Soap vs. Sanitizer: What's The Difference?
Outlining the unique benefits of
using both soaps and sanitizers
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Thanks to media coverage following the outbreak of H1N1 and
other pandemics in recent years, the public has finally caught
on that regular
hand hygiene is essential to helping prevent the spread of
germs. People are washing their hands more frequently and hand
sanitizers are populating buildings more quickly than ever
But, despite this increased awareness, misinformation still
exists about the difference between soaps and
hand sanitizers, as well as how and when to use them. Simply
stated, soaps clean hands, sanitizers do not.
"The difference between soap and sanitizer is
soap removes soil from your hands," says Dave Smetzer, sales
manager for Capital Sanitary in Des Monies, Iowa. "In the
process of cleaning your hands, you wash away the soils and
Ronnie Kent, president of Associated Paper in Conyers, Ga.,
soap's primary function is to clean hands and also remove
"Every time you touch a doorknob, a phone or pen, you're getting
germs on your hands," he says. "Washing your hands will get rid
of those germs — germs that you can even pass on to yourself
when you touch your face or nose."
Sanitizer is equally effective at killing germs, but it will
not remove dirt from hands.
"Hand sanitizers aren't necessarily a cleaner," notes Bill
Egerton, director of marketing for Birsch Industries in Virginia
Beach, Va. "They won't get grease off your hands, but they will
kill bacteria on your skin. There's nothing wrong with washing
your hands with traditional soap. If you wash your hands
properly, you'll get the bacteria off your skin."
Nevertheless, distributors encourage custodial managers to offer
both soaps and sanitizers in their facilities. Although
sanitizers are not a substitute for handwashing, they can serve
as a backup to remove germs in the absence of water or when it
is inconvenient to visit a restroom.
The Dirt On
handwashing is the preferred method of sanitizing hands,
most people do not wash their hands correctly, say distributors.
"Don't just wash the palms of your hands," says Kent. "Germs
aren't just on your palms, so you have to rub all over your
hands — front, back and between your fingers."
Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte,