The Coronavirus is spreading across the world, with millions of people infected so far. The Coronavirus has once again brought attention to the value of good hygiene in preventing its spread. Sanitizing gels and other hand care products are in higher demand but is it better to wash with soap and water or use a disinfectant gel?
The Effectiveness in Hand Hygiene
Both are effective if used correctly and frequently and at the right time, given the doubts that may arise when purchasing one or the other.
Soaps are a salt of a fatty acid obtained by reaction between a lipid (as vegetable oil) and an alkali, usually sodium or potassium hydroxide. Soap molecules have a part that attracts water and the other that attracts grease, so the soap dissolves in water, and removes grease.
The structure of soap is very similar to that of the virus membrane, so the soap can dissolve it. A drop of ordinary soap diluted in water is enough to break down and kill many types of bacteria and viruses, including the new coronavirus. Therefore, this hygiene is the essential and basic preventive measure to prevent the transmission of viruses or bacteria.
When is it sufficient to use soap and water to wash our hands?
Before and after each meal to avoid possible infections and, above all, if food is to be handled. Another situation recommended by Global Hand Washing is to hand wash every time we use the toilet and when we sneeze or cough. It is also recommended after traveling by public transport such as the subway or bus and, to ensure its efficacy, the appropriate wash time should be around 40 or 60 seconds.
Hand Sanitizer or Sanitizing Gel
According to the Global Hand Washing organization, a sanitizing gel is useful mostly in healthcare facilities or hospitals, but it should be a complement to handwashing with soap and water.
Waterless hand sanitizers that contain other liquids such as alcohol can serve us when we are away from home, for example, but not when our hands are visibly dirty. WHO recommends washing with soap and water as these gels do not remove dirt. In addition, the international body advises purchasing a disinfectant that contains between 60 and 90% ethanol and applying it to the palm for at least 20 or 30 seconds.
When do you sanitize your hands?
Hand sanitizer is recommended as long as you do not have visibly dirty hands, as a complement to cleaning with soap, or when you do not have access to soap and water. For example, being away from home and after touching surfaces in public places such as doorknobs, car steering wheel, taxi doors, shop counters – and in general, it is good to use gels when they have something dirty or we hold anything outside our home.
If soap and water are not available, a hydroalcoholic solution or hand sanitizer can be used, containing at least 60% to 70% alcohol. If the concentration is lower, it would not be effective. And it will not be effective if we have dirty or greasy hands.
Is It Better To Wash Your Hands With Soap and Water or Use A Hand Sanitizer?
The first thing is to ask yourself: do I have clean or dirty hands? If they are dirty, for example, from blood or body fluids, washing with soap and water is recommended. Also, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at killing some microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, and Clostridium Difficile. Hand washing is the most accessible and economical method for everyone, a reason why it is highly recommended by our medical experts and is proven to be effective.
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