Hand sanitizer vs handwash: Which is better for coronavirus protection

WHO says that washing your hands frequently is one of the best forms of defense against any virus or hard bacteria.

Corona Virus
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The panic around the coronavirus outbreak is spreading like wildfire. With over 28 confirmed cases confirmed in India and many more undergoing screening, pharmacies are running out of hand sanitizers, masks and medicines to stop the spread of coronavirus infections.

While hand sanitizers remain to be one of the best ways to nip the virus in the bud (and not to forget, act as one of the easiest forms of protection against countless germs and infections) when you are out and about, there is another thing as effective as using sanitizers and that is washing your hands with soap and water.

WHO says that washing your hands frequently is one of the best forms of defense against any virus or hard bacteria. We tell you why.

Hand sanitizers vs handwash: Which is better?

For one, before you go around being a hypochondriac about using a hand sanitizer, ensure that your product contains a generous amount of alcohol content in it. According to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, only sanitizers which contain atleast 60% alcohol content is deemed effective in fighting viruses from the root. Anything less than is not that preventive, and may simply just dry your hands.

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Plus, if you have a sensitive skin type, alcohol-free sanitizers won’t really do justice. There is also another con here which you should be aware about. Sanitizing solutions contain chemicals which not only dry out skin but also take away natural protective oils from the skin, making it more prone to damage. Remember, damaged, impaired skin is more vulnerable to getting infected.

Therefore, one way you can fight the viruses is by frequent handwashing using soap and water whenever you can. Hand sanitizers are to be used only in MODERATION and not all the time.

Here’s why

Almost all of the soaps made today contain germ-fighting agents which disinfect and kill the germs effectively. All you need are 20 seconds under warm, runny water and you are good to go.

According to a 2019 study by the American Society for Microbiology, using running water and soap to wash your hands is more effective than gels and hand rubs, which take a while to permeate inside the skin. Soap and water do remove dirt, germs and any grime which you could have come in contact with when you are outside a “safe” place, i.e. your home or a well-quarantined area.

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The trick is, to do it right. Instead of simply running your hands under water for once and call it a well-done job, ensure that the soapy solution gets under your nails, between the fingers and all cavities so that the dirt gets rooted away.

It is necessary that the water solution is lathered up properly as well and you go one hand and then the other one for a good 20 seconds, or just the time it takes to sing “happy birthday song” twice. Once done, make sure you dry your hands properly, use a clean paper towel or any disposable tissue which can be thrown away.

While there is no guarantee that running your hands under soap and water will kill viruses, rinsing properly will make sure that you wash away surface-level viruses and other hard germs. Regular hand hygiene also cuts down the risk of developing other deadly infections like diarrhoea and catching respiratory infections spread through the air.

Hence, there is no real reason for you to give in to panic and turn paranoid. Practising essential hygiene and complying with precautions can lessen your chances of coming in contact with the virus or spreading it.