How to use hand sanitizer

Two things to be aware of when using hand sanitizer is that you need to rub it into your until your hands are dry. And, if your hands are greasy or dirty, you should wash them first with soap and water.

With that in mind, here are some tips for using hand sanitizer effectively.

  1. Spray or apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand.
  2. Thoroughly rub your hands together. Make sure you cover the entire surface of your hands and all your fingers.
  3. Continue rubbing for 30 to 60 seconds or until your hands are dry. It can take at least 60 seconds, and sometimes longer, for hand sanitizer to kill most germs.

What germs can hand sanitizer kill?

According to the CDCTrusted Source, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that meets the alcohol volume requirement can quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands. It can also help destroy a wide range of disease-causing agents or pathogens on your hands, including the novel SARS-CoV-2.

However, even the best alcohol-based hand sanitizers have limitations and do not eliminate all types of germs.

According to the CDC, hand sanitizers won’t get rid of potentially harmful chemicals. It’s also not effective at killing the following germs:

Also, a hand sanitizer may not work well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. This may happen after working with , doing yard work, gardening, or playing a sport.

If your hands look dirty or slimy, opt for hand washing instead of a hand sanitizer.

Hand washing vs. hand sanitizer

Knowing when it’s best to wash your hands, and when hand sanitizers can be helpful, is key to protecting yourself from the novel as well as other illnesses, like the common cold and seasonal flu.

While both serve a purpose, washing your hands with soap and water should always be a priority, according to the CDC. Only use hand sanitizer if you soap and water isn’t available in a given situation.

It’s also important to always wash your hands:

  • after going to the bathroom
  • after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • before eating
  • after touching surfaces that could be contaminated

The CDC lists specific instructionsTrusted Source on the most effective way to wash your hands. This is what they recommend:

  1. Always use clean, running water. (It can be warm or cold.)
  2. Wet your hands first, then turn the water off, and lather your hands with soap.
  3. Rub your hands together with the soap for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  4. Turn the water on and rinse your hands. Use a clean towel or air dry.

The bottom line

Hand sanitizer is a handy on-the-go way to help prevent the spread of germs when soap and water isn’t available. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help keep you safe and reduce the spread of the novel .

If you are having a hard time finding hand sanitizer at your local stores, you can take steps to make your own. You only need a few ingredients, such as rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and an essential oil or lemon juice.

Although hand sanitizers can be an effective way of getting rid of germs, health authorities still recommend hand washing whenever possible to keep your hands free of disease-causing viruses and other germs.