Soap vs. Antibacterial Soap vs. Hand Sanitizer: When to Use Them

With many options available for sanitizing and cleaning, it’s easy to be unsure which product should be used. Most people see hand soaps and sanitizers as similar products which accomplish the same goal: stopping the spread of harmful germs and bacteria. While that is true, there are some major differences to consider.

Soap vs. antibacterial soap vs. hand sanitizer, when should you use one over the others? First, it’s important to know how each of them work and what they are doing when used.

Simply put, soap and water removes germs and bacteria from your hands but does not kill them. Germs get trapped in your hands by the natural oils your skin produces. The soap works to lift and separate those germs from the oils, quickly washing them away with water.

On the other hand, hand sanitizer removes germs and kills them in the process. The alcohol found in hand sanitizers, whether that be ethanol or isopropanol, works to dissolve germs’ essential proteins. This causes the germs to die since it disrupts their normal cell activity.

What is antibacterial soap?

There is also an important distinction between regular hand soap and antibacterial hand soap. As mentioned, regular soap removes, but does not kill, bacteria. Antibacterial hand soap works more similar to sanitizers because it contains chemical ingredients that assist in killing bacteria.

When should regular soap and water be used?

Soap and water is the recommended choice:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before eating food
  • When removing fatty or greasy ingredients on hands after cooking in a kitchen or restaurant
  • After touching garbage
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

Schools should also emphasize regular hand washing with soap to prevent the spread of germs between students.

It’s important to always wash your hands for the recommended amount of time: around 20 seconds. This ensures almost all bacteria is removed, and your hands are thoroughly clean. When should antibacterial soap be used?

While antibacterial soap is not recommended for daily use when washing your hands, it is the ideal choice for restaurants or food service industries. Since it kills bacteria as opposed to just removing them, it’s a good idea to use it when handling dishes or raw food. Other places where antibacterial soap should be are:

  • Healthcare settings where patients’ immune systems are weak
  • Veterinarian offices, or homes with pets 

When should hand sanitizer be used?

With all that said, there are times where soap and water is not easily available. In those instances, hand sanitizers are a great substitute. Hand sanitizers should always be accessible in:

  • Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices
  • Schools
  • Your car, purse, or backpack

Interested in learning more cleaning tips and tricks? Check out our blog. Also, to find amazing deals on all your cleaning and disinfectant supply needs, visit the ReStockIt website.

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