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Sanitizer vs. Soap: Which Is Better Amid Coronavirus Outbreak?

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 3/12/2020 Darwin Malicdem

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that COVID-19 is now a pandemic because of “alarming levels of spread and severity” worldwide. The decision along with rising cases in 114 countries and territories sparked concerns over a possibly higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

People have been buying more hand sanitizers and face masks to avoid the infection. However, hand soap has been getting less attention despite health authorities and experts recommending that people wash their hands regularly to prevent COVID-19.

Both sanitizers and soaps promise to help keep the hands clean. But which products will provide the best protection against the novel coronavirus? 

Hand Soap And Sanitizer: Which Is Better? 

Effects Of Soap

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that hand washing with soap and water can help reduce germs from your hands. However, hand soap does not directly kill germs.

"Soap is a detergent, which is why it gets all sudsy and bubbly," Alex Berezow, microbiologist and vice president of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health, told Insider. "Detergents work by dissolving both water and oil, so it simply washes the microbes off your hands like it would wash the grease off a dinner plate." 

But using soap and water has been proven effective than hand sanitizers in cleaning hands, especially when greasy or dirty. Sanitizers have little cleaning effect when the hands are soiled and greasy. 

How To Properly Wash With Soap

Wet your hands with running water and scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to clean under fingernails, the backs of hands and between fingers. 

It is very important to complete the 20-second rule. Hand soaps have surfactants, which help carry oil and microbes away from the skin. 

After scrubbing, rinse your hands and use a dry, clean towel to dry your hands quickly. Germs can move more easily to and from wet hands.

Using Hand Sanitizer

People love buying hand sanitizers because they can be carried to any place and used anytime. Unlike soap, sanitizers can kill some microbes.

But there are some germs that can survive the exposure to such hygiene products. Hand sanitizers may not work against cryptosporidium, which causes breathing and gastrointestinal issues; norovirus that causes vomiting and diarrhea; and clostridium difficile that has been linked to intestinal upset and inflammation.

How To Pick The Right Hand Sanitizer

If you are buying alcohol-based sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. There are products with up to 95 percent concentration, which provides the best protection against microbes.

Using sanitizers with less than 60 percent alcohol will only reduce the growth of germs, according to the CDC. You may also pick products with emollients, which helps soften and soothe skin. 

Which Is Better Amid Coronavirus Pandemic? 

"Soap is a detergent that washes away the microbes, while alcohol in the hand sanitizer directly kills microbes," Berezow said. "But soap and water are most effective at removing the microbes." 

Proper handwashing can remove the microbes that alcohol-based hand sanitizers cannot kill. Always wash your hands before and after preparing or eating food, after using the washroom, after blowing your nose and after touching an animal or the garbage.

a close up of food © Pixabay

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