Washing your hands is easy to do and is scientifically proven to be one of the most effective ways of hygiene control and prevents the spread of many types of infection and illnesses that surrounds our everyday life. From being at work or home or to a hospital - clean hands stops germs from spreading. The two main ways in which we do this is the conventional soap and water, and nowadays the new Hand Sanitizer. The question is though which is the more effective for hygiene control?
Soap has been the traditional hygiene control method, and it comes in a variety of forms and fragrances, liquid/foam/soap bar etc. Washing your hands is a process which needs to be done after being in a number of everyday occurrences as we constantly pick up unwanted germs: going to the toilet, handling food, being around children and those that are ill.
Soap is an excellent cleanser because of its ability to act as an emulsifying agent. An emulsifier is capable of dispersing one liquid into another immiscible liquid. This means that while oil, which attracts dirt doesn't naturally mix with water, soap can suspend oil/dirt in such a way that it can be removed.
In recent times, a Hand Sanitizer has become a popular way to cleanse your hands. It works because of its high concentration of alcohol (between 60%-90%), but it’s not suitable for cleaning all types of dirt. The way it’s applied can also affect its hygiene control benefits. People have bacteria on their hands all the time and alcohol stunts the growth of bacteria when used appropriately (scientists say 30 sec of cleansing). Another reason it may be more effective than hand washing, is that it is easier and quicker to use.
In truth beneficial hand washing requires warm water and antimicrobial soap, and scrubbing for about two minutes. In comparison, a Hand Sanitizer can be carried in small bottles, and takes about 30 seconds of scrubbing to achieve, in many cases, the same benefits as soap and water. However, it is not effective for all cleaning needs. Some bacteria make using sanitizer in a hospital important although it cannot effectively clean the hands when they are exposed to blood or faecal matter.
Hand Sanitizer does not work effectively if it is not applied correctly. To use it properly a person needs to apply a blob of sanitizer the size of a 5 pence piece - according to a scientific experiment, if your hand dries' in less than 30 sec then it’s likely that not enough was used and you should repeat the process.
Hand washing for two minutes with antimicrobial soap is the better method of hygiene control. However, in our busy, time poor lives the Hand Sanitizer is a 'better than nothing' solution. Indeed a combination of both methods during the course of the day is the best!
Why is this important for your organisation? Time off due to sickness is a direct cost to most organisations, so the provision of effective cleansing methods in your buildings, has a direct benefit in the long run.
For further information on how you can improve washroom hygiene in your organisation, please talk to our washroom and waste services consultants.
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Authored by Tony Dent of Mint Hygiene Ltd