Does Antibacterial Soap Help with Stinky Feet?

If you suffer from perpetually smelly feet, you’ve probably tried many solutions to combat the odor. Antibacterial soaps and body washes are often marketed as being able to kill odor-causing bacteria. But do these products actually help get rid of stinky feet? Let’s take a closer look.

Can Antibacterial Soap Kill These Bacteria?

Antibacterial soaps and body washes contain chemicals like triclosan, triclocarban, benzalkonium chloride, and chloroxylenol meant to kill bacteria. And studies show that most of these ingredients are indeed effective at reducing bacterial populations when used properly.

Triclosan disrupts bacterial cell walls and inhibits enzyme function. Triclocarban acts similarly by damaging cell membranes. Benzalkonium chloride breaks down bacterial cell walls, while chloroxylenol interferes with bacterial metabolism.

So in theory, using antibacterial soap on your feet could help diminish some of the odor-causing bacteria. However, there are some important caveats.

Limitations of Antibacterial Soaps

  1. Doesn’t prevent recolonization: Antibacterial soaps can temporarily reduce bacterial levels on your skin. But bacteria start multiplying again soon after you rinse off the soap. Your feet will quickly become recolonized in your shoes.
  2. Doesn’t affect fungi: Antibacterial agents are ineffective against fungi like athlete’s foot. So if a fungal infection is contributing to your foot odor, antibacterial soaps won’t solve the problem.
  3. Can irritate skin: Some ingredients like triclosan are suspected to cause contact dermatitis, disrupting skin barrier function. This can make feet more prone to sweating and odor issues.
  4. May contribute to antibiotic resistance: Evidence shows that antibacterial chemicals accelerate development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This is a public health concern.
  5. Only reduces, doesn’t eliminate odor: At best, antibacterial soaps moderately reduce foot bacteria and the resulting smell. But they do not completely eliminate foot odor.
  6. Need prolonged contact: To fully work, most antibacterial soap ingredients require 2 minutes of contact or longer with skin. Most people don’t wash their feet that long.
  7. Not designed for feet: Antibacterial soaps are formulated for use on hands, not feet specifically. They may not be optimized for penetrating thicker foot skin.

Tips for Using Antibacterial Soap on Feet

If you do wish to try using antibacterial soap on smelly feet, here are some tips:

  • Pick a product with 0.3% triclosan or 1-2% chloroxylenol. These concentrations show better effectiveness.
  • Wash feet for a full 2 minutes, concentrating on between the toes. This allows maximal contact time.
  • Use soap daily, preferably at night so feet are clean for morning. Consistency is key.
  • Combine with other odor prevention habits like wearing moisture-wicking socks, using antifungal powder, and drying feet thoroughly.
  • Watch for skin irritation and discontinue use if it occurs.
  • Avoid relying solely on antibacterial soap to fix foot odor long-term. Address underlying causes like hyperhidrosis.

Can regular use of antibacterial soap noticeably reduce foot odor? For some people it may provide a modest benefit, especially when combined with other hygiene tactics. But antibacterial soaps are unlikely to serve as a miracle cure for smelly feet on their own.

The problem of foot odor is complicated, often involving multiple contributing factors. To tackle it successfully typically requires a multifaceted approach. This includes good foot hygiene, moisture control, eliminating infections, using odor-fighting products, and dealing with excessive sweating. An antibacterial body wash may play a supporting role, but should not be viewed as a standalone solution.

If you’ve tried many approaches and your foot odor persists unabated, see a podiatrist. A medical professional can assess your feet, diagnose any underlying issues, and create a tailored treatment plan. With a combination of hygiene strategies, medications, and possibly advanced therapies, you can finally say goodbye to your smelly feet.