Hand Sanitiser versus Hand Washing - Show me the Science

Anastasia Skin Crusader

During a global pandemic, one of the cheapest, easiest, and most important ways to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC)  recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because hand washing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. 


How to Wash your hands Effectively

Simply putting your hands under running water won't gill germs.  To effectively wash your hands you must first wet hands then add a liquid soap and rub hands together while washing for at least 20 seconds - the longer the better.

This actually feels quite unnatural at first - try singing "Happy Birthday " twice each time you wash your hands it actually feels like a long time - but this is what it takes to wash your hands effectively.

And don't just wash your palms... your thumbs and in between fingers is where germs build up.

To eliminate all traces of the virus on your hands, a quick scrub and a rinse won’t cut it. Below is a step-by-step process for effective hand washing.

    • Step 1: Wet hands with running water
    • Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
    • Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
    • Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
    • Step 5: Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel


    The most important part of hand washing is using soap

    Soap doesn't kill bacteria, it gets rid of them. This is because one end of the soap molecule attaches to water while the other end attaches to dirt which is where the bacteria will be.

    So, as you rinse your soap-covered hands, the water strips off the soap, taking the dirt with it.

    The reason soap is so effective against viruses is that it tears them apart. Coronavirus, like many other viruses, is held together by a fatty shell, a lipid membrane. Soap, by its molecular nature, strips that protective fat layer away from the virus.

    But our cleaning is only as effective as the cleaning solutions and soaps that we use, right? Not exactly....


    Don't Wash Your Hands Raw - Natural and Gentle Soaps are just as Effective 

    We choose to use save our skins' Bubbles Without The Bull - for our hand and body washing - it's 100% plant based and antibacterial - yet gentle enough for the entire family and can also be used as a bubble bath - find out more


    How long should I wash my hands for?

    You should wash your hands for at least 20-30 seconds. An easy way to time it is by singing the full happy birthday song, twice.

    The same goes for hand sanitiser: use a sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub it into your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure full coverage.


    When should I wash my hands?

    In the context of COVID-19 prevention, you should make sure to wash your hands at the following times:

    • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
    • After visiting a public space, including public transportation, markets and places of worship
    • After touching surfaces outside of the home, including money
    • Before, during and after caring for a sick person
    • Before and after eating

    But what can we do if soap and water is not available?


    Using a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

    The guidance for effective hand washing and use of hand sanitiser in community settings was developed based on data from a number of studies.

    Alcohol-based hand sanitisers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitisers do not eliminate all types of germs.

    Soap and water are still more effective than hand sanitisers at removing certain kinds of germs.

    like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile1-5. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly 1-15, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitisers or may wipe it off before it has dried 14.


    Hand sanitisers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

    The Why? Many studies show that hand sanitisers work well in clinical settings like hospitals, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy 16. Some data also show that hand sanitisers may work well against certain types of germs on slightly soiled hands 17,18. However, hands may become very greasy or soiled in community settings, such as after people handle food, play sports, work in the garden, or go camping or fishing.

    When hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitisers may not work well 3,7,16

    Hand washing with soap and water is recommended in such circumstances.


    If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol

    The Why? Many studies have found that sanitisers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers 16,20.

    Hand sanitisers without 60-95% alcohol...

    l 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and

    2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.


    When using hand sanitiser, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.

    The Why? The steps for hand sanitiser use are based on a simplified procedure recommended by CDC 21. Instructing people to cover all surfaces of both hands with hand sanitiser has been found to provide similar disinfection effectiveness as providing detailed steps for rubbing-in hand sanitiser 22.

    In general, both hand washing with soap and water and hand sanitiser, when practiced/used correctly, are highly effective at killing most germs and pathogens. Hand sanitiser is often more convenient when you are outside of the home, but can be expensive or difficult to find in emergency contexts. Also, alcohol-based hand sanitiser kills the coronavirus, but it does not kill all kinds of bacteria and viruses.

    For example, it is relatively ineffective against the norovirus and rotavirus.


    Thanks for your Time


    Take Care + Njoy!


    About the Author

    Anastasia Lambadaridis is  the founder and director of save our skin + the world we live in and she ardent about making a difference.  Anastasia embarks on educational campaigns targeted at local community groups, parents and business networks… prompting people to make small changes in the home and workplace about the way they care about themselves + the planet.  Anastasia is also not shy at exposing the truth behind the brands that lead the public to believe that their products are natural, good + healthy. 

    Anastasia has worked in marketing communications in both government + private sectors + is a specialist in the creation + delivery of behavioural change programs. She is passionate about creating unique brand experiences and campaigns that drive behavioural change. In this fast paced digital age, Anastasia aims to add back the ‘human touch’ in our interactions and connections. Anastasia holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Applied Science, and innately understands social norms and emotional triggers that drive and impact consumer behaviour. 



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