By Asquith Williams, Chief Operations Officer for Charlotte Products

The best defense against the spread of COVID-19 continues to be handwashing. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you. But many people still have questions about the difference between handwashing and using hand sanitizer. Below, we explain the science behind handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer when it comes to fighting COVID-19. 

The reason that handwashing is so effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 is that the coronavirus has a vulnerable outer layer made of lipids. Soap dissolves this outer membrane, breaks it apart and renders the virus inactive. Then when you rinse your hands with water, all of the molecules you have just disrupted with the soap are washed away. 

Hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol act similarly, by destabilizing the lipid membrane of the virus. However, hand sanitizers do not include a rinse with water, meaning the microbes are not fully removed from the skin. That’s why handwashing will always be the most preferable way to protect against the virus, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective backup when soap and water are not accessible.

Hand Washing Tips

  • When you are washing your hands with soap and water, make sure to wet your hands with clean running water. 
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, temperature does not matter. Lather your hands by rubbing them with soap and then scrub all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers and under your nails. 
  • Do this for at least 20 seconds and then rinse under clean, potable water. 

Hand Sanitizer Tips

  • When using a hand sanitizer, you should rub your hands together until the product has completely evaporated and hands feel dry. This can take about 20-30 seconds. Do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Hand sanitizer cannot remove that level of soil particles. You’ll want to use soap and water instead, or a wipe to clean your hands prior to applying your hand sanitizer.
  • Always supervise young children using hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing alcohol.
  • You will want to find an alcohol based solution that contains 60-95% alcohol and that also has a humectant such as aloe vera to prevent skin dryness.

The bottom line is that hand washing is our best weapon against contracting COVID-19. In this time of pandemic, it is important to promote frequent hand washing in our facilities, among our staff and in our personal homes. When soap and water is accessible, hand washing is just a little bit safer and more effective against the virus. However, when on the go or when soap and water are not accessible, hand sanitizer is an invaluable tool in preventing the spread of infection.