Is hand sanitizer all you need?

Hand sanitizer makes on-the-go hygiene a breeze. Most stores and public spaces provide hand-sanitizing stations, and many of us also keep a pocket-sized bottle in bags, pockets, or in our vehicles. Being able to quickly clean our hands after touching a possibly contaminated surface offers a lot of peace of mind, but is hand sanitizer really the best way to kill germs? The answer might surprise you.

Hand sanitizer isn’t a substitute for handwashing.

Proper handwashing remains the most effective way of preventing illness by physically removing up to 99% of germs from your hands. These germs include various types of bacteria, viruses, and even fungi that can cause many common and rare illnesses. Studies show that handwashing prevents 20% to 50% of respiratory, foodborne, and viral sickness.

Think of hand sanitizer as an effective solution when handwashing isn’t an option. It is a temporary solution for sanitizing but not nearly as impactful as washing your hands. For this reason, the CDC recommends these guidelines for proper hand sanitizer use:

  • Use sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol.
  • Use sanitizer before and after visiting someone who is ill or hospitalized.
  • Frequently sanitize when visiting public spaces and touching surfaces.
  • Do not use sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Wash your hands rather than use sanitizer if water and soap are available.

Generally speaking, when you can’t wash your hands, sanitizer is a perfect alternative. However, it’s still best to physically wash your hands when facilities are available.

Preventing illness with proper handwashing and sanitizer use.

The key to effectively preventing illness with handwashing or sanitizer is to use the proper method. Only about 5% of adults regularly wash their hands properly and a significant number also misuse hand sanitizer.

Here’s what to remember when washing your hands:

  • Always wet and rinse your hands with clean, running water. Any temperature is fine.
  • Always use soap—whether plain or antibacterial—both are effective.
  • Lather your hands well, all the way to the wrist. Scrub around the fingertips and nails.
  • Actively lather and scrub your hands for a full 20 seconds. Time yourself or recite “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice.
  • Either air dry your hands or use a clean hand towel or disposable paper towel to dry off.

When you use sanitizer, keep these things in mind:

  • Double-check that your product contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Liberally apply sanitizer so all surfaces of your hands are covered.
  • Make sure sanitizer reaches around your fingertips and nails.
  • Rub the sanitizer around your hands for 20 seconds or until dry.
  • Always air dry hands when using sanitizer. Do not rinse or wipe.

Dr. Lang and his team maintain a healthy, hygienic environment.

Your general health is really important to Dr. Lang and the team at Great Miami Dental Associates. Part of making patients feel comfortable in our office is ensuring we follow strict hygiene protocols and frequently sanitize throughout the day. Our efforts meet and exceed CDC guidelines, and we go the additional mile to ensure patients who visit are healthy and feeling well. For more information or to book a visit, give us a ring or use this online form.