When To Wash With Soap & Water vs. Hand Sanitizer


Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend soap and water as the preferred method of handwashing, it is recognized that this is not always possible or convenient. Therefore, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an alternative method to reducing the spread of germs and illness. So, when should you use each method? We’ve compiled a list of recommendations from the experts to help you navigate all your handwashing situations.



Important times to clean your hands include:

  • Before eating
  • Before, during, and after handling food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick or treating a wound
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • After using the restroom, helping someone use the restroom, or changing diapers
  • After touching animals, their food, or their waste
  • After touching garbage


**Additional times to clean hands during COVID-19 include:

  • After touching frequently touched surfaces in public places (door handles, shopping carts, gas pumps etc.)
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth





·      It is available

·      Soap and water are not available

·      Hands are visibly soiled

·      Hands are not visibly soiled

·      Touching harmful chemicals




We hope this information simplifies your decision between the different handwashing methods and promotes effective germ-killing!




  1. Handwashing - Clean Hands Save Lives. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html. Published March 16, 2020.
  2. Hand Hygiene. Minnesota Dept. of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/handhygiene/index.html.