hand soap

Hand Soap vs. Hand Sanitizer: Which is Better for Your Health?

As a parent, you probably find yourself saying “wash your hands” on repeat, especially after a trip to the supermarket or hearing the toilet flush. The goal of this cleanliness mantra is to minimize illness and mess in our families, leaving more time for fun, laughter and memory-making.

In the effort to keep your family healthy and well, you probably also have a few bottles of hand sanitizer to catch whatever germs are missed by poor washing or lack of access to a sink. But, as you squeeze it onto your children’s hands – have you ever found yourself wondering if it is actually works? Is it killing the germs, or have we been duped?

Believe it or not, the debate between hand soap vs. hand sanitizer is a heated one with strong advocates on either side. One the one hand, using the sink sends those germs packing down the drain but on the other hand, kids usually rush through the hand washing process so…  is the gel a safer catch-all?

Thankfully, science has the answers to these questions and can help us gain a clear understanding of when and how to use each product. Keep reading to learn how to keep your family’s hands clean so you can keep doing what you love.

The Truth About Hand Soap 

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand soap should be used instead of hand sanitizer whenever possible and works best when used for a full 20 seconds in any temperature of water. Not only does it kill germs, but it also eliminates the dirt and stickiness that build up on little hands. When it comes to whether or not to use antibacterial hand soap, researchers actually recommend using regular hand soap without antimicrobial properties. The reason for this? The FDA has become increasingly concerned that harmful bacteria may grow resistant to these high-tech soaps and become more dangerous to our health over time.

At the end of the day, your hand soap only works as hard as you do, so encourage your children to lather up and wash for a full 20 seconds. (Studies show that many children naturally wash for less than 5 seconds, if at all.) To get them on board, teach them a hand washing song or encourage them to wash for as long as it takes them to sing their ABCs.

Looking for a few great hand soaps to perch next to your sink? Check out Mrs Meyer’s Clean Day products or these hand soaps from Dr. Bronner’s.

The Truth About Hand Sanitizer

Although proper hand washing is best, hand sanitizer certainly has its place for a busy family (like port-a-potties or a fast food playplace.) When it comes to choosing a hand sanitizer, look for one with at least 60% alcohol content. Although the alcohol-free ones may seem tempting, they just don’t get the job done.

When using hand sanitizer, apply roughly a teaspoon to the hands and rub it onto the fronts and backs of your hands until dry. If you’re concerned about your younger children eating the or licking their hands after use, relax. The CDC says that ingesting sanitizer could cause alcohol poisoning but assures parents that in most cases the awful taste keeps it out of little mouths. Feel free to use hand sanitizer products as needed but take care not to overuse them as they could cause bacteria to build up a resistance over time.

Naked Bee makes a delightful, moisturizing hand sanitizer in orange blossom, and Dr Bronner’s has several spray hand sanitizers that work well without the harmful additives.

A Few of Our Favorites

Once you know what product best fits your situation, there are a few things to look for when purchasing both hand soap and sanitizer. The best products on the market are those that get the job done as naturally as possible. Look for products without parabens or SLS, which can appear on labels as sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, aquarex methyl or by other names.  Both of these ingredient groups have been shown to be potentially harmful to both the humans who use them and their surrounding environment.

What are your tips for keeping hands clean and germs at bay? Leave your comments below!


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash