Hand Sanitiser Vs. Hand Wash: Differences & How to Use Them

Globally, as people rush to protect themselves from Covid-19, the demand for hand sanitisers has soared. While hand hygiene is nothing new, it’s high priority right now for obvious reasons: preventing bacteria and disease-carrying germs amid the current pandemic.

Hands are the one part of our body we are constantly using – they have the most contact with people objects, and our own selves. (P.S. Stop touching your face!) With the increasing demand for hand hygiene products, people have been asking, what’s the difference between hand sanitisers and hand washes?

Hand sanitiser vs hand wash: What’s the difference?

Put simply, both hand wash and hand sanitiser are effective in stopping the spread of bacteria. However, there is one key difference between hand sanitiser and hand wash/soap: hand wash removes soil from your hands, whereas hand sanitiser does not. Lather and water are required to clean any dirt, visible or otherwise. 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.

What the experts say

Not all hand sanitisers are created equal. Hygiene experts and the NHS all agree that to kill most viruses, a hand sanitiser requires at least 60 per cent alcohol content. Our hand sanitiser Germ-X contains 63% alcohol,  killing germs in just 15 seconds.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible, because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitiser with at least 60 percent alcohol is the next best thing.

Technique is everything

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is a right and wrong way to wash your hands and use hand sanitiser. The most important rule is 20:20 – wash hands for 20 seconds, dry hands for 20 seconds.

The Ministry of Health recommends following these five steps for clean hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When it comes to sanitiser, the CDC recommends applying the hand sanitiser to the palm of one hand (a couple of drops is generally adequate) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.

Key times to wash hands

No doubt it’s more than drilled into you by now but there are some situations overlooked where hand hygiene is also essential. Help you and your loved ones stay healthy by frequently washing your hands, especially during these key times:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also:

  • Use sanitiser after using your phone – now with most people having a touchscreen smartphone, it’s imperative to clean hands after using it. It’s all well and good cleaning your hands after the supermarket, but you’ll only undo that if you touch your screen or put it to your face afterwards. Stock up on lens cleaning wipes – put some in your handbag, glovebox and anywhere you frequent. We recommend sanitising the surface of your screen at least twice a day.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because this is where germs enter our bodies.

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