Washing and sanitizing your hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs, bacteria and disease. This is even more important if you work in a healthcare facility, daycare, or school. Hand washing and sanitizing is an easy habit to develop, and takes little time to accomplish. There’s really no excuse for not having clean hands, especially when a hand sanitizer doesn’t even require soap and water.
How do Hand Sanitizers Work?
Most hand sanitizer products contain at least 50 percent alcohol; however, it is recommended that hand sanitizers contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol kills a lot of germs, and it’s often the main ingredient in hand sanitizers. Rubbing alcohol on your hands for as little as 30 seconds can destroy many forms of bacteria and germs. Using a hand sanitizer can also cause your hands to stay clean longer by slowing the growth of bacteria. Your hands will still pick up germs, just not as fast.
Of course, a hand sanitizer can’t completely stop the spread of germs and bacteria. It also shouldn’t totally replace washing your hands with soap and water. For example, a hand sanitizer might not be that effective against germs that are spread through inhalation. As with the common cold, which can be spread through the inhalation of fluids secreted by an infected person, the sanitizer can stop people from spreading their germs via hand transfer, which is also a common way to catch a cold or flu.
Places that should keep hand sanitizers handy include healthcare facilities, schools, and daycares. Healthcare facilities deal with sick people all day long, and using a hand sanitizer can help prevent spreading germs and bacteria to other patients, visitors, and employees. Children also unwillingly spread germs at a high rate, and hand sanitizer use in schools and daycares is shown to cause a drop in reported illnesses.
Please note that a hand sanitizer isn’t recommended for cleaning hands that have been exposed to bodily fluids such as blood, dirt, or fecal matter. Two or three minutes worth of old–fashioned scrubbing with soap and water is best for use in these situations. In general, hand washing should be done for at least 15 seconds. So, if you work in a restaurant or healthcare facility, hand washing is highly recommended. However, you can still use a hand sanitizer after washing and drying your hands.
A Hand Sanitizer or Soap and Water?
It’s always good to clean your hands with soap and water but what if no soap or water is available? What if you don’t have time to thoroughly wash your hands? After all, it takes warm water, soap, lathering, and scrubbing for at least two minutes before washing with soap and water becomes highly effective. A hand sanitizer is quick and easy to use and is actually more effective in killing bacteria and viruses that cause disease than soap and water according to the Mayo Clinic. Just rub it on your hands for about 30 seconds and you’re done. You can also carry a small container of hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket. Try doing that with soap and water.
If you really want to keep your hands clean, try following a regular soap and water wash with a good hand sanitizer. But for those times when you can’t get to soap and water, a hand sanitizer is an excellent alternative.