As mentioned earlier, washing hands with soap and water is the best defense against germs, but if it is not available to you, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer which contains at least 60% alcohol.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However, there are some things to be aware of. Here are some examples:
- Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs. Soap and water is more effective to remove certain kinds of germs, such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.
- Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
- Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
- Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Germs are everywhere! They can get onto hands and items we touch during daily activities and make us sick. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you.
There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer. Soap and water work to remove all types of germs from hands, while sanitizer acts by killing certain germs on the skin. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs in many situations, they should be used in the right situations. Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile, as well as chemicals.
Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead.
Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use will give you the best chance of preventing sickness.