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Soap vs. Sanitizer: What's The Difference?

Outlining the unique benefits of using both soaps and sanitizers

By Kassandra Kania
Email the HS editors


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 before.

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 germs."

Ronnie Kent, president of Associated Paper in Conyers, Ga., agrees that soap's primary function is to clean hands and also remove germs.

"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 Soap

While 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."

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Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C

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Cleanlink News 7/27/2011

Green Seal Expands Certification for Most Cleaning Products

Green Seal has announced a new Standard for Specialty Cleaning Products, GS-53, expected to be released in August. With this introduction, Green Seal has significantly expanded the products they can certify, including products that are routinely used for cleaning.

According to Green Seal reports, stakeholders demanded more certified cleaners such as dish detergents, graffiti removers, motor vehicle cleaners and polishes, deck and outdoor furniture cleaners, order removers, and metal cleansers, among others. Purchasers voiced a need for guidance in what requirements to look for in specifying disinfectants and sanitizers. GS-53 for Institutional and Industrial Cleaners answers those demands with comprehensive requirements for effective cleaners that help protect our health and the environment.
The final draft standards is now available for those interested in learning more about the products GS-53 covers. A final release will be available shortly.  

Green Seal has also notified cleaning product manufacturers of the opportunity for new certifications and, reportedly, they are preparing to apply as soon as the standard is issued.


Slip-and-Fall Prevention Report Released

The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), in partnership with CNA Insurance, released "New Techniques to Control Slips and Falls in Public Places." According to the report, slips and falls in public places are the leading cause of premises liability injuries, which are the legal responsibility of the property owner/manager. The goal of the report is to provide facility owners/managers with preventative measures.

Some information covered in the report:
- A classic approach to slip-and-fall prevention - identifying the cause and eliminating the hazards
- Identifying factors that influence slip resistance
- Case studies and success stories
- Recommendations to lower the risk of slip-and-fall incidents
- Accident investigation - limiting the facilities liability and claim costs

Click here to view this full report.