The Scoop on Soap: The Lowdown on 5 Hand Cleaning Options

What are the most effective hand sanitizing options? Here’s the rub on five variations.
washing hands in sink

© Mlle Sonyah - AdobeStock

Proper hand hygiene is a key ingredient for staying healthy. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular hand-washing is one of the best ways to remove germs and prevent their spread—important in fighting the coronavirus. That raises the question: What are the most effective hand sanitizing options? Here’s the rub on five variations:

Soap and water. There’s a reason surgeons scrub for surgery instead of grabbing a wet wipe. Washing your hands for 20 seconds in plain old soap and water is the gold standard. Scrubbing your hands lifts up stubborn dirt and allows the soap to bond to the dirt or chemicals and tear germs apart.

Antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap may seem like an improvement over traditional hand soap, as it helps kill bacteria, but it actually does more harm than good. While the additives in antibacterial soap do kill germs, their chemicals are no faster at killing germs than regular soap, even though most consumers think they are. This false confidence means people using antibacterial soap tend to wash more quickly, believing they have received a more thorough cleaning than they really have.

Natural soaps. Natural hand soaps can be as effective as chemical-based hand soaps. However, soap making is still a science, whether you’re using olive oil or sodium lauryl sulfate. Imprecise measurements can lead to ineffective, irritating soaps.

Hand sanitizer. If there isn’t a sink nearby, hand sanitizer can be a hand hygiene hero. The caveat? It only works on mostly clean hands. Read: If your hands are filthy with soil, sweat, or grime, the sanitizer will be consumed by the gunk and won’t be able to kill the germs on your hands. Also, many people greatly underestimate how dirty their hands are and throw on only a little spritz of sanitizer, which won’t do the job. So remember to thoroughly wet all parts of your hands to avoid undersanitizing.

Hand wipes. Hand wipes, both antibacterial and traditional, are another a great option for people on the go, but they need to be used properly. If your hands are gross to start with—like after a messy lunch—you may have to use multiple wipes to clean your hands thoroughly. Using hand wipes properly takes longer than smearing around sanitizer or soapy water.

Source: Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer, MaidPro