JAN 25, 2017 09:45 AM PST

Should You Really Use Hand Sanitizer?


Lots of people carry on their person some kind of miniature bottle of hand sanitizer, while others use it from public bathrooms or from dispensers at public locations.

Hand sanitizer is a common fast alternative to washing hands when there's no soap and water around, so it's no surprise that lots of people use it. It can help fry germs on the spot within about 20 seconds, but studies have shown its weaknesses too.

Most good hand sanitizers are around 70% alcohol, which is the most effective at killing germs. On the other hand, different hand sanitizer types can be non-alcoholic, and these tend to be far less effective. Some studies even suggest that they can help bacteria develop antibiotic resistance, which means users of these hand sanitizers could, in theory, be helping bugs to evolve to survive current forms of treatment (again, unconfirmed).

Scientists do appear to agree that washing your hands with soap and water is more effective than using hand sanitizer, because this process not only kills germs, but it washes them away, unlike using hand sanitizer, which only kills germs.

Moreover, you can use cold water to wash your hands, because the "warm water only" wives' tale is very unimportant. Hot water only kills germs when it exceeds 99.98º Fahrenheit, which is too hot to wash your hands with. It would burn you. That said, just use cold water and some good soap.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of "good soap," it turns out non-antibacterial soap is just as good as antibacterial soap. So just use what you have, as long as it's soap. Soap has detergents in it, and all soaps clean things, like hands. So don't over-spend for specialty soaps if you don't have to.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 11, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 11, 2018
Chemistry in Your Cookies: Double Acting Baking Powders
If you are not an avid baker, you can easily mistake baking soda for baking powder.  Although both look white and powder-like, capable of releasing ca...
SEP 15, 2018
Videos
SEP 15, 2018
Nature's Giant Genomes
We have around three billion base pairs in our genome. There are some organisms with far more....
SEP 15, 2018
Videos
SEP 15, 2018
A Hangover Cure in a Pill
A night of drinking can lead to a morning of regret for many people, but science is working on a solution for the physical pain....
SEP 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 25, 2018
Japan Put Two Landers On An Asteroid for Science
Japanese space agency JAXA recently made history after its Hayabusa 2 mission approached the asteroid 162173 Ryugu and dumped off two landers to study the ...
SEP 26, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 26, 2018
There's Nothing Weak About the Weak Force
The weak nuclear force, or weak force for short, is so named because it is the direct contrast to the strong nuclear force, the attractive force that binds...
OCT 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 10, 2018
OnSight Lets Scientists Study the Martian Surface with Virtual Reality
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been physically exploring the surface of Mars since 2012, but as it rolls along, it sends surface data back to scientists...
Loading Comments...