Hand Sanitizer or Soap?


As many a student across campus knows, illness and disease can spread like a wildfire. If you were to walk into any classroom larger than 100 people in size, chances are that you’ll hear a symphony of coughing and people hacking up lungs all around you. Now, what I’ve overheard many a person on campus call “Penn State Plague,” is sweeping the campus, there are two simple ways that it can be prevented. These happen to be, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.

While washing your hands seems like a relatively simple task, not too many people seem to do it properly. Only 5% of people wash their hands correctly, leaving the majority of people washing their hands incorrectly (Jaslow).  People have been known to run their hands under water without soap, or completely avoid cleaning up after themselves at all. Yet one of the biggest problems is the fact that people are not washing their hands for a long enough time period. The recommended time is that of “20 seconds … singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice” (Jaslow).

We as a whole live in a society that is forever on the go, so what exactly do those who can’t spare the “20 seconds” to wash their hands, do? Well this, my friends, is where the handy Hand Sanitizer comes into play. Hand Sanitizer is basically an alcohol-based product that is supposed to kill bacteria on your hands (Jaslow). Most leading products state that they kill 99.9% of all bacteria. 99.9% seems like a great number…until you get more information on the product.

This 99.9% turns out to be more of a cover than the full truth. According to About Biology, these products are tested on “inanimate surfaces” instead of a hand itself. On these inanimate surfaces, they were able to kill 99.9% of bacteria, but without testing it on the human hand, there is no way to claim that these products will accurately kill germs on your own two hands (Bailey).

So what is your safest bet? Should you dance around in the communal bathrooms singing Happy Birthday to yourself two times, every time you need to wash your hands, or simply use hand sanitizer?  The Connecticut Department of Public Health states, “Washing your hands with soap and water is the best defense against germs.”

So ultimately, your best bet is to wash your hands and sing that song. Yet we all know that sometimes if you sneeze twelve times during a test, you can’t get up to wash your hands every single time. So to compensate, the second best thing is to use hand sanitizer. In order for the sanitizer to be effective, it would have to be made up of at least 60% alcohol, but it really won’t be beneficial to you if your hands have visible dirt on them (“Hand Sanitizers…”). So the choice is yours, but remember not to be fooled by labels that tell you they’ll kill pretty much all of the bacteria, because it might kill that bacteria but not so much on the areas you might think it will.





Bailey, Regina. “Do Hand Sanitizers Work Better Than Soap and Water?”About. About Group, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

“Hand Sanitizers: Advice for Using Gels, Foams and Wipes.” (n.d.): n. pag. Connecticut Department of Public Health, Sept. 2012. Web.

Harper, Elly Pretzel And Jane. Which Soap Is Best? – Minnesota Dept of Health (n.d.): n. pag. Minnesota Dept of Health. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

Jaslow, Ryan. “95 Percent of People Wash Their Hands Improperly: Are You One of Them?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 12 June 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.


6 thoughts on “Hand Sanitizer or Soap?

  1. Alison B Mamtsis

    I totally agree, the amount of people I see leave the bathroom without washing their hands is shocking. Especially with this cold going around, cold season is THE time if any to be washing your hands like crazy and taking every precaution you can to not get sick. I’ve heard all kinds of bad things about hand sanitizer from people saying that it can kill good bacteria on your hands, or that too much hand sanitizer can lower your body’s immune system, to claims that it simply doesn’t clean hands that well. I’m curious if it worked well at one point, but our bodies have built an immunity to it, or if it just never really worked at all.

  2. Isabella Fordyce

    My HS Bio teacher refused to ever have hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial soap in her classroom–she always said that constantly killing off the good bacteria that naturally are on your hands would allow the remaining resilient bacteria to build resistance and then cause you to get sick. But I still find myself using it all the time

  3. Alex Seth Blankman

    I am a personal fan of both but it also depends on the situation. When I would come back from playing sports I would always wash my hands due to the physical dirt that appeared on them, washing them just seemed like the right thing to do. However, if I am going out and in a hurry and am already dressed up and do not want to get my shirt wet I would use hand sanitizer which I always keep next to my bed for convince purposes. I will also always use soap after the bathroom obviously so therefore I think soap is the way to go but I do not use bars of soap due to the fact those are more unclean because dirty hands have been touching them.

  4. Francesca Barone

    This is interesting because I have always wondered about it. I have hand sanitizer right next to my bed and after anything mostly after I eat and before bed I use it. However, I definitely agree that washing your hands has to be more effective than hand sanitizer. If you think about it, hand sanitizer kills 99% of germs but how about that 1%, the germs can feed off that 1% and attract more germs which can in the long run make you sick. I feel like for college students hand sanitizer is easier to use and a lot of students feel that it may be more effective, which is false. However, as college students we become lazy to go to the bathroom to wash hands when hand sanitizer is right there. Here is a link to show the disadvantages of hand sanitizer.

  5. Maxine Swift Mcgee

    This was a real eye-awakening entry. Usually after going to the bathroom and there is a long line to wash your hands I always just leave and use my hand sanitizer on the go. The United States society as a whole is all about convenience and speed. Our nation is always on the go so we speed through life and sometimes don’t always do what’s best and that is clearly the case here. On the flip side there are some people who say say washing your hands in general is bad for you. Subra Kugathasan, MD, from the Medical college of Wisconsin believes “…the immune system needs some kind of hardening, some kind of resistance. Put another way, you cannot really build up good muscles without doing exercise” (http://www.easy-immune-health.com/Handwashing.html). It’s interesting to know that washing your hands is better than hand sanitizer for people with a phobia against germs but it doesn’t solve the issue of whether or not it is better to have such strict hygiene.

  6. Natalie Michelle Soltero Cabrera

    I, for one, always have hand sanitizer in by purse, bag, or whatever I have to carry it. I find it funny that you write about this because in the past two classes you can hear the symphony of most of our class coughing. I agree with you that people don’t wash their hands correctly, I have seen girls that they don’t even wash their hand after using the bathroom, and I know guys do it too. By the way, I found the video super funny, wasn’t expecting it at all.

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