Is Hand Sanitizer Better Than Washing Your Hands?

There is controversy concerning regular hand washing versus hand sanitizer. With epidemics such as Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza) popping up, hand washing is critical. Researching topics on this matter is difficult due to the overwhelming varying opinions and information that changes as more is learned about disease. To keep updated, visit government websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Significance to Using Soap and Water

Many people swear by washing with soap and water. This requires the use of a regular soap, not an antibacterial one, and water. Antibacterial soaps are controversial. Many believe that continuous use of antibacterial soaps lead to antibiotic resistance. Keep in mind that the human skin has layers of oil on top. The oil allows bacteria to stick to the skin. Washing with hot water and regular soap breaks down these oils, thus removing the bacteria. According to the FDA, hot water that is comfortable for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria on its own. The FDA recommends using warm water instead of cold water to remove the oils, soil and bacteria.

Alternative to Using Soap and Water

The alternative to washing with regular soap and water is to use a hand sanitizer. Many hand sanitizers contain alcohol as an active ingredient. This ingredient is necessary to kill the bacteria on skin. Using a product that contains at least 60 to 95 percent ethanol or isopropanol alcohol is the most favorable in killing bacteria. Some hand sanitizers that contain alcohol also contain aloe vera. Aloe vera will keep the skin from drying out and keep it healthy and youthful.

Natural Hand Sanitizer

There are hand sanitizers that use natural ingredients. Unfortunately, many of the natural products contain Triclosan. Mention Triclosan, and debates arise. When combined with chlorine, Triclosan produces chloroform, a possible carcinogen. Chlorine is found in tap water so the likelihood that this combination will occur great. Natural products are beneficial to the environment, and products with Triclosan are not the only ones available. There are debates on the effectiveness of natural products.


Bacteria exist everywhere. Clean hands keep the bacteria levels at a more controlled level. This will reduce the risk of catching contagious stomach illnesses, influenza and the common cold. This is extremely important in children, the elderly and anyone with an immune deficiency. These are the people with an increased risk of complications. Prevention is easy with proper hand washing. Using a hand sanitizer is not as good as washing with good old soap and water, but hand sanitizer is useful in situations where soap and water is not available.

The Facts

The rule of thumb is to lather up with regular soap and wash with hot water. Children have delicate skin and should use warm water. Spend 20 seconds scrubbing from wrists to fingertips, under fingernails and between fingers. Friction is the key to breaking down the oils and removing bacteria. According to the FDA, “singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice will give the appropriate length of time to lather and wash hands correctly.”

There is controversy concerning regular hand washing versus hand sanitizer. With epidemics such as Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza) popping up