfecting effect in chlorinated water in swimming pool water." There are also detergents that contain chlorine, which also have a disinfectant effect.

Disinfectants are more likely to be used in the medical field

In a household with healthy people, however, you don't need them, says Ralf Dieckmann from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. As mentioned, chlorine irritates the respiratory tract and disinfectants can generally trigger allergies. They should therefore only be used where they are actually necessary because the viral load is considerable. So especially in the medical field. According to the BfR, this also applies to substances with an antimicrobial effect such as copper or silver ions in clothing.

"Relatively little is known about the effect of silver, for example, on the skin microbiome. This means that with such applications there is always the risk of selecting resistant bacteria. This means that the bacteria then develop defense mechanisms and then tolerate these substances better. And in the worst case, even antibiotic resistance is triggered. "

Washing hands with soap is most effective

According to the BfR, medical work clothing equipped with copper ions, for example doctor's coats, should be assessed differently. They could prevent doctors and nurses from carrying multi-resistant germs from one patient to another. For everyday life among healthy people, however, the following applies: "After all, one of the most effective measures to protect against infections is still washing your hands with soap and water." That is still the case at the moment, says Ralf Dieckmann.