Hand Sanitiser vs Soap : Which Should YOU Use?

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To keep your hands clean of nasty bacteria and viruses, should you use a hand sanitiser or just soap and water?

Find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of both options, and WHICH we should use!


Hand Sanitiser vs Soap : Which Should YOU Use?

The double whammy of a particularly bad influenza season, and the new Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, has seen people stocking up on surgical masks as well as hand sanitisers.

But is it really better to use a hand sanitiser, or is plain soap and water good enough to stave off even the Wuhan coronavirus? Let’s find out…

Hand Sanitiser vs Soap : Which Should YOU Use?


Hand Sanitiser vs Soap : TLDR Summary

Here is a quick summary for those who just want to know what they should use :

  • Where possible, wash your hands with soap and water
  • When using soap and water, scrub your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing off with water
  • Only if soap and water are not available, should you resort to a hand sanitiser
  • Use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol – anything less will not kill microbes
  • When using a hand sanitiser, rub it all over the surfaces of your hands until they dry completely

For those who wish to learn more about why soap and water is better in most situations than hand sanitisers, please continue below.

We will also share with you when hand sanitisers will come in handy, and why you need to use one with high alcohol content!

Hand Sanitiser vs Soap - When to Use


Why Soap Is Superior To Hand Sanitiser In Most Situations

Reason #1 : Soap Cleans Your Hands!

The key reason why soap and water are better than using a hand sanitiser in most situations is that it removes bacteria and viruses, as well as dirt and grease, from your hands.

Another point to note – washing your hands also removes harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals that you may have accidentally (and unknowingly) touched.

Reason #2 : Soap Eliminates Microbes That Hand Sanitisers Cannot Kill!

Alcohol-based hand sanitisers can quickly kill the number of microbes on your hands, but they have difficulty killing certain microbes (like Cryptosporidium, novovirus, and Clostridium difficile).

Washing your hands with soap and water is the only way to effectively get rid of those microbes.

This is why doctors and nurses do not use hand sanitisers but wash their hands with soap and water instead, before performing surgeries.

Doctors washing hands

Reason #3 : Hand Sanitisers Are Not Effective With Dirty / Greasy Hands

Hand sanitisers work well in clinical settings like in a hospital, where your hands may come into contact with microbes but are otherwise not dirty or greasy.

Their effectiveness in killing microbes is greatly reduced when used on dirty or greasy hands. That is why it is recommended that you wash your hands with soap where possible.


Bar Soap vs Liquid Soap : Which Should You Use?

Using liquid soap is more hygienic because it is served from a sterile container. A bar soap, on the other hand, will harbour microbes from previous users.

Of course, when you wash your hands with bar soap, the microbes it transfers to your hands will get washed away.

So, using a bar soap is better than no soap at all. But where possible, use liquid soap.

More importantly, learn how to properly wash your hands using this pictorial guide!

How To Wash Hands With Soap


Hand Sanitiser : When Should You Use One?

Now, the hand sanitiser has its uses. That’s why hospitals, airports, malls and other public places offer them.

Where soap and water are not readily available, or convenient to use, a hand sanitiser will quickly kill microbes on your hands.

Make sure you follow this guide, and properly rub the hand sanitiser all over your hands until they are both completely dry.

How To Use Hand Sanitiser


Hand Sanitiser : Alcohol Or Alcohol-FREE?

For a hand sanitiser to be effective at killing a significant amount of microbes, it needs to have an alcohol content of 60% to 95%.

Top healthcare authorities like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), recommend using alcohol-based hand sanitisers over any other type of hand sanitiser.


This is partly because non-alcohol hand sanitisers use an antibiotic like Triclosan or Triclocarban, which not only exacerbate antibiotic resistance, but may also cause health problems with long-term use.

It is true that alcohol-based hand sanitiser can dry out your hands. But many alcohol-based hand sanitisers now include moisturisers to prevent that. Here are some options you can buy online :



United States

United Kingdom


If you are concerned about dry skin, just apply some moisturiser after rubbing the alcohol-based hand sanitiser dry on your hands.


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