The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently made a final ruling that certain ingredients in retail antiseptic soaps and liquids will be banned from sale. These include 19 ingredients which are specific to the antibacterial claims for these products and include popular compounds like triclosan and triclocarban. According to FDA Director Janet Woodcock, MD, “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water.”

87% of dishwashing liquid purchasers are interested in products that provides antibacterial protection

We know that many US consumers value the importance of antibacterial properties in dishwashing products, as well as other household care items: 87% of dishwashing liquid purchasers are interested in dishwashing liquid that provides antibacterial protection. With such strong interest in antibacterial properties across a broad range of demographics there is huge potential for dish soap brands to reformulate and even create new products focused on these features and conform to industry regulations.

However, for dishwashing products this ruling has only marginal implications, since it specifically addresses antiseptic hand soaps and excludes household cleaning products. That said, the FDA is expected to give another, similar ruling in 2017 which will address more ingredients, such as benzalkonium chloride, chloroxylenol, and benzethonium chloride.

P&G’s Dawn antibacterial dish soap is one brand which contains chloroxylenol as one of its active ingredients. Other brands of dish soap changed their formulas long before this ruling. Colgate, for example, reformulated its Palmolive antibacterial dish soap in 2011 and now uses a combination of alcohol and salt – ingredients that are not banned – to support its antibacterial claim.

What we think

While the FDA’s ruling has minimal effects on industry standards for the dishwashing category, it does place the benefits of antibacterial claims under question. Many dish soap brands are marketed with a strong focus on these claims, since it appeals to many consumers who use these products.

If consumer mistrust of antibacterial claims rises in other categories like antiseptic hand soaps, which are more affected by the FDA’s ruling, this may spill over to the household care category. In response, household care and dish soap brands should consider what steps to take in order to mitigate potential pitfalls. While brands re-evaluate how to best formulate antibacterial dish soaps that conform to industry standards, they may also consider how these changes will affect consumer behavior in a functional category where cleaning power and antibacterial properties are important selling points.

Stephen Brown is a Research Analyst at Mintel covering Household Care for the Mintel US Reports team. With research experience in household heating, Stephen’s expertise has grown to include adjacent CPG markets and channels.