Body-washing rituals seem to be the topic of conversation on Twitter of late.
When a user brazenly admitted they didn’t wash their legs most days, many of us started scrubbing our limbs even harder in the shower.
Now the discussion has turned to hand washing. When columnist Ann Marie Cox revealed on the social media platform that she skipped washing her hands ‘because of the lateness’, users went into meltdown.
The 46-year-old from Minnesota, U.S, was due for surgery and says she didn’t have time to wash with soap and water after going to the loo, instead choosing a hand sanitiser.
Naturally, people had thoughts.
‘It would have taken you like an extra 30 seconds to wash your hands but nah, guess we’re gonna bring back the bubonic plague because people like you think cleanliness is an inconvenience,’ commented one person.
It’s not the first time the debate of soap and water versus sanitiser option has been discussed.
So which one is actually superior to the other?
I was running late to the studio but had to stop in the building’s restroom to use the loo, and BC OF THE LATENESS, I went straight from stall to the door. A woman walking out the same time as me TURNS AROUND AFTER WE LEAVE AND SAYS, “So, you’re not going to wash your hands?” /1
— ana marie cox (@anamariecox) June 12, 2019
They both have different purposes – handwash removes germs and bacteria, it doesn’t kill it. When washing your hands with soap, dirt and germs trapped in the natural oils of the skin are lifted and suspended in water. But while washing your hands doesn’t immediately kill bacteria, the process of lathering and the friction of washing away the germs make it very effective.
On the other hand, alcohol-based sanitisers are proven to kill bacteria and viruses by softening the bacterial membrane and rendering it ineffective.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based hand sanitiser is superior to soap and water in hospital and clinic-like settings because medical professionals work in sterile settings and are required to clean their hands constantly throughout the day.
Over-washing can cause hands to dry out, crack and bleed, which allows germs to enter the body. In these cases sanitiser is preferred.
Most of us are probably not doctors, though, so in other situations, soap and water is recommended, especially where visible dirt or grease is concerned.
The CDC also suggests that using handwash after using the toilet is better because this type of soap is designed to effectively remove contaminants such as faecal microorganism. Basically, wash your hands if you don’t want poo particles everywhere.
In the food industry, too, washing hands is recommended as workers may have proteins and other fatty ingredients on their hands, which hand sanitiser isn’t as effective at getting rid of.
Most people are worried about colds and flu spreading and in these cases, sanitiser may be preferred as alcohol proponents kill the pathogens that can cause the virus.
Where water and soap aren’t available, sanitiser is certainly an appealing option, especially as the bottles are compact.
How effective hand washing is depends on the technique.
The NHS recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds, which is longer than it sounds. It also suggests washing for the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice (how handy).