The Myth of Hand Sanitizers

hand-washing-hygieneNo Replacement for Soap and Water

Although hand sanitizers are marketed as effective hand washing solutions, they still remain no match for good old soap and water. Even the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an authority on many matters of public health, specifically recommends that hand sanitizers not be used to replace soap and water for effective hand washing.

Proper Hand Washing

Many hand sanitizers claim to kill more than 99 percent of germs. While they may have the ability to do so in clinical testing environments, hand sanitizers do no remove the dirt and grime that bacteria and germs thrive in. Sanitizers may kill the outer layer of germs, but the microbes that remain embedded in and under dirt particles remain. Scrubbing your hands with soap and water, forming a lather, and rinsing them with clean water remove the germs along with the dirt particles they cling to. Hand sanitizers are not recommended to replace proper hand washing.

Facts About Hand Sanitizers

Remember these facts when using hand sanitizers:

  • Every sanitizer is different. Alcohol content and percentage of germs killed will vary between brands. Some experts recommend not using alcohol-based sanitizers. Alcohol-free products, however, can have widely varying germ kill rates. Do your research and use sanitizers as a supplement to a good soap and water hand washing program.
  • Avoid recontamination. Using a hand sanitizer does not protect your hands from contamination for an extended period of time. Like soap and water, once your hands are dry and touch a contaminated surface such as a door knob, toilet seat, or cell phone, they will once again host germs and bacteria.
  • Alcohol-based products can be dangerous. The effectiveness of many hand sanitizers relies on the sterilizing properties of alcohol. Sanitizers with 60 percent or higher alcohol content will effectively kill germs that they come in direct contact with. The trade off, however, is that you are exposing your skin to 120 Proof alcohol. If you give the product to your children, you are equipped them with a powerful alcoholic substance. Not only is alcohol a poison, it is also highly flammable and can cause skin damage.

Remember that hand sanitizers are effective at killing germs, but only ones that they encounter. The dirt removing qualities of soap and water are much more effective at removing germs from your hands.

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