Hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer

When Do You Need a Hand Sanitizer?

11 June 2021

A hand sanitizer can work as a substitute for handwashing. But when do we really need one?


The question pops up because we see more people bringing along their bottle of hand sanitizer. Some may use it almost at every turn, raising issues of price, overuse, skin drying, and more. 

So, when should you pour that alcohol hand sanitizer on your hands?

One, when handwashing is not accessible

This is the most obvious reason for using hand sanitizer. Sometimes, you are just not near enough to a sink. It also does not make sense to wait to get home just to sanitize your hands. Just how long should you be able to prevent yourself from touching your face or grabbing something to eat before you reach home?

The best thing to do is put about a quarter coin’s size of hand sanitizer on your palms. Then, go through the same rubbing motions that one needs to go through a handwashing ritual. 

Two, when you have to interact with patients directly

If you are in the medical field, you need to keep your hands sanitized all the time. However, you may not be able to wash your hands after every patient. If you are only doing a checkup or a non-invasive procedure, you can use a hand sanitizer. 

Of course, if your clinic has a standby sink, soap, and water, your protocols may require you to use that combination instead. 

For procedures such as checking pulse or taking blood pressure, you can make use of hand sanitizers

Three, when your hands are in contact with body fluids, broken skin, and mucous membranes 

The previous point focuses on taking care of your patients or anyone under your care. This point is all about taking care of yourself.

Nurses and medical technologists are most likely to deal with various bodily fluids and wounds. So, they need to ensure that they are safe using hand sanitizer before touching their faces or putting their hands anywhere near their mouths. 

Four, when your hands are not visibly soiled

You cannot prepare for all medical procedures with hand sanitizers alone. Surgery and other invasive procedures require hand soap and water. A specific ritual of handwashing follows. You also cannot use hand sanitizer on visibly soiled hands. However, you can use your alcohol-based sanitizer to cleanse your hands if they are not greasy or filthy. 

Five, when you are about to wear gloves 

Wearing gloves is meant to protect you from germs. But what would that even involve if you already have them on your hands? So, you need to sanitize right before putting on your gloves. 

Six, when you are just about to or have just cared for someone sick

Hand sanitizers should be able to cleanse your hands enough for you to effectively and safely tend to someone who is not well. You may need to use soap and water if the illness is Clostridioides difficile or any other disease that deals with feces. 

Seven, when you want to supplement your handwashing 

Overall, handwashing should not completely be forgotten. It is still the ultimate way of getting rid of all kinds of bacteria, germs, and viruses. Using hand sanitizers is more convenient and portable and would work well as a supplement to handwashing. It works together with and not in replacement of the usual soap and water combo.

However, this supplementary habit should be used in the same way as handwashing. Use the same steps as your handwashing routine.  You should also go through the whole 20-second procedure.