In the battle against germs, do hand sanitizers really work?

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            Let’s face it: it’s a dirty world out there.
            We’re not talking about trash or pollution, we are talking about germs. No matter how much you clean or how often you tell your children to wash their hands, germs are simply a fact of life. But for parents or caregivers looking to clean those little hands, we take a look at the popularity of hand sanitizers and their brand promises of killing germs.

            As you probably have seen countless times in day care centers, schools, restaurants and on the aisles of your neighborhood drug store, name brand hand sanitizers promise their product can kill “99.9 percent” of those nasty germs.

            But do they really work?

            Before we answer, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control for their recommendation on the most effective way to kill germs. What did the Center say is the best way to avoid getting sick from germs and spreading them to other people? Good, old-fashioned handwashing with soap and water.

            Specifically, the CDC said:

“Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.”

            So, like the CDC recommends, if soap and water are not an option, hand sanitizers are a good back-up solution. But like the CDC says, make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol, which is an important ingredient in effectively killing germs. Also keep in mind that alcohol-based sanitizers do not kill all types of germs — especially some specific types of parasites and nasty germs like the norovirus, which causes stomach bugs and severe diarrhea. Also, hand sanitizers may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, and should not be used in place of soap and water if hands are visibly dirty or greasy from playing outdoors, gardening or after cooking, fishing or camping.

            When you or your child do use hand sanitizer, all parts of both hands should be covered, including the back and front of the hand as well as between fingers where germs can hide. Finally, make sure to not rinse or wipe off the sanitizer before it’s dry to make sure the alcohol has had time to kill germs. And keep in mind that swallowing hand sanitizers can lead to alcohol poisoning, so always monitor children when using alcohol-based products and keep sanitizers in safe places where children cannot reach.

            The bottom line is that using soap and water is the most effective way to kill germs, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be effective when soap and water are not available. For a good comparison of when to use soap and water versus hand sanitizers, check out this link from the CDC:


By ABC Quality Team at 13 Nov 2018, 11:00 AM