Hand Sanitizer vs. Hand Washing: See the Poll Results

posted May 3, 2013, 2:12 PM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 23, 2016, 2:50 PM ]
Do you feel secure with hand sanitizer?
Over the last few months we have surveyed healthcare professionals and visitors to our websites regarding the perception of hand sanitizers. The following question and answer options were posed:

Do you feel secure with hand sanitizer?
Answer Options:
Yes, I feel that my hands are clean enough to put in my mouth.
No, I feel that only washing my hands with soap and water is adequate.

We wanted to see if the increased marketing of hand sanitizers had changed the perception of the importance of handwashing.  For, there has always been a long running debate between hand washing and hand sanitizers. Does the use of soap and water trump the alcohol/non alcohol sanitizer rubs on the market?

If you look at the sales numbers of hand sanitizers, it is clear that sanitizing is a continually growing trend.  Usage has come from just gel sanitizers for hands to sanitizer wipes available in most grocery stores.  This growing trend is not surprising due to the CDC and other entities recognizing hand sanitizers more as a viable sanitation method.  

Will the trend continue?  A great follow up question to this poll would be whether the increased number of people sanitizing is significantly affecting how many take advantage of soap and water when it is available (i.e. Are more people walking out of bathrooms without washing their hands and instead sanitizing despite the availability of soap and water?).  

A good example of increased sanitizer usage is my recent participation in a Ragnar Relay race which relies portable restrooms at each relay point.  Instead of seeing familiar handwashing stations (soap and water), everything relied on sanitizer available in each bathroom.  Although convenient to just have sanitizer, is this enough?

Despite carrying sanitizing gels, sprays and wipes around with you, should you be getting to a sink with hot water and soap more often then you currently do? You tell us. We just know that living according to effective infection control principles and maintaining high hygiene standards is important!  The following percentages are the poll results.

Vote: Do you feel secure with hand sanitizer?

35.2% Yes, I feel that my hands are clean enough to put in my mouth.
64.8% No, I feel that only washing my hands with soap and water is adequate.
If you would like to vote, please visit this Squidoo page (Click Here) and scroll to the "Hand Washing Debate" and vote!

The results of the survey revealed that 65% of respondents felt that only handwashing could make them feel adequately sanitized. Whereas the remaining 35% felt very comfortable with the results of hand sanitizer.  Is this surprising to you?  Ultimately, the results weren't very surprising to us.  However, are those that rely on sanitizers correctly assuming the effectiveness of hand sanitizers?

A few weeks back, we shared a news story that investigated how effective hand sanitizers were for the average user. Read the article "Hand Sanitizers: Healthy or Hype" Here. The answer? It depends. The effectiveness of hand sanitizer depends on the sanitizer contents, when it is applied, the dirt of the user's hands, amount applied and other factors. The FDA released a very interesting article about the effectiveness of hand sanitizers and the claims made by manufacturers. We recommend reading it here: (Hand Sanitizers Carry Unproven Claims to Prevent MRSA Infections)

Hand washing also has it's own variables (soap type, length of wash, temperature of water, cleanliness of water, drying options and other factors), but overall it is determined that handwashing is more effective for the removal of germs.

So, before you rely on hand sanitizer make sure the context of the situation and the brand you are using is effective for the elimination of germs. Do your research. The following link is the Good Guide's Hand Sanitizer Ratings.  Not all of the hand sanitizers were rated but a good amount were.

For additional resources, the following are some great hand sanitizer and hand washing product links.  Paper soap sheets are great for washing when travelling or on the go (we've all been caught with dirty hands and no soap).  Handwashing timers let you realize how long an effective 20 wash feels (so you can time your washing while out and about).  In all, doing some form of sanitation is better than nothing.  Good luck OUTFOXing infection to avoid illness and disease!

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