Should we use hand sanitizers intended to kill microbes with the potential to make us sick? Well, hand sanitizers are useful in the hospital, to help prevent the transfer of viruses and bacteria from one patient to another by hospital personnel. Beyond a hospital setting, it’s very tough to show that hand sanitizing products are useful.
Outside of the hospital most people catch respirational viruses from direct contact with people who already have them, and hand sanitizers won’t do anything in those conditions. And they haven’t been shown to have more sterilizing power than just washing your hands with soap and water.
According to the Centers for Diseae Control (CDC), however, for hand sanitizer to be operative it must be used properly. That means using the proper amount and rubbing it all over the shells of both hands until your hands are dry. Do not wipe your hands or wash them after applying.
While there aren’t any trainings showing that hand sanitizers definitely pose a threat, there also isn’t any evidence that they do a better job of protecting you from harmful bacteria than soap. So while hand sanitizers have their place in hospitals or when you can’t get to a sink — washing with soap and warm water is almost always a better choice.