Hand Washing vs Sanitizers
Which works better, antibacterial hand sanitizers, or
just plain soap and water?
Soap and water removes more than just bacteria. Soap and water is your
For that answer I would direct you to a few web sites:
www.microbe.org and go to the "wash up" icon. They have a whole
devoted to handwashing.
It depends on the need.
For a surgeon hand sanitizers are essential, and they
have to be applied correctly. There is a famous story
of a surgeon who refused to use them because he was
allergic to the substance, and he just washed his
hands with soap vigorously, and of course used surgical
gloves. Nevertheless, he infected several patients
with Staphilocccus aureus, a bacteria that lives on
the skin harmless, but that can cause severe
infections in patients when it is helped entering the
body through wounds. The surgeon was caught. So for
serious disinfection (also when handling contaminated
material) soap is not enough. It is for normal
Keep in mind that what you are trying to do is to reduce pathogenic bacteria,
or the bacteria that cause disease, from forming on your hands. Your goal is
NOT to kill all bacteria on your hands. Most bacteria are not harmful and
some actually help you by taking up space that harmful bacteria would want to
use. So if you were to culture your hands before and after handwashing, you
wouldn't notice much of a difference in numbers of bacteria. You would
notice a difference in the KINDS of bacteria.
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Update: June 2012