Keeping your hands clean is essential to stop the infection and spread of disease. It is common knowledge that we should wash or sanitize before eating or preparing foods, after using the restroom, blowing your nose, or when dealing with sick or immune-compromised people such as babies or the elderly. However, how do soap and sanitizers work when it comes to destroying viruses and bacteria? And is hand soap or sanitizer better at stopping the spread of germs?

How Does Hand Soap Work?

While it may seem simple, soap and water can help to remove and destroy many bacteria and viruses. This is due to an emulsion that clings to those bacteria and viruses and removes them from your skin and washes them down the drain. Removal of the viruses and bacteria depends on the way you wash your hands. The most effective way is by making sure to lather all sides, between your fingers and clean under your nails.

How Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

Hand sanitizer’s main ingredient is ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol) or isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol content is around 60-70 % depending on most formulas and this is what makes sanitizer a powerful tool. Hand sanitizer works by coating the germs that are on your hands and destroys the germs by removing the outer molecular coat and bursting germs open to avoid sickness.

Which is better: soap and water or hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizers are recommended handy if you need to wash your hands but water and soap are not readily available. They work best when they contain at least 60% of alcohol and properly applied to your hands and given time to dry.

However, Handwashing is the most effective when done correctly. It is best practice to wash hands for 30 seconds. A good way to ensure you are washing for the suggested time is to sing "Happy birthday" twice. Get your hands wet and lather vigorously, making sure to lather the palms and backs of your hands getting to get all the nooks and crannies. Using soap and water is the overall best choice as it removes more germs from your hands especially when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

It takes all of us to stop the spread of germs

Overall, we all have to do our part to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses. As an allied healthcare college, we are working diligently to ensure the reduction in the spread of diseases and actively teach our students and staff how to properly reduce the spread.