Skip Nav
Beginner Fitness Tips
If You're Running and Aren't Losing Weight, Try This
Blast Fat and Sculpt Your Arms, Shoulders, and Back With This At-Home Workout
Shopping Guide
Stylish Gear For Your Fall Workouts — All Under $25

Soap vs. Hand Sanitizer

It's a germy world out there, and keeping those germs off your hands is considered the best way to fight catching a cold or flu this season. We recently learned that washing your hands with cold water is just as effective as hot. We also know that anti-bacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soaps. But what about hand sanitizers? Here's a quick sketch of how soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer compare.

Hand washing is recommended by the CDC over hand sanitizer, but if no sink is available hand sanitizer is considered second best. When hand washing, it is recommended that you work the soap into a full lather and wash for 20 seconds, which can seem like an awfully long time to scrub at the sink — many people don't wash for the recommended time. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills most most types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in a few seconds, with the recommended rubbing time being 15 seconds. In terms of time, hand sanitizer kills more bacteria in less time.

To see how soap trumps sanitizer,


But here's the rub (pun intended): although hand sanitizers have been shown to reduce gastrointestinal illnesses when used in households and reduce student absences when used in school, they do not kill norovirus, which can cause acute gastroenteritis, or E. coli. Nor does hand sanitizer remove feces, blood, or dirt. This means old-fashioned hand washing is best in restrooms and kitchens, but after a sneeze, a quick wipe-down with hand sanitizer will work.

Look for hand sanitizer with 60 percent ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol) like Purell or Web MD-recommended EO Lavender Hand Sanitizer. Do you keep hand sanitizer in your purse?

insanitypepper insanitypepper 7 years
Comment 1: I don't like using bar soap at other people's houses. It always seems to be dried out and shriveled up or disintegrating in a little pool of water. I know in the end it doesn't matter, but it's still kind of icky. Comment 2: My gyno prefers to only use sanitizer. I hate that I have to ask her to wash her hands. This is much higher on the ick scale than bar soap.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I wash my hands for the most part, using soap and water and a lot of scrubbing. I do keep hand sanitizer in my purse if I'm ever at a public restroom and the soap has run out or something. As far as bar soap getting contaminated, that's probably the least of your worries. When you lather up the soap and use it to wash your hands, you'll rinse anything off that might be on it. Plus, germs/viruses generally only live a few hours on any surface, including soap. The reason why handwashing works so well is because you're literally using the water to flush the germs off of your hands. The soap just acts as kind of a helper to ensure everything comes off. That's why it's not critical that the soap be anti-bacterial.
2muchtv 2muchtv 7 years
I don't use hand sanitizer, at all. I don't see the purpose to it. I don't touch my face, I wash my hands prior to eating and cooking, after the bathroom and working out (for the time it takes to sing Mary Had a Little Lamb, thanks Oprah =) ), and if my hands are that icky, I'd just excuse myself to the bathroom to wash. I keep a hand bottle of soap in my purse (habit from my middle school frequently running out), so there's never the excuse of not liking the bathroom soap nor it being empty. Besides, I've heard that all this anti-bacterial stuff is pretty bad in the long run, since it'll build up resistance and create superbugs, and I'm trying to strengthen my immune system (I'm the only one in my family who didn't grow up in the old country, and I suspect that's why I get sick the most in the family).
Pistil Pistil 7 years
I wash my hands more often, because I hate the smell and feel of hand sanitizer, but I would consider picking up a small bottle for my purse.. just because it is flu and cold season.
lovesickblues111 lovesickblues111 7 years
Wow this was interesting :) I think the Hand Sanitizer is a great solution for a lot a situations... but I'm trying to wash my hands and use it only when necessary... thanks for the article!
medenginer medenginer 7 years
I keep it in my purse. I wash my hands after the bathroom some diseases like clostridium difficile can't be killed by sanitizer it requires hand washing.
imLissy imLissy 7 years
I agree with ella. Though I don't work around sick people or children.
ella1978 ella1978 7 years
I actually don't worry about any of that stuff. A certain amount of bacteria on your skin is actually healthy for you - and killing off the good bacteria can sometimes be more harmful than having bad bacteria on you.. I might get a cold once a year, but that's about it...
tylergrl33 tylergrl33 7 years
Yogaforlife- Burts Bee Hand Santizer is great!! It actually smells good. But I would go w/ liquid hand soap if you're having guests over. If I were a guest I would still wash my hands with the bar soap, but I just think the majority of people think it's less messy & more sanitary.
TammyO TammyO 7 years
I keep hand sanitizer in my purse when I need to give my kids or myself a quick wipe down if we are out at the park and can't get tyo a sink. But I do prefer hand washing to anyting else.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
I keep Burt Bee's hand sanitizer in my car (for instances like handling money at a bank drive thru) and in my purse. My preferred method is to use bar soap at the sink. My only problem is when I keep bar soap in my house and don't offer liquid soap, I suspect my guests don't wash their hands after using the restroom because the bar soap only ever gets used when I use it! I think they think the bar soap is contaminated. Is bar soap safe if multiple people are using it to wash their hands?
Iskra Lawrence Body-Confidence Instagram Post
Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter From You Fresh Naturals
What Happens When You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day?
Natural Treatment For Bloating
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds