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Hand Sanitizer vs Soap and Water – Which Is Best?

Updated: Friday, April 9, 2021

During these trying, uncertain days, there are two essential hand hygiene measures none of us can live without: Hand Sanitizer and Soap and Water.

As we strive to keep ourselves, families, friends and neighbors healthy in the time of the coronavirus, many people are asking hand hygiene’s age-old question.

Is hand sanitizer as effective as, or superior to, washing your hands the old fashioned way with soap and water? The answer to that popular question is: it depends.

Let’s begin with clarifying the functionality of hand soap, compared to that of hand sanitizer. The primary purpose of hand soap is to remove germs and bacteria, not kill it. When washing your hands with soap, dirt and germs trapped in the natural oils of the skin are lifted and suspended in water.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer, on the other hand, is proven to kill viruses and bacteria. The alcohol kills the bacteria by softening the bacterial membrane, allowing the alcohol to render bacteria ineffective.

18 oz Avant Foaming Hand SanitizerWhen Is Hand Sanitizer the Preferred Choice?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended as an acceptable alternative to soap and water in hospital and clinic-like settings because healthcare professionals often perform duties in sterile settings and are required to clean their hands constantly throughout day.

When Is Washing With Soap & Water the Preferred Choice?

Aterra Eco-Premium Hand Soap. Available in bulk quantities.In other situations, soap and water is the recommended choice. For example, the CDC suggests washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom because your hands may become contaminated with fecal microorganisms, and soap is designed to effectively remove those contaminants.

Another example of when soap and water is the superior hand hygiene choice is for the food service industry. People working in the food industry often have proteins and other fatty ingredients on their hands, which decrease the ability of antibacterial hand gels to adequately kill bacteria.

With soap and water, technique is very important. The vast majority of people do not wash their hands as thoroughly as they should. It is recommended to scrub your hands for a full 20 seconds, which can feel longer than you might think. Two good ways to go about it is to sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday twice in your head. Here is a helpful hand washing tutorial.

Which Is Better At Preventing Transmission of COVID-19?

When it comes to fighting the biggest public health threat of our lifetime, soap and water works better to remove the coronavirus. By disrupting the sticky bond between pathogens and your skin, soap allows the pathogens to slide right off. 

Not only does soap neutralize the virus, but you are physically knocking it off your hands when thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water. While sanitizer kills the germs, it can leave the dead microbes on your skin.

Soap and water causes the SARS-CoV-2 virus to fall apart like a house of cards and die. As University of New South Wales chemistry professor Palli Thordarson notes, using soap on COVID-19 viruses, is “annihilating the viruses, rendering them harmless.”

You will undoubtedly come across situations where soap and water is the ideal solution, but it isn’t readily available. In these situations, it is better to use hand sanitizer, a CDC-recommended coronavirus killer, than nothing at all.

B4 Brands offers a wide selection and sizes of hand hygiene products to keep you and your family safe during these uncertain times.

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