Does Hand Sanitizer Actually Work?

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Good news, sanitizer fans: Those gels and foams do quite a number on the critters crawling on your skin. As long as a sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol, it will wreak havoc on microbes by nuking their cell membranes.

That said, sanitizer isn’t a magic bullet. While the gels do kill germs, they don’t actually clean the grime and dirt off your mitts. The Centers for Disease Control still recommend washing up with soap and running water as the gold standard, but hand sanitizer is a good fill-in if you’re on the go.

As for unstoppable bacteria springing to life because of our collective Purell addiction, don’t lose sleep over it. Bacteria need prolonged exposure to a substance to develop a resistance, and because the alcohol in hand sanitizers evaporates quickly when exposed to air, that can’t really happen. The bottom line: Don’t stop washing your hands, but don’t hesitate to slather on the sanitizer after caressing a doorknob.

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March 14, 2013 - 9:30am
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