Does Hand Sanitizer Really Work?

Many of us have seen and probably used the bottles of hand sanitizer in the front of grocery stores, at the bank, in hospitals and schools, or we keep one to use in our bags or in the car. Especially now that we’re in the midst of cold and flu season and with all the news we hear about the Coronavirus, we have become reliant on this fast-drying cleanser to keep us safe and germ-free. We squeeze out a small amount, rub it on our hands, and maybe wipe the excess off before going on our way thinking our hands are now clean and we are safe from getting sick. But is this really true?

Hand sanitizer is not the cure-all for disease prevention. While it serves as a handy tool in times of need, there are four important things to know about it before you rely on using the solution to keep you healthy:

1. Hand sanitizer does not leave your hands clean

It does not actually clean your hands. It only kills the first layer of germs on your skin. If you’ve been outside, used the restroom, or cleaned up a cut, hand sanitizer is not going to clean off dirt, feces, or blood from your hands nor does it cut through the grease to get to any germs underneath. Though it will kill some of the bacteria and germs, your hands will still be dirty and need to be washed. To get rid of those materials, you have to use hot water and soap.

2. Hand sanitizer doesn’t actually kill all the germs

Hand sanitizer doesn’t actually kill all the bacteria and germs on your hand though it does greatly reduce the number. As advertised on many bottles, hand sanitizer kills 99.99% of all germs and bacteria. Initially, this sounds fantastic but you still have .01% of bacteria left. For example, if you have an area with 100,000 bacteria, after using hand sanitizer correctly, you can still have 1,000 bacteria living on the surface of your skin.

3. There are types of bacteria and germs hand sanitizer can’t kill

While hand sanitizer kills many of the common bacteria, there are some it cannot destroy such as C. Diff or MRSA. Even with the best use of hand sanitizer, you can still transfer C. Diff to whatever it is you touch. For other germs, such as those covered in mucus that are on your hands after you or someone else sneezes, it can take much longer for the alcohol to break down the protective layer of mucus in order to kill the germ than the sanitizer stays on your hands.

4. Clean hands won’t keep you healthy

Many diseases are airborne as well as the viruses and bacteria sitting on surfaces. When a person sneezes or even breathes, bacteria and viruses come out into the open air ready to land on and infect others. While the majority of diseases are spread through our hands, you can still get sick by an airborne disease even if your hands stay clean. Thus, do not rely on hand sanitizer as your only defense in staying healthy.

Three tips for effective use of hand sanitizer

Even though hand sanitizers aren’t the cure all we would like them to be, they still do kill many of the bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. Used properly, the alcohol-based solution can be a good tool in disease prevention when hot water and soap are not available. If you use hand sanitizer as part of your daily care or when you’re out and about, remember to do these three things to make your use of the product the most effective:

1. Use a solution containing at least 60% alcohol

Hand sanitizers containing 60-95% alcohol are the most effective in killing germs and bacteria.

2. Follow the instructions

Read the directions on the bottle to know how much hand sanitizer to use and how long to rub it on your hands. Do not wipe off excess hand sanitizer – simply rub it around and wait for it to dry.

3. Wash your hands with soap and water whenever possible

Only use hand sanitizer when washing your hands with hot water and soap is not an option. Hand washing is the best disease prevention tool we have and only by a thorough washing with hot water and soap will your hands be truly clean. While hand sanitizer can be a nice backup in times of need, it is never a replacement for hand washing

Do this to truly clean an area when infectious diseases are present

If you know someone with an infectious disease has been in your home, school, or business, then hand sanitizer is not going to help you in cleaning the affected area nor are basic household cleaners going to do the job. To truly clean a place from infectious diseases such as a hospital, business, or a school with numerous individuals who are sick, you need industrial-grade cleaners that will kill far more than hand sanitizers’ 99.99%.

Our knowledgeable staff at Georgia Clean are always here to help by thoroughly cleaning out the infected area with professional equipment and industrial-grade cleaners. Able to effectively cover large areas in short amounts of time, our team of professionals are available to make sure you and those you care for stay healthy.