JAN 25, 2017 9:45 AM PST

Should You Really Use Hand Sanitizer?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard


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
JAN 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 21, 2020
Scientists Assess GHG Emissions Related to Palm Oil Land Conversion
Palm oil production remains problematic in several ways, and a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham has quantified one of these probl...
MAR 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 03, 2020
What Makes Black Holes So Mysterious?
Black holes are mysterious objects that have long tickled the interest of astronomers and physicists alike. They’re often described as ultra-dense ob...
MAR 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAR 12, 2020
Major Ecosystems, like the Amazon, Can Disappear Within a Lifetime
A study published earlier this week in Nature Communications has revealed how quickly ecosystems will disappear once they reach their point of no return. R...
MAR 17, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 17, 2020
Ultra-high-energy Neutrinos to Baffled Particle Physicists: Surprise!
Neutrinos are an aloof member in the sub-atomic particle family: it's electrically neutral, super lightweight (its mass was considered to be zero for a...
MAR 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 24, 2020
How Much Do You Know About the Solar System?
Our solar system is only one out of hundreds of stellar systems residing in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s comprised of the Sun and eight known planets,...
MAR 30, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAR 30, 2020
Packs of Humboldt Squid Rise From the Deep to Feed
Deep-sea dwellers are among some of the most intriguing marine creatures in the world, partly because it isn’t very often that we get the opportunity...
Loading Comments...