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VERIFY: Hand washing is better than using hand sanitizer

Health professionals say hand washing kills more germs.

MACON, Ga. — Sanitizer or soap? When it comes to keeping your hands germ-free as the coronavirus spreads, what's the better option?

Brandi Jones, Director of Infection Prevention at Coliseum Medical Center, says obviously neither option is bad, but the Centers for Disease Control recommends good, old-fashioned soap and water over anti-bacterial gel. 

The CDC advises that if soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and apparently a lot of people are doing that.

A Thursday morning, Amazon search showed a lot of sanitizers "out of stock," or listed at inflated prices like $159 for a liter of Purell or $79.99 for two, eight ounce bottles.

"Both hand sanitizer and soap and water are great for hand hygiene, the key is knowing how to use both of those," says Jones.

Remember to scrub for about 30 seconds when at the sink, and when using sanitizer you should rub your hands together until the gel is dry.

"With hand gel, it doesn't kill everything, just like your cleaning products at your house don't kill all organisms, so if you have something on your hands that you can see, or if you've been coughing or sneezing into your hands, go ahead and use soap and water," says Jones. "When you use soap and water, it gets that friction and you wash those germs down the drain." 

More from the CDC:

  • Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. 
  • Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals, like pesticides and heavy metals from hands.
  • Alcohol-based sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

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