Soap vs Hand Sanitizer - Which is Better?

Today the public and the government are fighting hard to understand the COVID-19 and how to control its spread. And during this ongoing pandemic, the sales of hand sanitizer gel have risen all over the world. But the big question here is whether this hand sanitizer is effective against coronavirus or not? And, if so, should we be making our own if it is not available in the shops or online?

The demand for hand sanitizers has not just been made by the concern of pandemics. Profitable opportunities to market them have driven sales and they are now available in attractive colors like pink, blue, and with different scents like cinnamon, lavender, etc.

To kill maximum viruses, a hand sanitizer requires at least 60% alcohol content, and most of them contain 60-95% of it. So, for those with sensitive skin, options are also available of sanitizers that don’t include alcohol. The important thing to understand here is that when to use hand sanitizer. As the COVID-19 seems to be unpredictable, so no one knows exactly when it begins. It more likely spreads through cough droplets from person to person and very less through any object or packages or food.

Hand Sanitizer vs. Soap

Every virus requires a host i.e. living cells – to reproduce, so we all need to take extra care while rubbing our eyes, touching our mouth, or any wounds that we have, if our hands are not clean. We need to keep our hands safe with extra care until we have access to any hand sanitizer gel or can wash them.

Hand sanitizer can sanitize accurately if it’s at least 60% alcohol but various experts say that soap and water is still the most effective way to eliminate chemicals and all sorts of germs, including the novel coronavirus. Several guidelines recommend frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Handwashing removes debris while sanitizer might kill only germs that leave behind the dead bacteria on your skin. Soap and water seem more effective than waterless products for the elimination of dirt and microorganisms from our hands.

You must also notice that alcohol-based sanitizers have potentially more harmful effects on health. Alcohol is toxic, hence besides being a fire hazard, it is also absorbed through the skin and children can accidentally drink hand rub including unknown elements like methanol, which can also lead to serious cases of poisoning. So, these hand sanitizers should be kept out of the reach of young children and should always be used with adults' guidance. 

Therefore, soap and water together dissolve the virus bond and break the interaction between the skin surface and the virus. So, the most reliable way to stop the spread of infections and reduce the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water.

Hand Sanitizers Don’t Eliminate Everything

Hand sanitizers may not be efficient when hands are greasy or visibly dirty. Using hand sanitizer may be more comfortable, however even the ones having sufficient alcohol content are not able to eliminate every type of bacteria and viruses. Now that is the time when soap and water come into play and they are considerably more effective at eliminating such common illness-causing germs as, norovirus, cryptosporidium, etc. Soaps are capable to wash away bacteria as well as other viruses that are even stronger than coronaviruses.

Research shows that hand sanitizers serve well in clinical environments, where our hands are not soiled or greasy. However, in work and society environments, where people handle tools, food, or perform sports, sanitizers can't rinse thoroughly. Furthermore, hand sanitizer also becomes inefficient if too little quantity is applied or if it gets wiped off before drying.

Hand sanitizers apparently cannot eliminate or neutralize harmful and toxic chemicals that we may contact. Studies show that people who reported using hand sanitizer to wipe their hands were observed with increased levels of pesticides in their bodies.

So, if you have encountered any harmful chemicals, experts suggest washing them carefully with soap and water to make your hands completely germ-free.

Why is Soap More Effective?

The best way till now to kill all germs from our hands is soap combined with running water. It is because soap molecules and particles, themselves, are very powerful at destroying the surface layers of any bacteria and viruses, including the novel coronavirus.

Also, the lathering of hands while scrubbing thoroughly generates friction that helps lift and wipe away any dirt, grease, and bacteria under running water.

Soap needs a little time to work, which should be at least 20 seconds to sanitize your hands thoroughly. You should always follow these recommended handwashing steps:

  • Moisten your hands with clean running water (cold or warm) and apply soap.
  • Scrub your hands by massaging them together with the soap. 
  • Clean all surfaces of your hands that include the palms, fingers, backs, the skin between your fingers, and also beneath your nails.
  • Always rinse your hands under fresh, running water.
  • Wipe your hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

These above-defined steps can make all the difference in guarding you and your loved ones.

Final Verdict

Although there must many homes and businesses that keep large pump bottles of hand sanitizers that are easily available. Sometimes it is best to think of hand sanitizer as it is an easily portable alternative while a sink and soap aren't accessible. But despite this, viruses are most effectively killed and removed with soap and water.
Hand sanitizerSoap