13 Times When You Shouldn’t Use Your Hand Sanitizer!


Last Updated on December 22, 2020

© Wexner Medical Center – The Ohio State University

Hand sanitizer is a great on-the-go alternative for when you need to eliminate germs and bacteria on your hands, but it doesn’t replace the act of washing them, which is far more effective and should always be your first choice, if possible. But why shouldn’t you use hand sanitizer all the time?

Well, as we already said, hand-sanitizer can be used in situations where you can’t wash your hands. Still, if you start using it too often, it may disrupt your hand microbiome, the “nice” bacteria that are responsible for keeping your skin healthy, as well as the rest of your body.

Another thing we should take into consideration is how much alcohol should be in hand sanitizer – ideally, to kill the germs and viruses, 60% is the ideal alcohol percentage.

However, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be really harsh for your skin, and even though you are choosing a version of this product with a low alcohol percentage, dry skin can be one of the side effects of hand sanitizer.

So, here is a list of 13 situations where the overuse of hand sanitizer could be fixed with handwashing!

1. If you have water and soap

As we have stated before, water and soap are still your best ally in the fight against germs, and if you have them at your disposal, you should always choose to wash your hands instead of using hand sanitizer.

Washing your hands allows you to clear your skin from germs, and it will also wash them down the drain. And even though hand sanitizer seems way more convenient, a trip to the bathroom is totally worth it if it helps you maintain your safety and your health.

So, if you are not washing your hands at home and are going with the alternative disinfection method, this is one of the signs you’re overusing hand sanitizer.

2. Your hands are dirty

The primary purpose of hand sanitizer is to kill viruses and bacteria that might be present in your hands, and not to clean them. So, if your hands are actually dirty, do not use hand sanitizer. Washing your hands when they are soiled is imperative, so water and soap are, once again, your best choice.

3. You have been in contact with chemicals

The CDC heavily recommends that you avoid hand sanitizers at all costs after using or handling toxic products like heavy metals or pesticides.

A study found out that using hand sanitizer to clean your hands after handling dangerous and toxic products can increase the level of pesticides in your body. This research is not definitive, but to be safe, stick to washing your hands.

4. If someone sneezes around you

If someone sneezes around you, your first instinct might be to grab your hand sanitizer and use it, but you need to keep in mind that air droplets can be inhaled, and you are more likely to catch a virus or infection by breathing those droplets than because of the germs in your hands.

And yes, if your hands are contaminated, you might also get sick, but if someone sneezes around you, the best way to protect yourself is by wearing a mask or, in the case of the flu, to get your annual vaccine.

5. You haven’t touched anything or anyone

If you are just too used to put on hand sanitizer, you might forget to wonder if it’s really worth doing it. Have you touched anyone? Have you touched anything? Or are you just using hand sanitizer out of habit?

Like we have said before, the overuse of hand sanitizer can be bad for your health as it may cause the bacteria to develop a certain resistance to the disinfectant and a tolerance for the disinfecting properties of the alcohol. Know when you should use a hand sanitizer and when you should not.

6. If you are out of the house

Instead of using way too much hand sanitizer just because you are out of your house, start thinking about mechanisms to prevent you from touching your face, for example.

If you are not going to eat, there is no point in constantly disinfecting your hands. And as soon as you get home, you can always wash them properly.

7. You used hand sanitizer five minutes ago

If you don’t want your skin to not tolerate hand sanitizer, avoid overusing it. It’s not as hard as it seems – you just need to be aware of the times where you should and shouldn’t be disinfecting your hands. Did you shake someone’s hand?

Fine, disinfect it. Were you simply walking down the street and felt like using hand sanitizer? Don’t. Reserve it for useful situations, and when you do apply it, be sure to do it correctly – rub every inch of your hand and allow it to fully dry.

8. Touching raw meat

Hand sanitizer should never be your first choice if you are on your way to prepare food. This sounds pretty common sense, but it’s always worth remembering: if you are preparing food, wash your hands; if you are about to eat, wash your hands. What should you never, ever, do?

Handle food without washing your hands. Water and soap – it’s as simple as that.

9. If you are throwing up

If you have a stomach virus and you throw up, the best way to not contaminate anyone in your family or your work environment is by washing your hands thoroughly.

Being in an environment where there are a lot of people touching a lot of things can be quite dangerous when it comes to contamination, which is why hand sanitizer is not good enough.

10. Being around children

If you are around small children, you should set the example and wash your hands whenever possible.

Children tend to mimic adults, and even though hand sanitizer does not pose a danger to your child’s skin, if it’s inhaled or ingested, it can be quite toxic. Keep your hand sanitizer somewhere children can’t get to it.

11. When you want to go out

Yes, being home can be annoying, and boring, and can drive us crazy, but it’s a part of preventing contamination. Imagine having the flu – you blow your nose, you put on some hand sanitizer, and now what? You think you are free to go?

Despite your efforts, you are still sick, so you are a risk to others. Sometimes the best thing we can do to prevent the spread of disease is to stay at home.

12. You have just used the bathroom

Once again, we are back to the first point: if you have access to a sink, you should always choose to wash your hands. And if you have just been to the bathroom, this probably means you have access to running water.

So, unless you had to use a porta-potty, the use of hand sanitizer is not justified.

13. You touched a pet

Puppies are cute, we all want to stop in the street, pet them and even cuddle them, but we need to read the situations. As things are now, the best course of action is to keep walking and to avoid touching other people’s pets.

But if you happen to do so, only use hand sanitizer if you can’t get soap and water and properly wash your hands.



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