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Why washing your hands with soap is better than using hand sanitiser

Posted by Jo Harris on

Have you ever watched the way most people wash their hands (or been horrified because they don't wash their hands)? Our hands are the parts of our bodies that are in contact with everything. We touch products, we touch food, we touch other people and we touch ourselves, especially our faces. Our hands are one of the most likely places for us to come into contact with germs. In this time of the public health crisis of COVID-19, it is time to reiterate the importance of washing hands and how to wash your hands properly.

Medical experts,CDC say and research shows that washing your hands with soap is always the best way to be sure that your hands are germ free.

Why is washing your hands the best way to remain germ-free? 

Ordinary soap (not ones with 'antibacterial' on the label) used together with water is the best way to wash your hands and keep them germ free. Also the way you wash your hands is also very important. It has been shown that washing your hands properly for at least 20 seconds is the only way to ensure that your hands are germ free, with using an alcohol based (more than 60%) hand sanitiser coming second.

Why is washing your hands with soap an effective way to kill viruses?

Viruses are covered in a protein & fat rich shell. This shell in its integrity is what is needed for the virus to reproduce. Once the shell is destroyed, the virus is no longer able to reproduce. Washing your hands with soap causes the shell to lose its integrity. This happens because of the soap's properties of containing molecules with a fat loving end and a water loving end. The fat loving ends are similar to the fatty components of the virus and these cause the shell to be destroyed and for the virus to be unstuck from its other components and from the skin. The mechanical action of the friction of hand washing then loosens germs, viruses & bacteria and the water loving ends allow them to be washed down the drain.  Soap is ultimately better than sanitiser because the amount needed is less than sanitiser, but also the friction of properly washing your hands is more than when using sanitiser and thus the greater likelihood of removing the bacteria & viruses. 

The CDC says that using soap and water is better than hand sanitisers. But of course when you are out and about without access to running water & soap then alcohol based sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol) is the second choice but it needs to be used properly on clean hands and allowed to dry completely. 

 When are hand sanitisers not very effective?

When hands are greasy or dirty, using hand sanitiser will not be very effective at all. Also alcohol based sanitisers (at least 60% alcohol based) also do not inactivate all bacteria or viruses, although they are pretty good at inactivating most of them, including the corona virus. If using hand sanitiser, you should apply it all over your hands & rub it in all over your hands, leaving it until it dries. According to WHO guidelines, the application of hand sanitiser should follow the hand washing steps as shown below and in the video. In order to start breaking down the bacteria and viruses, enough of the alcohol based hand sanitiser has to be used and it has to be on your hands long enough to start that process. They are ineffective against some viruses and bacteria (https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html)

Hand washing steps (based on recommendations from CDC) for at least 20 seconds.

1. Wet your hands thoroughly. Turn off the tap 

2. Take the soap and rub it into your palms to make a generous lather and make sure the lather goes all over your hands, between your fingers and underneath fingernails.

3. Interlace your fingers with palms together & rub, then put hands over the top of the other hand and interlace your fingers & swap hands & rub.

4. Clasp fingers inside the opposite hand & rub knuckles into the palms & then swap hands. 

5. Rotate hands & rub around tops of thumbs.

6. Scrub fingers around inside of palms & swap to other hand.

7. Rinse your hands well with water.

8. Use a clean towel or paper towel & thoroughly dry your hands. Compost the paper towel afterwards.

Buy natural alcohol based (70%) sanitiser here

Buy natural palm oil free soaps here 

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