Fact or Fiction: Hand Sanitizer Works as Well as Hand Washing

I was at a movie the other night, and the worst happened: I had to pee in the middle of an intense scene. (TMI?) Anyway, I darted to the bathroom, took care of business, and then washed up.


As I left the restroom, I noticed a hand sanitizer dispenser mounted on the wall next to the exit. My first thought: How many people skip hand washing in favor of a quick splash of sanitizer? My second thought: Are these people eating from the same popcorn bag as me?

Let’s talk about hand washing versus hand sanitizer.


Before we get into the best ways to avoid germs, maybe we should examine why it matters in the first place.

As you probably know, germs are bad. They often cause sickness and disease, which is why it’s so important to keep your hands clean.

Where do the germs come from? (Full disclosure: we’re going to talk about poop. Sorry.)

According to the CDC, one of the main sources of germs is feces from either people or animals. One gram of feces—about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs!

GermsYou might think all this germ spreading happens in the bathroom, but it’s important to remember what’s being carried outside of the washroom.

Those who don’t properly wash and sanitize their hands can spread germs to door handles, light switches, and…well, anywhere they touch. (Side note: according to a recent study, people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour.)

Some of these germs include Salmonella, E. coli, norovirus, adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease.


Hand Sanitizer

Okay, so now you get it: germs are bad. So is hand sanitizer an effective way to kill these nasty disease spreaders?

The short answer is yes. Hand sanitizer can be a great way to eliminate germs…for the most part.

Make sure you’re using a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol concentration, which is much more effective than non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The latter may not work for killing all classes of germs and can even cause germs to develop a resistance to the sanitizing agent.

Hand Washing

I guess this is where we get to the conclusion—the fact that hand washing is the best solution for killing and reducing the spread of germs located on our hands.

Washing hands

Yes, a good hand sanitizer works, too. But people often use this method incorrectly, don’t use enough sanitizer, or wipe the sanitizer off before it has dried.

Soap and water are also more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs like cryptosporidium, norovirus and Clostridium difficile.

Check out the info below from the CDC. They’ve got this hand washing stuff down. They also provided most of the information I collected for this post, so thanks to them.

Hand Washing

Extra Defense

Now that you’ve got the scoop on the importance of washing your hands, it’s time to share your own tips for fighting germs in the comments below. Remember that we’re heading into cold season very soon, so we can use all the extra defense we can get.

Now stop reading this and go wash your hands. Think of what’s on your keyboard! (Don’t make me write the “P” word again.)

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