If You’re Fighting Them, It Helps to Know What Germs Are

Guilt is big in marketing. Just as cable TV ads will suggest you’re being selfish for not buying more insurance to cover “final expenses,” big soap companies will accuse you of not loving your family if you don’t buy the right product to protect them from the “germs” and illness in the world.

We’re not in the insurance business, but we can tell you there is no one skincare product to make your family bullet-proof. There are products advertised as doing just that, but the truth is, they don’t do what they say. The companies touting these products are the last ones you should listen to.

Liquid soap dispenser- does it fight germs?

This Is How Cynical Marketing Can Be

Marketers, including those at Botanie, want to touch you where you live. The point of marketing is not to appeal to reason, but to emotions. Love of family – and the corresponding fear of never being able to do enough to keep them safe – are among the most powerful. And so, if a company is making a product that will kill all germs that could ever make your children sick, how could you not buy it? Knowing this product is out there, could you say you really love your family if you don’t? Just to be safe?

Mom holding son by water

Here’s the Part About Germs

Just as we tell customers that organic soap isn’t medicine, we tell them not to be fooled by the claims of antibacterial soap makers. Beyond the fact that antibacterial soap doesn’t do what it says, the marketing chooses, rather dishonorably, to exploit two specific things: 1) consumers’ general lack of science knowledge, and  2) consumers’s fear they’re missing something.

Think of how many times you’ve heard phrases like this in skincare advertising: Kills Germs. Keeps Your Family Safe From Germs. The pivotal word in these claims is germs – it’s what’s being killed, and what you’re being saved from. But germs are what, exactly?

The truth is, germs aren’t one thing, and the term isn’t used officially anymore. It’s an inclusive phrase for microorganisms that can cause disease, also known as pathogens. Included in this category are the terms actually used in contemporary science – bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. It doesn’t take much knowledge of any of these to realize nothing as innocuous as soap is capable of complete protection.

Chemistry Lab

No Magic Cure for Germs

Even if Dial or Bristol-Meyers were able to find the magic ingredients to kill all bacteria and viruses, to nullify fungi and protozoa – magic ingredients that don’t exist – the very nature of washing would nullify them.

Unlike creams or lotions, known as leave-on products, soap is rinsed off. Whatever active ingredients it contains don’t stay on the skin very long and the minuscule amount that’s left behind isn’t enough to have an effect. Corporate marketing isn’t concerned, though, that their products do what they say, only that you believe they do.

6 thoughts on “If You’re Fighting Them, It Helps to Know What Germs Are

    • “One end of soap molecules love water – they are hydrophilic. The other end of soap molecues hate water – they are hydrophobic. Hydrophobic ends of soap molecule all attach to the oil. … This is how soap cleans your hands – it causes drops of grease and dirt to be pulled off your hands and suspended in water.”~ Planet-Science.com

      It’s the lathering and running water which washes away germs. The lather lifts dirt and germs from the skin and the water washes them off. But then, you’re washing with non-sterile water so you’re adding other germs to your skin. The part no one mentions is that out of the billions of germs, not all are pathogenic. Some germs actually consume pathogens for you and are beneficial. Bathing is about more than just getting clean, it’s also tending to your skin. Knowing this, I also use exfoliation cloths and scrub my body regularly. Other cultures look at bathing differently and they understand that the skin is a three-dimensional organ that also much be cleaned ‘out’. So bathe daily with soap and water and take care of your skin. It’s the first line of defense against pathogens but you don’t need anti-bacterial products. Just regular, good hygiene practices.

  1. think that they are just covering liability! There is truth to doing a thorough job of washing. Why would mothers insist that kids ” go back and wash their hands”.

  2. Ok, so the soaps in general just clean the visible dirty? And all that thing about washing hands to avoid the contamination of H1N1 etc?

    • Joelita – Thanks for the comment. The advantage of handwashing is that it cleans beyond the visibly dirty to the microscopic. The point of all handwashing is to remove dirt and germs and viruses from your hands, as opposed to killing them, so they aren’t spread to objects others might touch or to other people’s hands, as well as not infecting one’s self when fingers find their way to mouths.

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