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Hand sanitizer gels are ubiquitous these days – and so are the myths surrounding these products.

Today, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist comes clean on what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to hand sanitizing gels.

Fact: Hand sanitizers are a good option for removing some germs from hands.

“Washing your hands with soap and water is an effective way to keep clean, but hand sanitizers are useful when you are not near a sink and you can’t wash your hands,” Dr. Felice Adler says. “Sanitizers are also easy to take with you and pack on a trip. Sometimes you just don’t have a sink handy.”

Fiction: All hand sanitizers are created equal.

“It’s recommended that you look for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol,” Dr. Adler says. “Studies have shown that hand sanitizers with an alcohol content between 60-95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with lower alcohol content and non-alcohol based hand sanitizers.”

Mother squirts hand sanitizer in young boys hands.

Fiction: Hand sanitizers remove dirt or grease better than soap and water.

While hand sanitizers will help to kill many (but not all) bacteria and viruses, they will not remove stubborn dirt or clean really filthy hands, Dr. Adler says. Hand washing with soap and water is preferred before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, after handling animals or their food or waste, and when hands are visibly dirty.

The bottom line:

When it comes to keeping hands germ-free, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned vigorous hand washing with soap and water. However, a squirt of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good alternative.

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