How it works and when you should use it.
Washing your hands is still better than using hand sanitizer, but both help prevent the spread of disease.
Hand sanitizer: the convenient, on-the-go method of cleaning your hands. The only problem is, hand sanitizer may not be as effective as washing your hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn how and when to properly use hand sanitizer, when you should just wash your hands instead and how to protect yourself from viruses (including corona virus) and bacteria.
How does hand sanitizer work?
Hand sanitizers are a convenient way to clean your hands when soap and water aren’t available. Often used on the go, hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or both to kill bacteria and viruses on your hands. Alcohols have long been known to kill germs by denaturing the protective outer proteins of microbes and dissolving their membranes.
The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, as sanitizers with lower concentrations of alcohol aren’t as effective at killing germs. Even up to 90% alcohol is preferable to ensure that hand sanitizer completely kills germs rather than just reducing their growth on your hands.
According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is not as effective at killing germs as washing your hands with soap and water. The CDC says that washing your hands is a better tactic for removing certain viruses and bacteria, such as Cryptosporidium (causes diarrhea) and norovirus (stomach bugs).
Part of the reason that hand sanitizer isn’t as effective as washing your hands is that people often wipe their hands before the hand sanitizer dries completely. Also, if your hands are dirty or greasy, hand sanitizers may not work because they can’t penetrate dirt and grease like soap can.
The World Health Organization recommends using hand sanitizer only as an alternative when you don’t have access to soap and water.
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