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How Clean Are Your Hands? Deciding When to Use Soap vs. Sanitizer

Bacteria and viruses, also called “germs,” are everywhere—and unless you plan to live in complete isolation, chances are you will be exposed to many types of these microscopic invaders every day.

According to a survey by the American Society for Microbiology, only about 77% of men and 93% of women wash their hands after using a public restroom. This is just one example germs could be spreading illness to those around you.

We have long understood the need for good hand cleaning for better health, and the traditional tools of soap and water or hand sanitizer are as important as ever. When is one preferred over the other? Here are some tips to help you know when to wash and when to sanitize.

Suds up with soap and water when:
 

  • You can actually see the dirt or other substances on your hands
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • After using the bathroom
  • After contact with bodily fluids (like changing a diaper)
  • Before preparing food

Choose a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when:

  • Your hands are NOT visibly soiled
  • Before and after contact with a sick person (even if you didn’t touch them)
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose

If you find yourself in a situation where soap and water are not available, but hand sanitizer is, go ahead and use the sanitizer. You may find it helpful to keep a bottle of sanitizer in your car and use a squirt before eating out, after handling shopping carts, or touching other surfaces open to the general public (like the pen your clerk gives you when signing a receipt).

 

 

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


 

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