Germs are everywhere! They can get onto hands and items we touch during daily activities and make us sick. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you.
There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer. Soap and water work to remove all types of germs from hands, while sanitizer acts by killing certain germs on the skin. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs in many situations, they should be used in the right situations. Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile, as well as chemicals.
Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead.
Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use will give you the best chance of preventing sickness.