Should You Use Hand Sanitizer Before or After Washing Your Hands?

Hand hygiene is only a recent development in human history, with doctors and surgeons not understanding germ theory and the importance of cleanliness until the mid-19th century. However, over the last 150 years, improvements in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers have saved countless lives. It’s a common assumption that washing more is always better, especially in the face of public health emergencies.

However, it’s not usually necessary to use both hand sanitizer and soap and water to clean your hands. Both soap and hand sanitizer kill germs with similar effectiveness, but environmental factors can influence when to use one or both.

If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, washing your hands with clean running water and soap is necessary. However, hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol is an acceptable substitute in most situations where you need to clean your hands but don’t have access to water. Because it can be taken almost anywhere, it may also help as a follow-up to hand washing.

Typical Hand-Washing Procedures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand-washing requires you to wet your hands, then rub soap between and over them for at least 20 seconds. Scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails helps eliminate germs that could be hiding in unexpected places.

To time the length of your hand-washing properly, sing the Happy Birthday Song to yourself twice before rinsing the soap away. If these procedures are followed correctly, your hands should be as clean as possible and don’t need the addition of hand sanitizer.

Since alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn’t work the same way as soap, you shouldn’t use it with water. Sanitizer needs to be allowed to dry on your hands instead of rinsed away or dabbed with a towel. Just rub your hands together with a large dab of hand sanitizer between them, taking care to cover the skin between your fingers and on the backs of your hands.

Using Hand Sanitizer

Using hand sanitizer before washing your hands serves little purpose. Since soap is better at removing grime and dirt, it’s the best way to cut through any contaminants that have ended up on your hand. Hand sanitizer cannot remove contaminants effectively since it doesn’t have enough pressure to remove them as running water does.

There is no reason to use hand sanitizer again immediately after washing your hands. Washing with soap and water and drying your hands with a clean towel will leave them clean. However, there may be a reason to use hand sanitizer if you’re in an environment that hasn’t been cleaned well.

In these cases, using hand sanitizer after hand-washing is most effective when you’ve already touched all other potential contaminants, such as doorknobs and countertops. For example, you might use hand sanitizer after you’ve gotten back to your car after washing your hands at a gas station or immediately upon arrival at a food prep area.

You may also need to use hand sanitizer soon after washing your hands in highly sensitive medical environments. If you’re getting ready to put on gloves and enter a sterile area, it may make sense to use hand sanitizer one more time to ensure everything is as clean as possible.

Washing Hands

Best Time to Use Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is designed to replace handwashing in situations where soap and water are not available. It may help maintain cleanliness when cleaning up a child after playtime, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Wash your hands with soap and water after changing diapers or cleaning up bodily fluids to thoroughly prevent the spread of germs.

Keeping hand sanitizer in as many places as possible around you helps keep everyone safe. To ensure it is always used effectively, make sure visitors and employees know that hand-washing is the best option for cleaning up dirt or bodily fluids.

Adequate Amounts of Hand Sanitizer

It’s common for people to overuse hand sanitizer, especially if they’re in public and are nervous about coming into contact with germs. Because of this, businesses, organizations, and individuals need to keep sufficient quantities of hand sanitizer available.

ICU Production is a trusted distributor of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, disinfection wipes, and more. Our mission is to provide an uninterrupted supply of essential supplies so you and your team can carry out your mission safely.

We’re ready to answer your questions about hand sanitizer and provide the products you need as quickly as possible. Call our PPE hotline at (323) 970-3819 to get started.