Handwashing or Hand Sanitizer: Which Is Better and Why?

Handwashing or Hand Sanitizer: Which Is Better and Why?

The traditional advice, “Wash your hands,” of late has been equated with “sanitize your hands,” which has many people confused about the efficacy of each of these methods of maintaining hand hygiene. Which one is better and why? Handwashing or hand sanitizing?

It is often assumed that hand sanitizing is just as effective as washing hands. However, as a general rule, washing your hands with soap and water can prove to be your best defense against germs, but again there are certain exceptions to this rule. The key to effective hand hygiene is to know when and how each method is important in the fight against infection.


In the case of hygiene and safety, it is not a single viral cell that matters, but it is how much of the virus is present on a particular surface. There is no definite evidence on the extent to which soap can eliminate enough viral cells to make a surface safe, but we know for sure that washing with soap dislodges viral cells from your hands and thorough rinsing with water will completely wash them off your hands. 

Soaps are composed of water-soluble sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids that have vital properties as surfactants. Whereas detergents are synthetic compounds of a different variety of soaps, but also share the same surfactant properties.

Tips for Effective Handwashing  

  • Wet your hands thoroughly under the tap.
  • Use around 1-3 ml water and work up a good lather.
  • Create friction as you lather with soap for at least 20 seconds, ensuring that you rub all of your fingers, thumbs, between your fingers, under your fingernails, front and back of your hands, forearms, and wrists.
  • Thoroughly rinse your hands under running water using a rubbing motion to remove all soap residue.
  • Use a clean towel or paper towel to dry your hands.  

Hand Sanitizing 

Hand sanitizer is a good option when you cannot wash your hands at that point or do not have access to clean water. The benefits of hand sanitizer are that they are quick, easy, and effective if handwashing is not possible at a given time, and that is exactly why they are used extensively in health care environments and public places where water may not be easily available.

The majority of alcohol-based sanitizers contain ethanol or isopropanol, or a combination of both. Usually, they also contain a moisturizer to minimize skin irritation. Alcohol is quick and effective in killing bacteria and most viruses. The alcohol content of at least 60-90% is the most effective.

Tips for Effective Hand Sanitizing 

  • Apply the manufacturer’s recommended amount to the palm of one hand. 
  • Rub hands together thoroughly, including the areas between your fingers.
  • Spread the product over your hands and fingers and rub until your hands are dry.
  • Make sure you use enough product to cover all of your hands and fingers.

Difference Between Handwashing and Hand Sanitizing

Both methods clean your hands but in different ways. Handwashing dislodges germs physically from the surface of your skin, and hand sanitizing kills any active germs present on contact.

Except for using antibacterial soap, washing your hands with soap and water might not kill many germs. But the purpose of soaping your hands is not to kill germs but to wash them away. The lather and friction make it easier to loosen the germs and dirt from your skin and flush them down the drain. 

On the other hand, a hand sanitizer is designed to kill all the germs that come in contact with it. The germs are still present on you, but they have, in all probability, been deactivated.

Determining the Hand Cleaning Method to be Used 

Recommendations for handwashing and hand sanitation vary depending on the personal health requirements and job functions of different groups of people. For instance, dirt, food, or anything else on your hands that has soiled it can make the alcohol in the sanitizers less effective, therefore it is essential to first wash your hands with soap and water.

However, in settings such as healthcare units, several healthcare workers need to routinely clean their hands multiple times per hour while moving between patients. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer works out to be favorable in such circumstances wherein hands are suitably cleansed, saving precious time. 

When to Hand Wash  

  • When your hands are visibly soiled.
  • After visiting public places.
  • After touching surfaces outside home including currency.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After handling garbage.
  • After touching animals and pets.
  • Before and after eating.
  • When caring for a sick person. 

When to Sanitize your Hands

  • When there is no access to running or clean water to wash your hands.
  • When saving time is crucial as in the case of health workers.
  • Before and while coming in close physical contact with people at high-risk of infection such as newborns, the very old or immunosuppressed.
  • While and after having direct physical contact with anyone with an upper respiratory infection, skin infection, or diarrhea.
  • While visiting crowded areas like hospitals, schools, and offices.


While the importance of handwashing is undeniable, there are several times in the day when you do not have access to clean running water especially, if you are outdoors. And worse still, sometimes you are just short of time to even sanitize your hands as frequently.  

At such times, Just Human 24-hour protection hand sanitizer is a savior! A revolutionary product that offers an invisible all-day protective bionic shield. It is free of harsh chemicals, making it absolutely skin-friendly and safe for even kids. Having been tested at independent GLP labs across the world, it is proven to offer protection for 24 hours straight, effectively killing 99.9% of germs and viruses. You only need to use it once a day, and it works even after you have washed your hands.

Next time you intend to buy hand sanitizer online, check out Just Human 24-Hour Protection Hand Sanitizer to try this super-convenient product that is designed to protect you all day, allowing you to live your life with greater confidence of higher protection.