Talk to the hand, sanitizer (Day 244)…


There’s a lot of debate about whether hand sanitizers are as effective as soap and water, and if they are, whether or not they kill off too much friendly bacteria so we’re left with cruddy immune systems. Some say we should do away with them altogether, others say it depends on the brand and how much alcohol is used, and of course the folks that make it can tell you 99 reasons why it’s absolutely necessary.

Personally, I think hand sanitizers have their place in certain situations: In hospitals, or other areas where people are especially prone to catching a disease; when travelling in less-than-spic-n-span environments; or when soap and/or water aren’t available.

However, in my current state of affairs — healthy, living in a first-world country with ready access to soap and water — I really don’t need hand sanitizer. Yes, there are some natural brands like CleanWell or EO, but it’s better to go without any of that packaging.

So as of today, I’m going to have a germ party on my hands and everyone’s invited! (And, um, Dr. Bronner gets VIP access.)

Image courtesy of this website

18 Responses to Talk to the hand, sanitizer (Day 244)…

  1. emma says:

    good call on the hospitals. but one of those bottles lasts like years…u sure its not better than soap and water??

  2. emily says:

    Emma, don’t take this badly, but are you serious? It doesn’t take much soap and water to wash your hands, really. Also, recycling a plastic bottle is never as good as not using it in the first place.

    But it’s crazy to think that hands would always need “sanitizing,” unless you’re constantly sticking them in your mouth or you work in the sewage business. Not all bacteria are life-threatening; most aren’t, and your susceptibility is probably not that high. Why spend the money, consume plastic, and smear your body with materials that are often unnatural, if it’s just not necessary?

  3. blah says:

    I have a conspiracy theory (well not really) about hand sanitizer. I think that this “constantly sanitizing everything” mentality in our society only leads to more infections and illness. Our bodies need to develop immunities to these bacteria (all of which are not bad).

    It’s like getting chicken pox as an adult; if you weren’t exposed to it as a child, it can actually be quite dangerous to you in later years. I think people sometimes forget that we as humans aren’t these tender little flowers that will get sick and die at the slightest sneeze. We lived this long without the stuff, and I think we’ll be ok without it.

    I personally hate it, it dries my hands out too much and then I have to put hand lotion on right afterwards. Seems silly to use it at all.

  4. Hellcat13 says:

    I am really allergic to the stuff, too…there are too many chemicals in them for me. I usually try to avoid them in hospitals unless a nurse is glaring at me, because they always require a handwashing immediately after I use them.

  5. Maureen says:

    blah…I second that conspiracy theory. Children today who grow up with all the ‘sanitizing’ that’s going on in our world will live to regret it! Anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizers, all those chemicals and all that anti bacterialness (?) can only be bad for our immune system. Isn’t the idea that if you’re exposed to the bacteria then you develop a resistance to it? Isn’t that why all of us were given immunization shots? I really am no expert but I am a healthy 33 year old who never had anti-bacterial cleaning products in her house growing up. In fact my mother worked at a hospital cleaning and sterilizing instruments. If there is a person who knows a thing or two about bacteria and what it can do it would be her.
    Oh…and don’t even get me started on the flu shot being given to anyone who doesn’t possibly require it (ie…the elderly and those with weakened immune systems).

  6. blah says:

    I know what you mean. I think the flu shot paranoia is something that was created by pharmaceutical companies…”take this or you could DIE!!!!” . Weren’t we the generation who invented the “10 second rule” and who ate cheerios off the kitchen floor? I did both of these things and have yet to come down with a dreaded case of cooties. You would think that we wouldn’t be in such an uproar over antibacterializing our children to death.

  7. Stella DeGree says:

    I used to work as an aide at a preschool, and sometimes the teacher would use the sanitizer on the children instead of taking them inside to wash their hands. I hated that! First of all, I’m not into smearing chemicals into delicate little children’s skin, but the sanitizer just rubbed the dirt around and didn’t really clean their hands.

    Plus, let’s just say you have bacteria on your hands, the bacteria would be passed to the blastic bottle and then you would have to retouch the bottle to close it or use it next time.

  8. limesarah says:

    Oh, good for you! There’s so much research out there about how kids growing up in a nonsanitized environment get sick less frequently, and how we’re breeding superbugs by using so many antibiotics. Hospitals are really the only place for hand sanitizer. Optimally, you want to use something like bleach that just kills living things rather than being targeted towards bacteria, if you’re in a situation where you really do need to sanitize something. But that’s not so happy on hands.

    blah — yeah…the flu shot is a Really Good Thing for people with weakened immune systems. But until another 1918 flu comes around (which, unfortunately, is pretty much inevitable), getting the flu won’t kill you. It will probably make you better able to resist next season’s bugs.

  9. Carreen says:

    Stella, I agree! Those things definitely do not belong in schools and daycare centers. About 6 months ago I discovered that my 6 year old niece’s hands were dry and cracked like an older person’s. Her mom said it was from all the hand sanitizer that was always being passed around. I felt so sad for her! I gave her a little tube of hand lotion of her very own (she was thrilled about this)! I had to make sure it was unscented though because her hands were so cracked that the smelly kind made her hands sting! It’s disgusting. A little kids hands are supposed to be dimply and soft – not cracked and hard!!!!

  10. just ducky says:

    While I agree with virtually everything that has been said…I am not giving up my hand sanitizer when I go to places like Yellowstone National Park that don’t have sinks to wash your hands and/or places that only have port-a-potties. I must have it in those infrequent situations or I get completely grossed out…

  11. Rachel says:

    One way to get daycares to dump the santizers if they don’t care for the green arguments- it can give kids alcohol poisoning. I got an email about this and assumed it was one of those urban legends, but I looked it up on Snopes and it’s true, ( just another reason to steer clear of the stuff.

  12. nichole says:

    Rachel, I was just going to say that!

  13. Beth Terry says:

    We need to not only steer clear for hand sanitizers but any other kinds of products that are labelled as antibacterial. We’ve got antibacterial liquid soap, dish soap, multi-purpose cleaner, wipes… pretty much anything they can put it in these days, they do.

    The chemical in these products, triclosan, causes terrible environmental problems. The Environmental Working Group has found that it is one of the hormone-disrupting chemicals polluting the San Francisco Bay. It is also helping to create super-resistent bacteria.

    Please read EWG’s report: Down The Drain: Triclosan to understand the multiple problems created by household use of antibacterials and why we should avoid them.

  14. blah says:

    It’s really quite disturbing that we are going to create our own black plague.

  15. rach says:


    I’m a nurse, and the hand sanitiser is AWESOME in hospitals…studies have shown it’s implementation has reduced infections etc. by heaps, but mostly because it’s quicker and easier to use than washing your hands all the time, so it’s just made nurses wash their hands more often.

    But there’s definitely truth in the ‘conspiracy theory’…which is more just logic than anything…

    MRSA (multi resistant staphylococcus aureus) is a umbrella name for many similar but slightly different types of bacteria that can cause infections which are mostly picked up from hospital. Mostly due to the over prescription of antibiotics, but i bet it also has something to do with all the anti-bacterial products used everywhere on everything, when good ol’ soap and water would do the job fine.

    On that note, apparently New Zealand uses soap & water to clean stuff in their hosps.

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