Hand washing: Is hand sanitiser as effective as washing with soap?

Strict hand hygiene and regular, prolonged washing have never been more important than it is at the moment especially with most of the world in lockdown as a result of the spread of coronavirus. In this blog, we explore the solutions to keep consumers healthy and safe providing an insight in hand sanitizers, soaps that tackle the spread of the virus, continue reading...

Hand washing is a proposed solution against viruses

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid illness and the spreading of germs. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. But why is this a preferred solution?

Government bodies such as The NHS (National Health Service, UK) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA) recommend washing hands with soap and water whenever possible as it protects us from and the further spreading of viruses, germs, etc. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol helps too.

Hand hygiene has been a major part of the global response to the international emergence of COVID-19. Practising hand hygiene, which includes mainly using Soap and alternatively alcohol-based hand rub is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of pathogens and infections. Here is a great video that explains the science of soap in dismantling the virus and cleansing it out using water.

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hand washing with soap

Image Credit: Jasmin Sessler

Hand Sanitiser vs. Hand Soap and Water

Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a quick and convenient solution to reduce the number of microbes on hands. However, in some situations, they do not eliminate all types of germs. Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitisers at removing certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, Norovirus and Clostridium Difficile. Although alcohol-based hand sanitisers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, there is scope for ineffectiveness as people may not use enough sanitiser or may even wipe it off before it has dried and had a chance to work.

Hand sanitisers work well in clinical settings like hospitals, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not effective when hands are covered in dirt, heavily soiled or greasy when handling food, playing sports, gardening, construction work, DIY, outdoor activities etc.

Many studies have found that sanitisers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Hand sanitisers without 60-95% alcohol may not work equally well for many types of germs and merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them completely.

Waterless antibacterial hand sanitisers are marketed to the public as an effective way to cleanse hands when traditional soap and water is unavailable. Some manufacturers claim that sanitisers kill 99.9% of germs, although research studies suggest that this is not necessarily the case.

In relation to procedures for food services, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitisers not be used in place of hand soap and water but in conjunction with it. If hand sanitisers are used, it is generally best to wipe hands with a towel or cloth before applying the sanitiser to remove as much dirt and oil as possible.

Photo by Jason Jarrach on Unsplash

Are Antibacterial Soaps More Effective?

Research into the use of consumer antibacterial soaps has shown that plain soaps are just as effective as antibacterial soaps in reducing bacteria-related illnesses. In-fact, using consumer antibacterial soap products may increase bacterial resistance to antibiotics in some bacteria. Other studies suggest that ultra-clean environments and the persistent use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitisers may inhibit proper immune system development in children.

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the marketing of over-the-counter antibacterial products that contain several ingredients including triclosan and triclocarban. Triclosan in antibacterial soaps and other products has been linked to the development of certain diseases.

Stephenson continues innovating to tackle coronavirus

Stephenson offers high-quality cleansing products for tackling coronavirus. Our range includes Crystal (melt & pour soaps), Extruded (soap noodles), liquid soaps & surfactant-based products which are ionic in nature. All our soap-based products Crystal, Extruded, and Liquid soaps are anionic and provide effective cleansing. Our surfactant-based products Syndopal, body washes and concentrates are effective as well with milder properties.

Demand for Stephenson soap bases has surged as the need for hygiene products intensifies across the world. The technical team has even developed a brand-new liquid soap base, Liquid Soap 2020, to meet demand with delivery available in as little as two weeks.

Liquid Soap 2020 has been specifically formulated to be an all-purpose liquid soap, suitable for both personal care, such as hand and body washing and multi-purpose cleansing for hard surfaces and floors. Derived from natural vegetable oils, it comes ready to use and is already being shipped to multiple distributors across our established international networks.

We also have a fully natural and organic soap named Liquid Soap 105 which is COSMOS & USDA NOP Certified for brands that have a focus on such claims. This product has been established in the global market becoming a firm favourite among manufacturers and formulators alike.

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