Ask a Dermatologist: What's The difference between hand washing and sanitising?

Hand washing and hand sanitising are both essential for maintaining hand hygiene, but they have distinct differences in terms of how they work and their effectiveness.

Hand Washing:

Hand washing involves using soap and water to physically scrub your hands. This mechanical action creates friction, which helps dislodge dirt, grease, and microbes from the skin's surface.

Hand washing is highly effective at removing a wide range of contaminants from your hands, including dirt, microbes (such as bacteria and viruses), and chemicals. It is considered the gold standard for hand hygiene because it not only kills germs but also physically removes them from your skin.

Proper hand washing should take at least 20 seconds to ensure thorough cleaning. This duration allows for adequate scrubbing and rinsing.

Hand washing is recommended when your hands are visibly dirty, after using the restroom, before eating, and in various other situations where you may have come into contact with contaminants.

Hand Sanitising:

Hand sanitisers work by using chemical agents, typically alcohol-based (such as ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol), to kill or inactivate bacteria and some viruses. Alcohol disrupts the lipid (fatty) membrane of the microbes, effectively destroying them.

Hand sanitisers are effective at killing many bacteria and some viruses, but they may not be as effective against certain types of germs, such as norovirus or Clostridium difficile. They are more precise in targeting and killing microbes compared to hand washing.

Using hand sanitiser is generally quicker than hand washing. You typically apply a small amount to your hands, rub them together, and let the sanitizer dry, which usually takes about 20 seconds.

Hand sanitisers are convenient when you don't have access to soap and water, such as when you're on the go or in situations where hand washing facilities are not readily available.

Hand washing is more comprehensive as it physically removes contaminants from your skin, making it the preferred method when your hands are visibly dirty. Hand sanitisers are a convenient and effective alternative when hand washing is not immediately possible and can help kill many germs. However, it's important to choose a hand sanitizer with an adequate alcohol concentration (usually at least 60%) for it to be effective against a wide range of microbes.

Rohr Remedy's Kunzea Hand Sanitiser comes in an easy to pack pouch and currently has a free refillable tube with every order.