(I have dozens of incomplete blog drafts. This was one of them. It was a concept I had and I know I will never have the time to flesh out so I just touched it up and posted it. I hope you find it as informative and as I did.)
At home I probably wash my hands at least a dozen times a day. At work, that just isn't possible. So like many others I use hand sanitizer. I don't know if you all feel the same as I do after using it, but it just doesn't compare to a good, clean and refreshing water and soap hand wash.
Even with the chemicals burning at your skin I just didn't feel as clean. It almost seemed as if I applied a fresh coat of paint over a dirty wall. The gross stuff was still there but just slightly sterilized. So, I decided to do a little research and found some information.
A majority of alcohol sanitizers in the US use either ethanol or isopropanol or a combination of them. Most brands also include a moisturizer because those chemicals tend to dry up and sometimes irritate the skin. The alcohol in these sanitizers works by changing the proteins in the microorganisms which effectively kills bacteria and most viruses. What isn't usually made clear is that proteins and fats on dirty hands will REDUCE the effectiveness of the alcohol as a sanitizer.
So what does that mean? Well, if you have dirty hands this doesn't work well. So it is important to know that these sanitizers don't CLEAN your hands, the only disinfect. This seems obvious but in my personal experience is not the way people in general use these products.
So what are we supposed to do? BOTH. Hand sanitizers work best AFTER you have washed your hands. So it should become an additional step when washing your hands, not an alternative. The way it works is by stripping away a layer of oil on your skin and killing any present microorganisms. It takes bacteria long time to repopulate.
For best results you are supposed to rub your hands with the sanitizer for 30 seconds. If your hands are dry before that point, then you aren't using enough. Hand sanitizers are NOT an alternative, they should be an accessory to, hand washing.
This public service announcement has been brought to you by your local resident OCD hand washer.