Photos Show Why Hand Sanitizer Doesn’t Work as Well as Soap and Water to Remove Germs

The basic principle of hygiene is regular washing of the hands, and that is the first rule that we teach our children. It seems that the adults need to be reminded of that as well, particularly while the cold and flu seasons.

During the coronavirus pandemic the first prevention is proper washing of our hands and that is what health officials emphasize all the time. Aside staying at home this is the simplest way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Since the first prevention of this novel virus is proper hand washing many people started to pile up hand sanitizer due to the catching panic. However, one thing should always be on your mind, sanitizers cannot replace handwashing.

The coronavirus is not a bacterial infection, but a virus, yet the germs hide and flourish in the crevices of our hands, and because of that we need to wash them properly.

What is considered proper handwashing?

Due to the current crisis many people started sharing helpful tips on social media, including the celebrities like Kristen Bell. Her mother sent her 6 photographs of her hands at different stages of cleanliness and Bell shared them on Instagram, so that the rest of the world can see them.

Bell’s mother first used a cream named as Glo-Germ on her hands, a mineral oil that simulates germs that are visible only under a UV light. This photograph showed how many germs thrive on our hands even when they are seemingly clean. In six stages she showed what we have on unwashed hands and the processes of handwashing.

In the photos people could see the significant difference between a 6-second wash with soap and a 15-second wash with soap, and also the distinction between a 15-second wash and a 30-second wash.

Bell wrote the following caption:


View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on

Although we live in a modern era statistics show that people are not washing their hands regularly. According to the data, 66% of all Americans wash their hands after using the toilet, 99.2 million do not use soap, and more than 75% of all Americans wash their hands for less than 20 seconds.

In 2013, the Michigan State University conducted a survey regarding the hand washing practices, and the researchers reported that only 5% of people washed their hands long enough to destroy germs and bacteria.

Here it is what Carl Borchgrevink, an associate professor of hospitality business at Michigan State University in East Lansing, stated at that time:

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

Proper handwashing can prevent a million deaths per year as per the findings of London researchers. Sanitizers will do the job if there isn’t a nearby sink, but it cannot replace handwashing.

The Business Insider conducted a UV light experiment that showed that a 30-second hand wash is significantly better than using a hand sanitizer. Nothing can replace soap and water that flush away bacteria, and hand sanitizers only neutralize bacteria, and do not wash it off, so it can later on resurge. In addition to this, “studies have found hand sanitizer to be ineffective against viruses like SARS, likely because viruses are uniquely encased in a protective protein shell. “

In the case of asthma or emphysema, health officials recommend the use of a hand sanitizer, but this should by no means replace soap and water.

 A Hawaii-based internist with PlushCare, Linda Anegawa, maintains:

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.”

A physician with Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Athanasios Melisiotis, states the following: “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.”

According to the findings of the researchers at MIT, the high level of hand-washing at just 10 airports in the US would reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 60%.

CDC advises washing of your hands in the following instances:

  • After using the bathroom

  • Before, during, and after preparing food

  • Prior meals

  • After changing diapers

  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose

  • After touching garbage

  • Before and after caring for someone that suffers from diarrhea or vomits

  • After touching an animal

  • After touching pet food or treats

  • Before and after treating a wound or a cut

Here is the actual procedure of hand-washing:

  • First, wet the hands with running water, and then apply soap

  • Lather the hands nicely by rubbing them with soap, covering every area, between the fingers, under the nails, and the back

  • Scrub your hands for 20 seconds

  • Rinse.