Photos Show Why Hand Sanitizer Doesn’t Work As Well As Soap And Water To Remove Germs

Since they are very small, we teach our children to regularly wash their hands. Yet, it seems that health officials and doctors need to remind adults of the importance of this habit, especially during the cold and flu season.

During the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first advice we were given- Wash. Your. Hands. This is the simplest way to protect yourself, your dearest ones, and everyone you meet.

Proper handwashing seems to be the most effective way to prevent the spread of this novel virus, apart from staying home, so many people started to pile up hand sanitizer in all the panic that rules worldwide.

Many people started sharing helpful tips on social media, and actress Kristen Bell was one of them. She shared six photos her mother had sent to her on Instagram, showing her hands at different stages of cleanliness.

Her mother had a cream called Glo-Germ on her hands, which is a mineral oil that simulates germs and is only visible under a UV light. In this way, she could show how much dirt was on the hands, even when they looked completely clean.

The series of photos started with unwashed hands and ended with hands that have been washed for thirty seconds with soap.

Even though the coronavirus is not a bacterial infection, but a virus, the photos indicate the way germs can hide and flourish in the crevices of our hands, so they are useful information that we can use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What surprised many was that there was a significant difference between a six-second wash with soap and a fifteen-second wash with soap, and again between a fifteen-second wash and a thirty-second wash.

To emphasize the point, Bell wrote:



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My mom sent me the hand washing black light comparison. 30 SECONDS WITH SOAP YALL!!!

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on

When it comes to handwashing, statistics reveal some discouraging findings. Namely, only 66% of Americans wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, and 99.2 million do not use soap!

What’s more, over 75% of Americans wash their hands for less than 20 seconds.

When Michigan State University researchers investigated the handwashing practices in 2013, they discovered that only five percent of people washed their hands long enough to kill germs and bacteria.

Carl Borchgrevink, an associate professor of hospitality business at Michigan State University in East Lansing, stated:

 “These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper handwashing is occurring at a much higher rate.” 

London researchers have estimated that handwashing can help us prevent a million deaths annually.

Yet, when it comes to sanitizers, you should know that they cannot replace handwashing.

It is definitely a solution when the sink is nowhere close, but there is nothing more effective than soap and water.

The UV light experiment done by Business Insider showed that a thirty-second hand wash was far better than a hand sanitizer.

Namely, it was found that hand sanitizers only neutralize bacteria, and do not wash it off, so it can later resurge.

Moreover, “studies have found hand sanitizer to be ineffective against viruses like SARS, likely because viruses are uniquely encased in a protective protein shell. “

Health officials advise the use of a hand sanitizer, especially in the case of underlying conditions like asthma or emphysema, but explain that it should not be a replacement for soap and water.

 Linda Anegawa, a Hawaii-based internist with PlushCare, explains:

“Hand sanitizers are active against all types of viruses except norovirus, which causes a certain type of diarrhea. Sanitizers also don’t protect against some types of bacteria, including one called C. difficile, which causes diarrhea from antibiotic overuse.”

Athanasios Melisiotis, a physician with Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, adds:

“Some hand sanitizers can leave a residue that feels slick or uncomfortable for some users. Hand sanitizers are great in a pinch and are more convenient, but soap and water ultimately are better.”

Researchers at MIT maintain that increasing hand-washing at just 10 airports in the US would lower the spread of the coronavirus by 60 percent.

According to the CDC, here is when we should all wash our hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before meals
  • After using the toilet
  • After touching garbage
  • Before and after caring for someone that has diarrhea or vomits
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose
  • After touching an animal
  • After touching pet food or treats
  • After changing diapers
  • Before and after treating a wound or a cut

When it comes to the actual procedure, here is what to do:

  • Wet the hands with running water, and apply soap
  • Lather the hands by rubbing with the soap, between the fingers, under the nails, and the back
  • Scrub for 20 seconds
  • Rinse.