Hand Washing or Hand Sanitizer: Which is better?

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Pumpkin spiced, Aloe-Vera infused, foam or gel, there are millions of different hand sanitizers and soaps currently on the market. We’ve all heard the arguments, “if you’re hands dry easily use a moisturizing soap”, or “if your hands are sensitive avoid soap and use hand gel”. But which one is better: soaps or sanitizers?  Each has their advantages and disadvantages but most importantly both aim to keep your hands clean. At Workman’s Friend we love clean hands and encourage all of our team members to soap or sanitize regularly. But in writing this article we learned that one of these cleaning products is actually better. Read on to find out which!

Related: Handwashing Tips for Health-Care Workers

One of these is not like the other…..

With hand sanitizers available to buyers in a variety of formulations including gels, foams and alcohol-based, it’s often difficult to determine which one is most useful. Research has shown that the active ingredient in hand sanitizers: ethyl alcohol determines the efficacy of a hand sanitizer. In order to kill germs, scientists say a hand sanitizer must contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizers must be able to reduce a certain number of microbes when applied. Ones that are considered natural or made with Aloe Vera usually don’t contain enough alcohol to be effective.  Hand sanitizers must be able to kill 99.9% of germs in order to prevent illness. Unfortunately, many of them don’t.

Can kill most but not all….

Okay, so we’ve established that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective at killing 99.9% of germs. However, illnesses such as the Norovirus which causes flu or the diarrhea-causing bacterium Clostridium Difficile cannot be killed with hand sanitizer. The Difficile bacterium is more commonly found in hospitals than anywhere else. Fortunately, the more common cold and flu strains are killed using an alcohol-based sanitizer. But if you have dirt, residue or debris on your hands, it turns out soap is the only thing that will remove it and disinfect.

Pass the bar…….of soap

So there’s your answer. Soap is indeed better than hand sanitizer because not only does it disinfect your hands, it removes the dirt and debris as well. Yes, scientific data does indicate that sanitizer and soap kill many germs. But soap is the only one that does more. It’s important to note that soap alone doesn’t kill germs, the act of rubbing your hands together causes friction and that’s what washes away even more bacterium. For hand washing to be considered effective you must do it properly. That means holding your hands under running water, then applying soap. Make sure you work the soap into a lather and scrub for 20 seconds. Then rinse your hands with water and dry them using a clean towel, hand dryer or let them air dry and if you find your hands are getting dry apply a thin layer of Workman’s Friend our light hydrating barrier skin cream. It’s important to remember that your hands should be dry before you touch anything. One of the most common mistakes is to wash your hands, then reach for the bathroom door. Wet hands can transmit and pick-up germs very easily.

Don’t get into a lather…

Yes, soap is more effective at killing bacteria and germs than hand sanitizer. However, there is a reason why hand sanitizer bottles and wall units have made their way into hospitals, doctors’ offices, airports and office buildings. They are a great option if soap and water are not available and if you find them too drying apply a dollop of Workman’s Friend hand cream to moisturize in between washings. Regardless of which product is more effective, what’s important is that you wash your hands regularly. So many diseases, germs and infections are contracted or transmitted thanks to our hands. Whether you enjoy pumpkin scented, foam, Aloe Vera infused, or an unscented bar of soap, never miss an opportunity to wash your hands.     


Workman’s Friend Barrier Skin Cream is a light-weight, unscented cream perfect for those who prefer either hand sanitizer or soap. An application of our moisturizing, non-greasy formula means your hands will be smooth and soft as you interact with others and work through your day.
Advice hand wash

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