Is hand sanitizer as effective as soap? Hand washing is usually the go-to recommendation for preventing cold and flu outbreaks, but in recent years, many have taken to using hand sanitizers. The question is: How best to avoid infection? Is the general consensus for hand sanitizers really a good idea?
Well, a recent study found that staff in long-term care facilities who relied too much on hand sanitizers over hand washing actually reported more outbreaks of norovirus-related illness.
What is the active ingredient in hand sanitizers?
Hand sanitizers have a form of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol, as an active ingredient. It works as an antiseptic. Other ingredients may include water, fragrance, and glycerin.
Hand Sanitizers vs. Soap and Water
Interestingly enough, the Food and Drug Administration, in regards to regulations concerning proper procedures for food services, recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of soap and water but only as an adjunct.
To properly sanitize the hands, soap and water should be used. A hand sanitizer cannot and should not take the place of proper cleansing procedures with soap and water. Both are important, but soap and water are number one. Hand sanitizers are an effective supplement.
The CDC agrees. It says that for norovirus, washing hands is your best prevention, especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before eating and doing food prep. Sanitizers may help, but “they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.”
They also can be used if soap and water aren’t available, the CDC says.
What about antibacterial soaps?