Hand soap and hand sanitizer are often debated about which is the more effective option for people to use. According to nearly all studies found and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), using soap and water is the more effective option for people to use. Hand sanitizer serves its purpose, but more often, hand soap is the preferred option for people to use.
Hand soap works by physically picking up and trapping various microbes and debris in the water and removing them from the surface of the hands. Hand sanitizer is often alcohol-based and works by inactivating proteins on these microbes which effectively kills the microbes.
One of the reasons hand soap is the better option is because of the physical motion of washing your hands. The action of lathering soap on your hands and then rubbing them together, causing friction, is a significant reason using soap and water is so effective. This action physically removes debris and other microbes from the surface of your skin, which hand sanitizer cannot do.
Hand sanitizer is extremely effective at inactivating many different microbes but cannot inactivate all microbes. Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile are three of the more important microbes which hand sanitizer is ineffective against. Each of these could be very harmful to people and cause severe symptoms, so it is essential to have the ability to remove these microbes. Hand soap with water is able to remove all of these microbes, making it the preferred option.
According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is the acceptable alternative to washing your hands with soap and water in clinical settings like hospitals. In this setting, the healthcare workers are always coming into contact with germs, but their hands are not often heavily soiled, so it is acceptable to use hand sanitizer as an alternative to soap and water. It is still preferred to use hand washing since it is still more effective.
In the food services industry, hand sanitizer is not an acceptable alternative. These employees often have proteins and fatty ingredients soiling their hands, which compromise the ability of hand sanitizer to kill all of the microbes. For this reason, washing your hands with soap and water every time is the preferred option for people working in the food services industry.
For someone who comes into contact with any chemicals on their hands should use soap and water to wash away the chemicals. Hand sanitizer is ineffective at removing chemicals from the skin or neutralizing their abilities. Soap and water is able to physically remove these chemicals from the skin, making it the more effective and preferred method for washing hands when handling chemicals.
Even though hand sanitizer does have its place for use and is a convenient alternative to washing your hands if you are on the go or do not have quick access to soap and water, soap and water is the preferred method for washing your hands in all industries and at all times. Always remember, however, that it is always going to be more effective to use hand sanitizer than do nothing at all if there is no access to soap and water