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Soap vs Sanitiser – Which Is More Effective?

March 13, 2020

Amidst this entire COVID-19 ordeal lies a basic principle that many of us can say takes a back seat in our lives.

Our hygiene.

From washing our bodies to brushing our teeth, everyday tasks we complete such as these are critical parts of lives but most of us will write them off as daily chores that you have been completing as far back as you can remember.

In a time like this, it is crucial that we do everything we can to limit the spread of viruses to protect those around us as well as our closest loved ones from infection.

The most contact with objects, other people and even ourselves come from our hands. To prevent the transmission of disease-carrying germs we must be especially discipline when it comes to keeping our hands clean throughout the day with all the activities we try to complete.

The two main methods to hand hygiene prevalent in our society today are hand sanitisers and good-ole soap and water – both are great at preventing the transmission of many viruses and bacteria and are much better than doing nothing to keep your hands clean.

But the next question that is always asked is “Is one more effective than the other?”

Why Use Soap and Water? Just How Effective Is It Really?

Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way of getting rid of germs which can help you stay healthy and avoid spreading them to others.

It significantly helps to prevent and slow the spread of infection.

There are many ways germs can be passed on, some examples include:
– Person to person
– During food and drink prep
– Surfaces of surrounding objects e.g. doorknobs and handrail

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The most common places germs can enter your body and get you sick is your eyes, nose and mouth. Without even realising it people frequently touch these places, increasing the possibility of infection.

Right now, it is as important as ever to wash your hands frequently.
The most notable times to wash are:
– After you blow your nose, cough or sneeze
– After you have had close physical contact
– After you use the toilet
– After you feed or touch a pet
– After visiting public spaces
– After traveling on public transport
– Before and after you eat 

It is all well and good that you are washing your hands more regularly but you must also ensure you are washing them thoroughly to have truly germ-free hands. A minimum standard of at least 20 seconds of scrubbing is recommended by many health professionals. The diagram below has been taken directly from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website showing a step-by-step guide to correctly wash your hands.

Why Use Hand Sanitiser? Just How Effective Is It Really?

Effective in its own right, hand sanitiser is quite good at killing many types of germs and keeping our hands clean. Using a sanitiser with an alcohol concentration between 60-95% is critical as those that are below may not successfully eliminate germs and instead may merely reduce their growth.

Pros of Hand Sanitiser

– Easy accessibility
– Portable, convenient
– Neutralises many microbes, viruses and bacteria

Cons of Hand Sanitiser

– Some brands are ineffective
– Can’t be used on grime
– Weakens immunity to germs

So Which Is More Effective? Soap and Water or Hand Sanitiser?

In the end, soap and water is the best method for cleaning your hands, getting rid of germs and preventing the spread of infections.  Backed by many health professionals, soap and water is the gold standard when it comes to maintaining hand hygiene as it completely removes germs and grim from your hands.

Although most hand sanitisers are effective at killing many viruses and germs, it does not do so at the rate which soap and water can. In turn, it should never be used as a complete replacement. Hand sanitiser should instead be viewed as an alternative means for hand hygiene when soap and water is not readily accessible. 

Ultimately, your go to for hand hygiene will be soap and water with hand sanitiser being a portable solution for those that are on the go for most of the day.

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