The basic idea of soap has always been pretty clear: to rid the human body of any hapless intruder that comes between skin and the open air, allowing us to present ourselves to the world proudly unmediated by filth. But if a new ”supersoap” technology catches on, that paradigm may be reversed. Soap will not vanish into the running water along with the dirt it so nobly removes. It will effectively cover the body with an ultrathin film and come along for the ride, warding off germs before they have a chance to take hold.

This year, scientists at Colgate-Palmolive in Piscataway, N.J., announced that they had patented something called Microbial Anti-attachment Technology (MAT). The anti-attachment technology cloaks your hand like an invisible glove and makes skin a hostile promontory to any bacteria it might encounter. In tests, superwashed hands rejected as much as 58 percent more bacteria than those scrubbed with ordinary soap.