Handwashing vs. Hand Sanitizing
Updated: Mar 9
We all can hear our moms telling us to “wash our hands.” It’s one of the first things we learned to do as a child, and it’s one of the most essential habits to protect your health according to the CDC.
Over the last two to three decades, hand sanitizer products have emerged and evolved as both an alternative and a supplement to hand washing. There are times when hand washing isn’t an option. Maybe you’re not near running water and soap or are in a hurry on the go. It’s in these cases hand sanitizing can be a viable and portable option to maintaining good preventative health.
According to the FDA, hand washing with soap and water is the best course of action, but it’s important to know the “how” and “why” of each option so that you can make the best decisions for your health.
When Should I Wash My Hands?
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the bathroom, changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
After touching an animal, animal food or treats, animal cages or animal waste
After touching garbageIf your hands are visibly dirty or greasy
Rules for using Hand Sanitizer
If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can.
Use hand sanitizer before and after visiting a friend or a loved one in a hospital or nursing home.
Do NOT use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy: for example, after gardening, playing outdoors, or after fishing or camping (unless a hand-washing station is not available). Wash your hands with soap and water instead.
How to Wash Your Hands with Soap and Water
Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
Scrub all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers and under your nails. Keep scrubbing for 20 seconds. (Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.)
Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
How to Sanitize Your Hands
Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in schools and childcare facilities.
Apply. Put enough product on hands to cover all surfaces.
Rub hands together, until hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Do NOT rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it’s dry
Cleaning and sanitizing our hands may seem simple and common sense, but it’s a strong front line of defense against germs and disease. Washing your hands with soap and water will always be the best option, but it might not always be available. That’s why you should carry a trusted brand of hand sanitizer (again, remember to use one that consists of at least 60% alcohol) for those on-the-go moments.