How effective is hand sanitizer

Mother and son using wash hand sanitizer gel in the cafe.We see bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere — at the doctor’s office, in the workplace, at schools and daycares and other facilities with heavy traffic including some of our favorite stores.

People squirt a dab into their palm, rub it in and continue about their day.

Use of hand sanitizer has become increasingly common and popular, and is a quick, and convenient way to reduce germs. Proper hand hygiene is one of the best ways to avoid spreading germs and getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there are situations in which using sanitizer is not enough. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals,” according to the CDC. “Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.” Another important time to wash with soap and water is after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. Feces (poop) contain germs which can cause diarrhea and other types of infections. Even touching contaminated surfaces, such as bathroom doors, can put you at risk when hand washing does not occur.

In situations where washing hands with soap and water are preferred, you should:
• Wet hands with running water
• Apply soap
• Rub hands together to lather the front and back and the fingers
• Scrub for at least 20 seconds
• Rinse hands under clean, running water
• Dry hands

People can use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if water and soap are not available, according to the CDC.

The CDC offers these suggestions for using hand sanitizer:
• Apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand in the amount indicated on the label.
• Rub hands together to evenly distribute sanitizer over all your hands and fingers until they are dry.

People should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, after caring for sick loved ones, before and after treating a wound, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after touching, feeding or picking up after an animal, after changing a diaper or cleaning a child who used the toilet, and after touching trash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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About Sarah Bishop

Sarah Bishop is the director for the Infection Prevention and Control program at UofL Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from University of Louisville and Master of Science in Nursing, Clinical Nurse Specialist, degree from Vanderbilt University. Sarah holds certifications in critical care and infection control. She is an active member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), serving as a legislative representative and board member for her local APIC chapter and a Communications Committee member for the national APIC organization.

All posts by Sarah Bishop