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Which is better, handwashing or hand sanitizer?

Our hospital encourages the use of hand sanitizer (but does not discourage handwashing). I must say, I like it. They are positioned by the door of each room. I use it on my way in and out of each room. I can't say that I washed by hands on the way into every room before.

Another nurse told me that newer studies are showing that hand washing is better (as opposed to some older ones that stated hand sanitizer was better in most situations). Any input?

Personally, I suspect a combination of the two is best, and Ido wash my hands frequently. But I also love the hand sanitizer.

Any links are also appreciated.

Tweety specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

Both together can knock out germs like MRSA, etc. I think our latest dictate from our ID Nurse is to do both.

I handwash when possible. I am in a home care situation and sometimes we don't have access to running water, clean towels and soap etc or it would require going further into a horribley unclean house. ( I have changed dressings in porches since it was the only place 2 people could be with floor to ceiling newspapers and other junk.)

But I do think that hand sanitizer is awesome- we tend to use it in places we wouldn't normally have even thought to wash our hands ( entering a room) One assistive living place I visit has them by all the elevators which I love. You see all visitors using them as well.

But personally correct handwashing wins everytime for me. Just running water soap and clean towel can't compare imo.

jill48 specializes in Med/Surg, Geri, Ortho, Telemetry, Psych.

I was always told that handwashing is the best, and the sanitizer is used as an adjunct to that. Which in my opinion is a great idea r/t the huge amount of nosocomial infections we see. Plus, how many lazy nurses and doctors do you know that don't wash their hands between patients, come on now, we all know of a few. So maybe if they just get a dab of this sanitizer, it's better than nothing.

Sanitizer can be ok in the right situation... but recently I just finished a micro class... in the lab that we did comparing various cleaners and sanitizers bugs actually grew on some of the alcohol based sanitizers... the ones with less than 70% alcohol. Also the sanitizers don't kill some bugs like c-diff.

chuck1234 specializes in Nurses who are mentally sicked.

How about washing your hands before coming out of the patient's room. Then use the hand sanitizer. Logically speaking, it is an excellent idea.

AnnieOaklyRN specializes in ED, Pedi Vasc access, Paramedic serving 6 towns.

I am a true beleiver in hand washing, and am actually wondering if the hand sanitizer actually kills viruses which are MUCH more likely to make a person sick than bacteria. I suppose it may do it indirectly by killing cells. Hand sanitizer also does NOT kill C-Diff...


Washing properly gets off gunk and kills lots of germs. Hand sanitizer doesn't get germs lurking under gunk.

When passing meds I use sanitizer if I touch a patient and wash after every three or so. During hands-on care I simply wash well before and after and, if it involves caths or poop or blood, follow with sanitizer.

RNDreamer specializes in acute care.

I use both, I saw a study that said hand sanitizers are just as effective as washing hands with soap...that's good and dandy, but if by some freak accident, I slip, fall and my hand lands in poo, that hand sanitizer will not cut it...I'm heading for the soap...I wash my hand frequently, but also have a habit of touching my face alot, so the sanitizer comes in handy for me

In nursing school I was taught that sanitizer shouldn't be used when your hands are visibly soiled. At clinicals, I usually use sanitizer after I leave a patient's room and then wash after about 2 or 3 patient contacts.

HeartsOpenWide specializes in Ante-Intra-Postpartum, Post Gyne.

In our area there are signs posted everywhere saying to the client to ask their nurse or doctor if they washed their hands if they did not see them do it themselves; although there is hand sanitizer outside of every room. Unless your studies are more recent were were told last semester that studies showed that hand sanitizer was just as good as hand washing unless the hands are visably soiled.

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