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Hand Washing vs. Hand Sanitizer


WRITTEN BY: Urgent Care
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Every day we come into contact with viruses and bacteria, and in the peak of cold and flu season, it’s more important than ever to follow proper hand hygiene to stay healthy.

When it comes to cleaning our hands, we have two effective options, hand washing and hand sanitizer. When done properly, both can reduce the amount of germs on your hands, but which choice is really best?

Hand Washing

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that your best route for germ-free hands is to use soap and warm water to wash your hands. With hand washing, technique is key. You should run your hands under warm, clean water, apply soap, and rub your hands together for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Want a trick? Try singing the ABC’s from start to finish before you rinse your hands. When you’re finished, you can either use a clean towel or air dry your hands.

hand sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer

If you do not have access to soap and clean, running water, hand sanitizer is a great alternative. When selecting a hand sanitizer, be sure that it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Non- alcohol based and sanitizers with less than 60 percent alcohol concentration have proven to be less effective at killing germs.

When applying hand sanitizer, use at least a half of a teaspoon, or enough that it takes between 15 and 20 seconds for your hands to dry. It is also important to note that hand sanitizers do not kill all types germs.

So what’s the verdict?

When you have the option, hand washing should always be your first choice. Although both hand washing and hand sanitizer are great methods to keep your hands clean, it is important to keep in mind that hand sanitizer should not be seen as a replacement for soap and water, but rather, an alternative if you do not have the resources to wash your hands.

urgent care

Urgent Care

Whether it’s after your doctor’s office is closed, or any time when you can’t wait to see a doctor, UPMC Urgent Care is here to help. Our walk-in clinics provide a full range of medical services for people of all ages, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our 7 urgent care locations throughout western Pennsylvania are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., no appointments necessary. Read More