So many germs, so many soaps

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So many germs, so many soaps

Plain soap. Antibacterial soap. Antimicrobial soap. So many soaps and so many germs to keep away.

One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, and other health threats, is to practice good hand hygiene. So, what is the best way to do that – with soap, hand sanitizer, both?

Plain soap
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand washing with plain soap and water is best way to prevent the spread of infections. Hands should be scrubbed for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to remember is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Antibacterial soap
Antibacterial products destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria. Antimicrobial products do the same, but also act against other microorganisms and parasites, including fungi (mold and mildew).

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap (sometimes called antimicrobial or antiseptic soap) have not been proven. Furthermore, there is no evidence that antibacterial soap is better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

Hand sanitizer
If soap and water are not readily available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizers, however, do not eliminate all germs. This is because people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizer or may wipe it off before it has dried, the CDC states. Studies also show that hand sanitizers may not be as effective as soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Hand sanitizer must be used correctly to be effective, according to the CDC. That means using the proper amount (read the label) and rubbing it all over the surfaces of both hands until they are dry. Do not wipe or wash hands after applying.

Disinfectant wipes
Many surface cleaners and disinfectants state they can be used against COVID-19. The FDA urges consumers to always follow the instructions on household cleaners. Disinfectant sprays and wipes are intended for use on hard, non-porous surfaces. They should never be used on the skin. Doing so can cause skin and eye irritation.