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Soap And Water As Good As Sanitizers To Clean Hands

Cold season is upon us and health officials are now saying that good ole’ soap and water is just as good as those fancy hand sanitizers.

I think they are just trying to get the hand washing message out there now that there are fears of a superbug. Plus most viruses can be prevented by better hand washing practices.

Washing hands with plain soap and water is as effective as using the expanding range of sanitizers or antibacterial soaps if done correctly and often, according to a new U.S. report.

Dr Anthony Komaroff, editor of the Harvard Health Letter, said studies have shown that washing hands with soap and water for just 15 seconds removes 90 percent of bacteria — but many people do not wash their hands often enough or dry them thoroughly.

In a telephone survey of Americans, over 90 percent of those questioned said they would wash their hands after using a public bathroom, according to a report in the January issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

But when researchers observed people in various public bathrooms they found that only 75 percent of men and 90 percent of women washed their hands before leaving the bathroom.

Komaroff said the latest alcohol-based gels sold as hand sanitizers can be a useful alternative to soap and water but people often underestimate how much they need to do the job.

“You have to use several squirts out of a hand sanitizer and really make sure it covers all surfaces of your hands. Most people are pretty good about the palm but they’re not as good about the back of the fingers and back of the hand,” Komaroff told Reuters.

The convenience of not needing running water and a towel makes the sanitizing gels a preferred method to quickly clean hands which has helped fuel sales.

“You don’t have to be near running water and for a lot of people that’s a lot of the day. They’re in a situation where they are in contact with lots of people but they are not near soap and water and it’s the only realistic way of cleansing the hands,” said Komaroff.

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About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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