Hand sanitizer vs Hand-washing: Making the right choice

Making the right choice- Hand Sanitizer or Hand Washing?

Ever since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic, COVID-19, various healthcare organizations have urged people to take proper preventive measures to restrict the breakout and spread of the disease. However, washing hands thoroughly is one of the foremost steps that needs to be taken to keep the virus away. 

Hand sanitizer vs hand-washing, this debate has been going on for long. But before we get to that, let us understand the importance of hand-washing. 

Hand-washing: Why is it so important?

Your hands are perhaps the one part of our body that come in contact with other people and objects the most. Besides, think of the countless times you touch your eyes, nose, or face throughout the day without realizing – every time you do so, you stand a chance of contracting various diseases. Therefore, it is important to keep your hands clean at all times.

Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently helps reduce the spread of germs, viruses, and bacteria that are likely to cause a host of infectious gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, some even leading to severe complications, particularly in the elderly and children with weakened immune systems. 

Is hand-washing more effective than hand sanitizer?

When it comes to hand-washing, many people prefer using a hand sanitizer – it is easy to carry and use. But does hand sanitizer work? Hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol or more work well to keep the hands clean. However, several studies, as well as The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend washing hands using water and soap to prevent the onset and spread of diseases.

Here’s why hand-washing beats hand sanitizer – 

  1. Although alcohol-based sanitizers can typically reduce the percentage of microbes on hands quickly, they are not always as effective as soap and water in eliminating all kinds of germs.
  2. Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are greasy or visibly dry – for example, after eating oily food, working in the garden, or playing a sport. 
  3. Hand sanitizers may fail to remove pesticides or harmful chemicals and heavy metals from the surface of your hands. 
  4. Sanitizers with no or very low concentration of alcohol may not be effective in removing germs at all. 

Soap and water, on the other hand, is the best way to wash your hands and keep them germ-free. They not only kill germs but work by eliminating them mechanically from your hands. Running tap water itself does a great job in removing the germs, but soap increases the overall efficacy by pulling out all the dirt and impurities from the skin. 

Hand-washing: Do’s and Don’ts

Now that you know why hand-washing beats hand sanitizer, make sure you are doing it the right way. Washing hands using the right technique is essential to keep germs and diseases at bay. Here are a few do’s and don’ts of hand-washing you must follow –

What to do –

  • Wet your hands in clean and warm running water.
  • Apply mild liquid soap and work into a lather. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. The soap and the friction created by rubbing hands together loosen and remove germs and dirt. 
  • Make sure you are covering all the surfaces of your hands – back and front, between your fingers and under the nails, as well as your wrists.
  • Keep your forearms and hands below the elbows while hand-washing to prevent water from flowing from the most to the least contaminated area. 
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or an air dryer. 

What NOT to do –

  • Do not wash your hands with hot water. It only tends to chap the skin and make it more prone to bacteria.
  • Do not allow water to spill over hands while lathering. This may wash the soap away and reduce the effectiveness of hand-washing.
  • Do not touch the surface of the sink once you have washed your hands. 
  • Do not wash your hands with a soap that has been lying loose or open. It is always advisable to use liquid soap only. 
  • Do not pat dry with a used towel or tissue paper.

 

When should you wash your hands?

Mayo Clinic recommends washing hands frequently through the day, particularly under the following conditions –

  • Before and after cooking and eating meals
  • Before and after treating wounds/injuries, and caring for an ailing person
  • Before removing or inserting contact lenses
  • After using the toilet or cleaning diapers of a child
  • After handling pets or coming in contact with animal waste 
  • After coughing, sneezing, and blowing the nose
  • After cleaning or handling garbage

 

The Bottomline

While washing hands with soap and water is a better option, you should consider keeping a sanitizer handy for certain situations. In case you do not have access to water or soap, you can always pour a few drops of sanitizer and rub your hands until dry. You can refer to a general physician through MediBuddy’s E-consultancy services to know what type of sanitizers can be used for optimal care.

The regular and frequent practice of hand-washing reduces the risk of infectious diseases. Now that you know when to use soap water and when to use a hand sanitizer, make sure you do not skip washing hands through the day. 

Get in touch with a trusted specialist doctor online, from the comfort of your home, on MediBuddy.

Sources:

1. CDC 

2.Mayoclinic

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