Does Hand Sanitizer Kill as Many Germs as Soap and Water?

Hand sanitizer was invented to clean industrial-grade grime from the hands of mechanics, which makes it a great germ killer -- what about soap and water?

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One of life’s cruel ironies is that the occasions when we most desperately want to wash our hands—e.g., after shaking hands with a runny-nosed colleague after a meeting—water and soap are nowhere to be found. Hand-sanitizing gel is sometimes offered as a substitute, but can you really trust a cold lump of goo to prevent nasty germs from passing along infectious particles?

The experts say yes. “Hand-sanitizing gels that contain at least 60-percent alcohol or other proven antiseptic agents are very effective against most bacteria and many types of viruses,” says Christine Pearson of the CDC. While washing your hands with soap and water is more effective in some instances, when applied correctly—don’t use too little or wash it off too quickly—hand-sanitizing gel eliminates most of the germs that will make you sick.

And if a little squirt of gel still seems suspiciously weak to you, remember that one of the most popular brands of hand sanitizer was invented to clean industrial-grade grime from the hands of mechanics, which makes your angst about grazing the door handle of the men’s room look pretty weak by comparison.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question—especially when it comes to your body, your health or your hygiene. Send us the things that you’ve always wondered about to blog@dollarshaveclub.com.