With the frequent outbreak of deadly viruses that cross borders to affect millions around the globe, awareness around personal hygiene practices has increased. With this, the industry to receive the maximum boost is probably the hand sanitizing products industry.
Though one cannot retard the transmission of airborne infections which may transfer through air or droplets, one can reduce the transmission of pathogens that get transmitted from one person to another through touch.
Hand sanitization, whether with soap (normal or anti-bacterial) and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers in the absence of soap and water, takes on added significance for those who are in the medical field (ICUs, burn units, surgery, transplants, oncology, etc.) or those who work in the food (processing, packaging, selling and serving) industry.
This does not mean that keeping our hands germ-free is not important especially before and after certain activities. Washing hands protects us against diseases transmitted through fecal-oral routes and through direct physical contact.
Bacteria and viruses also thrive on surfaces which experience maximum human touch such as school desks, counters of shops and hospitals, shopping cart handles, door handles and knobs, remote controls, kitchen counters, public toilets, coffee tables, currency notes, cell phones, floors, keyboards of our computers, steering wheel and seats of cars and other surfaces we use every day.
Such surfaces are home to millions of pathogens. It is important that at home, we disinfect such heavy usage surfaces once every week with any safe and effective cleaning product to reduce the incidences of coming down with diseases such as flu.
It is believed that using soap and water is a preferred way to clean hands over using alcohol-based sanitizers, especially where one has access to soap and water easily. Though sanitizers claim to kill 99.9 percent germs on contact, this is true on inorganic surfaces and the percentage would be much lower for live or complex surfaces like hands. (1).
Similarly, normal soaps are believed to clean hands just as well as anti-bacterial soaps.