Hand Washing vs. Hand Sanitiser

Hand sanitizer has become very popular in the past decade or so, and it pops up on the shelves of pharmacies and specialty shops more often than not.  But how can you know if hand sanitizer is really the best way to keep your hands clean?  Read on to learn all about hand sanitizer and how it compares to washing your hands the traditional way, with soap and water.


How to Wash with Soap and Water

Washing your hands with soap and water is not going to be effective at all if you do not use proper hand washing techniques.  It is very easy to wash the correct way, but even so, most people do not take the time to go through the entire process.

Begin by lightly wetting your hands under the water while you wait for it to warm up.  Get a small amount of soap onto your palm and rub your hands together vigorously, bringing the soap to a lather.  Using your fingernails, scrub your palms, your fingers, the backs of your hands, and the space between your fingers as well.  Work on scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds, or about the amount of time it takes to sing your ABC’s.  Finally, rinse your hands in the water, which should be as hot as you can stand it without causing a burn.  When you have rinsed away all the soap, dry your hands thoroughly on a clean towel.


How to Use Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is much easier and quicker to use than soap and water, which largely accounts for its popularity.  People tend to think that, because they can clean their hands much more quickly with hand sanitizer, they are doing themselves a favor by using it.  The proper way to use hand sanitizer does not have nearly as many steps, and takes less than half the time as traditional hand washing.

Begin by opening your hand sanitizer and squeezing a dollop about the size of a quarter into the palm of one hand.  Close the bottle and rub your hands together to spread the sanitizer.  Be sure to rub the hand sanitizer all over your palms, the backs of your hands, your fingers, and the space between your fingers to ensure adequate coverage.  Let your hands air dry for a few seconds.

When is Hand Sanitizer Better?

It is always a good idea to keep hand sanitizer on your person for those times when you might come into contact with a germy surface and be unable to wash your hands the traditional way for too long.  However, in order to get the most benefit out of your hand sanitizer, it is important to use enough of it to fully cover your hands, and to let your hands dry before you touch anything that could rub the sanitizer off of your skin.  You should always use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.  Anything less is unfortunately a waste of time, as it will not be strong enough to kill germs.  Hand sanitizers are a great choice for quickly getting rid of microbes on your skin, but they should not be used to clean hands that are covered in dirt, grime, or grease.

Which Option is Best?

Overall, it is always better to wash your hands with good old-fashioned soap and warm water than it is to rely on hand sanitizer.  There are always situations in which sanitizers can work, but they simply cannot kill the amount of germs that soap and water can.  Whenever possible, always wash your hands with soap and water instead of choosing hand sanitizer, particularly if your hands are covered in another substance, such as food, dirt, or grease.  Nothing can beat the effectiveness of scrubbing your hands the traditional way!


With that said, hand sanitizer can be a valuable asset to you, depending on your line of work or your day to day activities.  If you have children, or if you are a teacher or babysitter who deals with children often, you should keep some sanitizer handy and use it several times throughout the day to keep your hands as clean as possible.  This can help reduce the spread of germs and infections.  The same is true of anyone working in the medical field.  Although hand washing is an important part of any medical worker’s day, hand sanitizer should often come into play as well.