New York Mayor De Blasio Distributes Information On The Coronavirus In Union Square
New York Mayor De Blasio Distributes Information On The Coronavirus In Union Square

Hand sanitiser vs soap: Which is better?

Bottles of hand sanitiser are appearing everywhere as the coronavirus continues its spread in Australia.

The alternative to washing your hands with soap and water, it can be used on dry hands and uses a high alcohol concentration of between 60 and 95 per cent to kill germs.

Stores have been selling out of the popular product and it seems to have become a fixation for some worried about being infected with coronavirus, with one cafe furious after its bottle of sanitiser was stolen.

But Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist in Canberra, said washing your hands with soap and water was just as effective as using hand sanitiser.

In fact, if your hands are not clean in the first place, sanitiser is not effective.

Prof Collignon told that if your hands are visibly soiled or dirty then any disinfectant doesn't work as well.

"If anything is dirty then clean it first and then disinfect," he said.

"It's a similar principle for surgical instruments and medical equipment."


If your hands are not visibly dirty then the hand sanitiser will work by itself.

While some have been worried that cheaper sanitisers won't work as well as more expensive versions, Prof Collignon said they were just as effective but may take longer to work depending on their concentration of alcohol.

There have also been concerns that hand sanitisers are anti-bacterial and don't work on viruses but Prof Collignon said this wasn't the case. They will kill most bacteria and viruses.



However, the important thing was for Australians to regularly wash their hands, whether they are using soap or sanitiser.

"It's not the end of the world if you miss out on buying alcohol hand rub because washing your hands with soap and water is also very effective - there is not a huge amount of difference," Prof Collignon said.

"One is just more convenient than the other and contains alcohol.

"You can put it in your pocket and don't have to be near a sink or basin to use it."

But Prof Collignon warned against people excessively washing their hands with either cleaning agent.

He said over-usage of soap and water can lead to dermatitis and people should use commonsense.