To prevent the spread of germs, including COVID-19, CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because it reduces the amount of many types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not readily available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
- Choose hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are not approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA)external icon.
- Properly apply alcohol-based sanitizer by rubbing the gel over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
- Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning. Keep them out of reach of young children and supervise their use.
Germs are everywhere! They can get onto hands and items we touch during daily activities and make us sick. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you.
There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer. Soap and water work to remove all types of germs from hands, while sanitizer acts by killing certain germs on the skin. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs in many situations, they should be used in the right situations. Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile, as well as chemicals.
Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead.