When the winter months hit, it’s often tougher to keep sickness at bay. More time inside means higher chances of passing germs from person to person. Winter is a time when many people find themselves stuck at home with a cold or the flu, and this year’s pandemic has made it even more important to put some strong safety habits into practice during these colder months.
Some of the most effective ways to keep germs at bay include washing your hands and using hand sanitizer, but is one a better option than the other? And if so, why?
We’re here to answer all of your questions about hand sanitizer and hand washing, hoping to help separate germ-fighting fact from fiction. We want to do everything we can to equip you for a safe and healthy winter, so here are the differences between hand washing and hand sanitizing, as well as how to make the most of both.
Why Washing Your Hands Matters
When you cough, sneeze, touch your face, or go to the bathroom, you are transferring germs onto your hands. Your hands can also pick up germs from touching surfaces that are frequently touched by others (AKA “high-touch surfaces”).
As you go about your day, germs are all around you, and getting these germs on your hands puts both you and those around you at risk of getting sick. The germs on your hands can spread when you touch a surface or shake someone’s hand, and the vicious cycle of germs being transferred around never ends.
The best way to put a stop to germs is to wash your hands with soap and water. The combination of soap, water, and the friction of scrubbing works to reduce the number of germs on your hands, leaving you free to touch your face without fear of contamination.
Washing your hands doesn’t kill every single germ on your hands (neither does hand sanitizer), but hand washing will get enough germs off your hands to prevent the spread of sickness to yourself or others.
Washing your hands also helps to get rid of dirt and grease off your hands to leave them both visibly and microscopically clean. This ability to get gunk off your hands is one of the major differences between washing and sanitizing your hands – hand sanitizer doesn’t really help to clean your hands of grime. However, in situations when you don’t have access to running water and soap, hand sanitizer is still much, much better than nothing.
Washing Your Hands the Right Way
Washing your hands is the most effective way to get germs off your hands, but only if you do it right!
There are plenty of wrong ways to wash your hands – washing too quickly, not scrubbing enough, or simply running water over your hands for 20 seconds will all sabotage the germ-killing power of soap and water.
Getting hand washing right is a big deal, and sometimes it means unlearning old habits that you’ve been practicing ever since you were little.
If you’ve been washing your hands wrong for years, now is the time to make the switch!
Follow these steps, and you can count on a thorough wash each time.
Start by rinsing your hands with warm water. You only need a little bit of water for this step.
Turn off the tap. Turning the sink off after you rinse saves water – most of the process of washing your hands can be done with the faucet off anyway.
- Apply some soap. Even if your soap doesn’t specifically say “antibacterial,” you can rest assured it can still get the job done.
Next, lather up. Rub your hands together to spread the soap and create a rich lather. Make sure to cover those hard to reach areas like the spaces between each finger and underneath your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Scrubbing looks like working the lathered-up soap throughout your hands. This part of the hand washing process actively kills germs and gets particles off your hands.
- Finally, rinse your hands off with warm water to get rid of the soap. Then, dry hands using a clean paper towel.
Hand Sanitizer: The Best “Plan B” of All Time
Whenever you can, clean your hands using soap and water -- nothing else compared to the level of clean you’ll get from good old fashioned hand washing.
However, there are plenty of situations when you just won’t have access to soap and a sink, but still need to get your hands germ-free. When you’re on the go and can’t wash your hands, hand sanitizer is the wingman you never knew you needed until this year.
Look for a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol is the active ingredient in hand sanitizer and serves as an antiseptic to kill germs and ultimately help protect you from sickness.
Our hand sanitizer is 80% alcohol, making it powerful enough for your hands and non-porous surfaces.
We also made ours sprayable so that you can quickly spritz it on your hands or use it to sanitize a germy surface. Any time you are in a public place and come into contact with a high-touch surface like a door handle, countertop, shopping cart, table or chair, sanitize your hands to stay germ-free without needing to make a pit stop at the nearest sink.
Do we have a winner?
Using hand sanitizer is not “worse” than washing your hands in terms of its ability to kill germs.
However, when you can wash your hands using soap and water, it’s a good idea to opt for that and save the hand sanitizer for times when you can’t use a sink.
Hand washing is better for getting dirt, grime and grease off your hands, but hand sanitizer is an ideal second option in situations when you need to get your hands clean on the go.
So, sorry to end in a cliche tie, but one isn’t really “better” than the other.
To create the strongest possible line of defense against getting sick this winter, combine hand washing, hand sanitizing, and wearing a mask. Making these three habits a part of your daily routine helps protect you and others from germs and gives you peace of mind as you go about your day-to-day tasks.
The winter may be a time when getting sick is more common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lower the risk and avoid it altogether. These habits take just a few minutes to add into each day, and they make a big difference in your life and the lives of others. It’s worth the effort!