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Which is Better – Hand Sanitizer or Hand Washing?

Which is Better – Hand Sanitizer or Hand Washing?

Senior Care in Surprise AZFor a while, hand sanitizer was all the rage. Everyone carried it with them wherever they went. You couldn’t walk through an office building without seeing a bottle on nearly every desk. While hand sanitizer isn’t quite as popular as it once was, it’s still widely available and many people use it now and then. Some people swear by the effectiveness of hand sanitizer while others are hard-core hand washers who are skeptical about the use of sanitizer. So, is one better than the other? If so, which one? According to some doctors, one is better than the other. Read on to find out which.

Hand Washing vs. Hand Sanitizer

According to one expert, Dr. Roland Newman II, a doctor at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hand washing trumps using hand sanitizer when hands are scrubbed for at least 20 seconds. Soap, he says, helps to force dirt and germs to release from skin. They are then trapped in the lather and get rinsed away. The temperate of the water doesn’t even matter. It’s the soap and the scrubbing that do the trick.

Dr. Newman agrees that hand sanitizers are an important way to fight infections, like cold and flu, too. However, many sanitizers aren’t as effective as they claim to be. Some germs are resistant to the substances in hand sanitizers. For example, norovirus, an extremely contagious germ that causes diarrhea and vomiting, isn’t affected by some kinds of hand sanitizer.

Proper Way to Wash Hands

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands frequently, such as before touching or preparing food, after using the bathroom, after touching garbage, after touching an animal or their waste, and after touching pet food or treats. The CDC also says there is a right way to wash hands. They suggest following these steps:

  • Wet hands under clean running water.
  • Apply soap.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds (the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice).
  • Rinse hands under clean running water.
  • Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

When to Use Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers are a convenient way to clean hands when soap and water aren’t readily available, and that’s when they should be used. If you have access to clean running water and soap, always opt for handwashing instead. When you do need to use sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Senior care can make certain your older family member follows good hand washing hygiene. This can be an especially important service for older adults who have cognitive problems, like dementia, who may not remember to wash their hands. Senior care providers can not only remind them to wash, but also help them to wash, if needed. Senior care providers can also bring hand sanitizer along when they take the older adult on outings and help them to use it at appropriate times.


If you are considering senior care in Surprise, AZ, for an aging loved one, contact the caring staff at Golden Heart Senior Care. Call today (623) 748-3301.