Hand washing test: Soap vs. sanitizer

By Andrew Douglas - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Germs spread fast from person to person, so what is the best way to protect yourself?  Soap or sanitizer?

To get to the bottom of this question, volunteers in an experiment first pressed their dirty hands on a petri dish.  Then, they washed their hands using different methods.

The first group washed their hands without any instructions.  The second group washed following Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:  wet hands, apply soap, lather and scrub and continue rubbing for 20 seconds.

Group three was given store brand sanitizer, while group four used name brand sanitizer.

After everyone soaped up, rinsed or rubbed they each pressed their clean hands on a petri dish.

After a day in the incubator, the results were revealed.

One person in the first group actually had more bacteria on their hands after washing.

Experts said that when you wash your hands, you are actually releasing bacteria and you can end up with more bacteria if you only wash for a very short time.

The group that followed CDC guidelines got much better results, and it does not matter if you use hot or cold water.

Experts said soap was the key.  All soap by nature is anti-bacterial.

The groups using hand sanitizer reduced the number of bacteria, and the results of store brand or name brand were almost the same.

How, the hand sanitizer did not work nearly as well as soap.  Hand sanitizer works better on bacteria, but not viruses.  In other words, hand sanitizer will not protect you from the flu.

Sanitizers contain alcohol, which affects living bacterial cells but do not have much affect on viruses.

The CDC reminded people that clean hands save lives.

For more information on the CDC's guidelines for hand washing, click here.

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