Is Hand Sanitizer Better Than Soap?

The importance of cleanliness in our lives is undeniable. Keeping ourselves and our environment clean is essential for our health. It’s as important as food or water is to us. It keeps us healthy in every aspect of life; mentally, physically or socially.

Poor hand hygiene is one of the major causes of most health-related issues. Dirt and disease go hand in hand. There is a list of viruses and illnesses that spread mainly due to poor hand hygiene i.e.  Noroviruses, airborne illness, nosocomial infections, and hepatitis A.

 Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is to clean hands for the purpose of removing soil, dirt, and germs off of your hands. Cleaning your hands at least after using the washroom, touching something dirty or before eating is the most effective and the easiest way to avoid getting sick and transferring germs to others.

Two of the most popular ways to clean your hands are washing them with some soap and water or using hand sanitizers. Now the question arises, which one to use; soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer? An After hours clinic will inform you briefly on the subject, but let’s see how both of these technologies work and compare their effectiveness.

Working of A Soap

There are different types of soaps like antibacterial soaps or beauty soaps, but the basic concept of soap making has not changed in thousands of years. Soap is made by combining fats and oils with an alkali.

Soap decreases the surface tension of the water so it more readily interacts with what needs to be cleaned rather than simply being up on the surface. Soap molecules are like a magnet but instead of north and south, they are hydrophilic (water-attracting) on one side and hydrophobic (water-repelling) on the other.

As a result of these two processes working together, soap helps water to scour surfaces to remove dirt, grime, and visible dirt. Soap simply removes germs and bacteria from the hand but doesn’t kill them.

Hand Soap

Working of Hand Sanitizers

Most of the hand sanitizers are alcohol based. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer works against a variety of microorganisms but not spores. Some versions contain compounds such as glycerol to prevent drying of the skin. The alcohol kills bacteria by softening their cell membranes. So, hand sanitizers kill bacteria and viruses.

Hand Sanitizer


By comparing the working of soap and hand sanitizers we see that washing your hands with soap and water removes dirt, grime, and bacteria but doesn’t kill them whereas cleaning your hands with hand sanitizers kill bacteria but they don’t remove visible dirt. Both of the hand cleaning techniques are different and their effectiveness differs in different scenarios.

Benefits of Soap and Hand Sanitizer

We can say that both methods of hand cleaning have their own areas of effectiveness and limitations. People still have faith in the old fashioned way of cleaning hands with soap and water but you may come across situations where soap and water are not available. In these conditions, the After hours Clinic would recommend that it is better to use hand sanitizers than nothing at all.