When you’re in a hurry, hand sanitizer can be effective when it is at least sixty percent alcohol. Hands down though, soap and water are the most effective way to remove any chemicals and all kinds of germs, infections, and bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends frequent handwashing for at least twenty seconds to prevent the spread of viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and germs. Read on to learn the intricacies of the washing your hands vs hand sanitizer debate.

Washing Your Hands Vs Hand Sanitizer

There are so many reasons soap and water are much better cleaners. First, there are limits on how well sanitizers can work.  Applying hand sanitizer may be easier, but those with a high enough alcohol content cannot even remove types of bacteria and viruses.

Washing Your Hands

Soap and water are far more effective at removing ordinary sickness carrying germs such as cryptosporidium, norovirus, and clostridium difficile. Studies show that hand sanitizers work well in a clinical style environment, `where hands are not heavily soiled or dirty. In work or community settings, people are handling equipment, food, or are exercising, sanitizers cannot clean thoroughly enough. However, hand sanitizers are ineffective if you apply too little or if you wipe it off before it dries.

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers are also ineffective when trying to rid yourself of harmful chemicals that you may come into contact with. If touched with harmful chemicals, it is suggested by experts to wash your hands carefully with soap and water or as directed by poison control.

What Studies Say

There have been quite a few studies show that hand sanitizers with alcohol concentration between sixty and ninety-five percent are the best at killing germs that those products with lower concentration or no alcohol in it at all. Lesser concentrations of alcohol make it harder for the growth of germs rather than inhibit or stop the growth of germs. A more recent worry that has arose is some of the bacteria have begun to show a resilience against the lower amounts of ethyl alcohol.

Misuse of Hand Sanitizer

While alcohol based hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed, they can cause alcohol poisoning if swallowed, particularly, if a person swallows more than a few handfuls. U.S. Poison control centers received nearly eighty-five thousand calls about hand sanitizer exposures among children in a four-year time. For this reason, hand sanitizers should always be stored out of reach of young children, and used only when there is an adult around to supervise the use.

So The Answer Is?

Soap combined with water is the best, and most effective way, to ensure the cleanliness of our hands. The soap molecules are very effective at destroying the germs, bacteria, and viruses from our hands. Also, when you lather and scrub your hands thoroughly it creates friction which helps lift and wash away dirt and grime from our hands. Soap takes twenty seconds to work. If you sing the happy birthday song twice, that’s about the time it takes for the soap to start taking effect.

When To Wash

Washing your hands is not a one-and-done exercise. It is good to create the habit of washing your hands often to protect yourself as well as others around you. You touch so much throughout the day, you might not even think about. But you should wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • While caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching the garbage
  • And If your hands are visibly greasy or dirty.