On My “Soap”box

Today I want to talk about hand sanitizer. I know it is the best thing to happen to hygiene and health care since the tooth brush.

But let’s back up.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard adults complain about other adults not washing their hands after going to the bathroom. I hear lots of comments about how gross that is. But I see, somewhat regularly, adults walking out of a bathroom stall, bypassing the sinks and soap and squirting some hand sanitizer on their hands and walking out the door.

Folks. Stop.

Just STOP!

Ok. I get it. “Hand Sanitizer kills 99.9% of bacteria” blah blah blah.

Great. I’m so happy for you. Wonderful. But let’s take a moment to engage our brains, shall we?

First I’m going to tell you why I rarely use hand sanitizer at all. I truly believe that we are killing off the much needed good bacteria in and around our bodies with this little gem while simultaneously making the bad bacteria stronger and harder to kill. This is why I also try to avoid all “anti-bacterial” soaps. Because, believe it or not, most of the bacteria you come into contact with isn’t the harmful stuff. And it all pretty much washes away in the water when you allow hot water and soap to do it’s job and wash away the bad guys.

Also, for those of you terrified of the flu out there, I shall remind you that the flu is a VIRUS. You can get sick with a bacteria, which they treat with antibiotics, or you can get sick with a virus which they treat by telling you to suck it up until it has run it’s course. Which does anti-bacterial stuff kill? Right. Bacteria. Not virus.

So yeah, I really don’t use the stuff much. Occasionally it is what you have and you do what you have to do.

But why do I care about whether you use hand sanitzer instead of washing your hands after you go to the bathroom?

The truth is, I would rather see someone not wash their hands than choose sanitizer over hand washing. “What? Why? Surely something is better than nothing?! You are crazy!”

Yup. On all accounts. Something IS better than nothing. And I am nuts.

But I would rather people make a bad health decision than think they are making a good health decision, think they are doing the best thing and really be doing the less desirable thing. Because you can teach someone to make better choices. It is really hard to convince someone who has bought a line of baloney that their choices are less than desirable. And honestly, thinking you are doing something to protect yourself that won’t protect you is harmful because it prevents you from doing the other, easy, and actually helpful things.

And, frankly, if you use that bathroom, you need to wash your hands because of the possibility of having come into contact with feces or urine. When you slather on some sanitizer and wave your hands around letting them dry, you MIGHT be killing some germs you don’t want. But you haven’t removed anything from your hands. If you unwittingly got some urine or feces on your hands, you might have killed associated germs, but you didn’t even wipe it off!


There you have it. The biggest beef I have about hand sanitizer. All the germs, dirt, bacteria and whatever you have on your hands just stay there! Dead or not, gross! Really. That’s nasty folks.

So, if you love yourself some sanitizer, and you understand that it really isn’t as effective at preventing flu as handwashing, you realize you are killing the good bacteria with the bad, please, please, please! For the love of all things holy, please wash your hands with some nice warm soap and water BEFORE slathering that hand sanitizer all over your hands. Or at least wipe the dead germs and stuff off on a paper towel.

Because, really.


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