Cold and flu season is upon us, which means that the spread of germs is at an all time high. Washing your hands properly and frequently is the easiest and most effective way to prevent you from catching or spreading an illness or disease. That may seem obvious, but many people don’t take the time to wash their hands properly, and some people rely solely on hand sanitizer to keep them safe.
The Debate: Soap vs. Hand Sanitizer
Some people hate using hand sanitizer due to the strong smell and the feeling it isn’t actually cleaning their hands. Some people only ever use hand sanitizer due to the convenience and the feeling that it works just as well as washing with soap. Well, I’m here to settle the debate. Which is better: soap or hand sanitizer?
The science is in, and properly washing hands with soap and running water actually gets the hands much cleaner than using hand sanitizer alone. While hand sanitizer, when used properly, can clean the hands of most germs, some germs that cause serious illness, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile, are not removed by hand sanitizer. Also, sanitizer is not as effective as soap and water at removing dirt, oil, or harsh chemicals from the hands.
How to Properly Wash Hands
Follow these steps to make washing your hands as effective as possible.
- Wet hands with clean, running water. (Water can be hot or cold.) Turn off faucet. Apply soap.
- Lather hands, making sure to scrub backs of hands, between fingers, and under finger nails, for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, sing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head twice.
- Rinse hands thoroughly under clean, running water.
- Dry hands with paper towel or air dry.
How to Properly Use Hand Sanitizer
Although it’s not the best, using hand sanitizer is better than nothing at all. Follow these steps to make using hand sanitizer as effective as possible.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer that is made of 60-80 percent alcohol.
- Apply a generous amount of sanitizer to dry hands, rubbing over backs of hands, between fingers, and under finger nails. Hands should be wet.
- Allow hands to air dry. This should take about 20 seconds. Do NOT rinse hands with water or wipe sanitizer off of hands.
Written by: Anna Limoges