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Hand Sanitizers No Substitute For Soap And Water

Date:
February 21, 2000
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Instant hand sanitizers may not be everything consumers expect, according to a Purdue university professor who teaches sanitation practices for food service workers.
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Instant hand sanitizers may not be everything consumers expect, according to a Purdue university professor who teaches sanitation practices for food service workers.

"Waterless, antibacterial hand sanitizers are marketed as a way to 'wash your hands' when soap and water aren't available, and they are especially popular among parents of small children," says Barbara Almanza, associate professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management. "But research shows that they do not significantly reduce the overall amount of bacteria on the hands, and in some cases they may even increase it."

Almanza says a hand sanitizer can't take the place of old-fashioned soap and water at home or anywhere else.

"In terms of the regulations regarding food services, the Food and Drug Administration says hand sanitizers may be used as a supplement but not as a substitute for hand washing," Almanza explains. "By the same token, people should not use hand sanitizers in place of a good lathering with soap and water if it's available."

Almanza says the typical hand sanitizer, which is usually alcohol-based, strips the skin of the outer layer of oil, which normally prevents resident bacteria from coming to the surface.

"Generally, this resident flora is not the type that will make us sick," Almanza says, "but the assumption is that when you have an increase in overall bacteria, the chances are better that a disease-causing strain will be present."

Yet the manufacturers of these products can continue to claim that the sanitizers are up to 99.9 percent effective in killing germs because they were tested on inanimate surfaces rather than human hands.

"The physiological complexity of human skin makes it very difficult to use for testing of this nature," Almanza says. "The most clear and consistent results were going to come from using surfaces for which the variables can be controlled, and that's just not real life. Real life is not neat and tidy."


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The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Hand Sanitizers No Substitute For Soap And Water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000218061254.htm>.
Purdue University. (2000, February 21). Hand Sanitizers No Substitute For Soap And Water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000218061254.htm
Purdue University. "Hand Sanitizers No Substitute For Soap And Water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000218061254.htm (accessed April 27, 2015).

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