Is Hand Sanitizer as Effective as Hand Washing?

Handwashing with soap and water is the standard for good hygiene habits, and protects and cleans our hands of dirt, chemicals, grease, and bacteria from our hands. Many individuals who are constantly on the go do not always have access to a sink where they can wash their hands frequently. Hand sanitizer can be a quick and portable way to clean your hands when traveling to and fro. Can hand sanitizer be as good as handwashing? That depends on a few factors that could affect the way the product works.

Hand sanitizers that are alcohol-based and which contain a minimum of 60 percent alcohol will be more effective at killing germs than solutions that have lower alcohol contents or that are non-alcohol based. The most effective hand sanitizers contain a concentration of an alcohol-based solution of 60-95 percent alcohol. Any solution that has less than 60 percent alcohol will not be effective in killing germs. Some of the weaker formulations only reduce the growth of germs, instead of killing germs and bacteria.  So unless you know the strength of the alcohol content of your hand sanitizer, soap and water – if available – will be the best choice for killing germs and harmful bacteria.

Hand sanitizer also must be used in specific amounts to be effective.  f you do not use enough, the product will not be as effective in killing germs. Reading the back of the manufacturer’s packaging will recommend the amount of hand sanitizer to use for that specific formulation of concentrated product. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for usage of any hand sanitizer product for it to be the most effective. 

Hand sanitizer also should be rubbed into your hands until dry. Many people don’t do this step correctly and will wipe or dry their hands with a towel instead of rubbing their hands together until dry. If you wipe off the product before it dries, it will not be an effective method of killing germs and bacteria. Hand sanitizer should be applied to the palms and then rubbed all over your hands for good coverage. If you don’t rub your hands together thoroughly, the product will not be effective.

Due to the high content of alcohol in hand sanitizer products, it could pose a health risk for young children that may put the product into their mouth. If you are a user of hand sanitizing products, be sure to keep it secure in a bottle or container that is safety locked so little hands or pets don’t come into contact with the product unsupervised. 

Hand sanitizer can be used to clean hands and kill germs when soap and water are not available for hand washing. In order to be effective at killing germs and bacteria, make sure your product has an alcohol content of 60 percent or higher.  Be sure you are using the correct amount in your hands. Rub the product in your hands until dry. If you are unsure what formulation ratio your hand sanitizer product uses, soap and water will always be an effective method for cleaning your hands of germs and bacteria.

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