Our hands are the parts of our body that most often come into contact with other people, objects, and ourselves – think about how often you unconsciously touch your face during the day. So, while head-to-heel hygiene is a priority for many people, special attention is now being paid to keeping hands clean when it comes to preventing the spread of germs.

Whether you always have an antiseptic within reach or prefer to wash your hands with soap and water, you’re already won – both options limit transmission of many viruses and bacteria. But is one approach more effective than the other? Medical experts help to find out which method is the best to protect against germs.

Pros and cons of antiseptics

Hand disinfectant is often found in bags, pockets, even on key chains – and it is for a good reason. A hand sanitizer can be more portable and accessible, especially when people are on the move. It’s also the fact that an antiseptic increases the number of times we clean our hands during the day. This can help to reduce the likelihood of virus transmission.

It is worth noting that the advantage of hand sanitizer is its ability to fight germs when water and soap are not immediately available.

We would also like to remind you that hand disinfectants are active against all types of viruses, except the Norovirus which causes a certain type of diarrhea. It’s the only downside to all your favorite antiseptics. A significant bonus of pocket disinfectants is that they can smell like watermelon, coconut, or even sea breeze, contain spangles and be in colorful containers. It’s much easier to keep your hands clean that way.

Why do we still need soap?

Despite a general availability of hand sanitizers, it is best not to be lazy and maintain your hand hygiene in a more traditional way. Doctors say that viruses are most effectively killed and removed from hands with soap and water.

A hand sanitizer can kill viruses and some bacteria, but it does not “cleanse” your hands the way traditional soap and water do. It is worth remembering that an antiseptic kills bacteria, but does not remove dirt or dust from the surface of the palms and from under the nails.

It may seem that antibacterial soap would be the best option, but there are no existing studies to prove this.

The formulation is important

If your only option is a hand sanitizer, make sure it’s really worth it.  First of all, you need to check its formulation, because a glowing watermelon antiseptic gel is not always effective enough.

Hand disinfectants with an alcohol content of more than 60 percent are considered the best. Also, if possible, it is recommended to look for a disinfectant with up to 95 percent of ethanol or isopropanol.

It’s not It’s not the “what” but the “how”!

Regardless of whether you use soap and water or a hand sanitizer, the right method of hand washing or sanitizing is what is important.

We will surprise you, but the rules for using hand sanitizers are even stricter than those for soap and water. Doctors refer to a three-stage method: use a disinfectant, rub your palms to cover all surfaces, and rub until your hands are completely dry. World Health Organization guidelines expand the second step by clarifying that hand sanitizer users should rub their right palm with the back of their left hand (and vice versa), rub their palms against each other with the fingers intertwined, and rub the back of their intertwined fingers with the other palm.

Alcohol-based disinfectants work by killing germs, so not only do you need to have enough of the product, but you also need to rub alcohol on your hands long enough for it to work. The main rule for all antiseptics is that you have to rub your hands until the antiseptic dries out. As a rule, this ensures a sufficient exposure time.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that much about what you cleansed your hands with, but how you cleansed your hands.