Hand washing: Just do it.

I’m the “wash your hands” mom, and that’s because it’s so engrained in me due to working a labs.

However, we also spray alcohol on EVERYTHING, including our hands in leu of hand sanitizer. The alcohol leaves our hands chapped, but the soap in the lab is expensive due to being highly-antimicrobial. It seems a better, more efficient, and cheaper¬† option to douse ourselves with isopropanol just as you would a hand sanitizer. But, is it really better? Is it worth spending the extra grant money on expensive soap? I reviewed this journal article (billed the most comprehensive study of it’s kind) and I have the answer. (Article information can be found at the bottom.)

Health care workers typically wash their hands with soap for around ten seconds before laying their hands on the next patient. And while you learned in grade school that you need a full thirty seconds of scrubbing with soap and hot water to be (mostly) germ-free, this ten second wash might just be as effective.

In the study the team used 62 volunteers with 14 different hygiene products and tested them with several different kinds of viruses and bacteria.

What did they find?

With ten seconds of scrubbing with soap and water many of the common viruses tested were washed away.

The best kind of soap to use for removal of bacteria? The store-brand or name-brand antimicrobial soap.

And for removal of viruses? Just plain old soap and water. And for some viruses it’s best to use a non-antimicrobial soap.

What about the waterless alcohol-based products? Not as effective. And can become less and less effective over time.

Oh! And the water? Doesn’t even need to be hot.

My takeaway?

Regular hand soap from the store is what we are going to use in our house. I’m not going to fork over more for an antimicrobial because while it may rid your hands of more bacteria, it’s also ridding them of your hands’ natural flora. Hand washing with regular old soap is just fine with me!

And the hand sanitizers? I’ve never been a huge waterless alcohol-based sanitizer user, however I do use it when I leave the store and of course, the shopping cart. Using it once in a while is fine and effective, but using it many times a day every day is shown to be less and less effective at removing germs. So while you are trying so hard to stay clean when squirting that stuff all up and down your harms (you know you do it), you may not be doing yourself any favors. Please resist the urge to lather your children in alcohol, as well.

So buy some inexpensive soap and an alcohol-based sanitizer for after touching the shopping cart and you’ll be fine.

Use the soap, wash your hands, and stay healthy, folks!

 

Here’s the article reviewed above:

Sickbert-Bennett, Emily E., et. al. “Comparative efficacy of hand hygiene agents in the reduction of bacteria and viruses.”¬†American Journal of Infection Control. March 2005. Vol. 33, iss. 2, pp. 67-77.