While plenty of people reach for antibacterial soaps, gels and wipes to destroy germs, scientists say ordinary soap is best for keeping clean.
This comes after US researchers suggested the chemical triplosan, which is found in many antibacterial products, could be linked with muscle impairment in humans, mice and fish.
Dr Isaac Pessah, chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of California, led the study that found that triclosan could also affect heart contractions and be linked with heart disease and heart failure.
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"The levels in humans have been increasing since it was first used as an antibacterial agent in the early 1970s. So the body levels in humans … have been steadily increasing," Dr Pessah told FoxNews.com.
Most people are able to excrete triclosan through urine, however Dr Pessah said the real concern is among people suffering heart conditions.
"If an average individual loses 10 percent of their cardiac function, they're not going to feel it. But if you're a person with heart disease already at 50 percent of heart function capacity, reducing 10 percent or 20 percent could markedly hurt your health," he said.
In the experiment, Dr Pessah and his colleagues grew a group of cells derived from human muscle cells, then exposed them to triclosan. They found the chemical prevented the muscles from contracting normally.
When the researchers exposed mice to triclosan for one hour, they had a 25 percent reduction in heart function and an 18 percent reduction in their ability to grip. Similarly, when a school of fathead minnows were exposed to triclosan, they experienced a reduction in swimming activity.
But Professor Tony Dayan, a professor in Toxicology at the University of London, said humans are unlikely to ever be exposed to the levels of triclosan used in the experiment.
"The results found here depend on concentrations 50 to several hundredfold greater than those which were shown to have no harm to muscles of humans or lab animals," he said in a statement.
"As with any chemical that is present in the environment … questions will deservedly be asked about the possibility of any effect on development. No risk to man has been identified with triclosan but the scientific community must stay alert and monitor for any effects just in case."
Dr Cheryl Power, a lecturer in microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, told ninemsn that scientists need to be wary about translating laboratory experiments to a human situation.
"It's very interesting and it obviously merits looking at it further," she said.
"But we need to do this carefully before scaring people about using triclosin. There is a lot of triclosin used in hospital settings and this would be terribly worrying for people with heart conditions thinking they shouldn't be washing their hands any more."
However Dr Power said this research does highlight that we could all benefit from cutting down on the chemicals we expose ourselves to.
"The one positive thing is that it may make people think twice about using something that is labelled antibacterial. We put a lot of antibacterial chemicals in things that we don't need to," she said.
"We've got a lot of alternatives so we don't have to use triclosin in the quantities that we do and it probably is smarter not to use so much of it. Why use any chemical if you don't need to?"
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Instead, Dr Power recommends we use basic hand soap.
"Washing your hands is a good thing to do — experiments have shown that if you're going to wash your hands, a simple hand detergent is just as effective as something that's antibacterial," she said.
"When we're talking about washing our hands, we're talking about washing off bacteria and viruses picked up from other people and other things. They come off very easily – they don't stick to the skin. So a simple soap and water or the alcohol ones are thought to be very safe."