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This is Why Hand Sanitizer Isn’t a Substitute for Soap

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You’ve probably heard that in recent weeks that all of the hand sanitizer people have been hoarding isn’t actually as good as using just the plain ol’ soap and hot water you already have in your house…but do you know why?

I sure didn’t, and I’ve gotta say, dry hands and all, I’m feeling a lot more germ-free these days!

Hand sanitizers are mostly alcohol – mainly ethanol, which is the same type that gives your wine, beer, and liquors their sweet punch – and isopropanol, which is decidedly less tasty (it’s rubbing alcohol, please don’t drink it).

The job of the alcohol in your hand sanitizer is to dissolve the outer coating of viruses and bacteria, which is essential to eventually killing them.

While alcohol does make up about 70% of the active ingredients in over-the-counter hand sanitizer, it does contain other pieces that give it its consistency (aloe gel, usually), softening properties, and inoffensive smell (essential oils).

What you buy at your local drugstore states that it “kills 99.99 percent of germs,” and while that may be true in lab settings, it doesn’t hold true when it’s facing what you’ve actually picked up on your hands every day.

Even so, it’s more effective that not doing anything, which is why experts are still stating to use it if you don’t have the option to wash your hands.

That said, only soap and water is actually going to remove the dirt, bacteria, and viruses from your skin, so until you manage to do an old-fashioned scrub, there could be stubborn microbes holding on, just waiting for you to forget you’re not supposed to touch your face.

Which you’ve definitely done, just since you started reading this article. Right?

There you go! I hope you watched the video above for an even more in-depth look at how hand sanitizer’s work.

Nerds.