What you don’t know about hand sanitization is what’s getting you sick [Featured Partner]


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Everyone knows that covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze means you keep those germs from becoming airborne. But those germs might still be hanging around, even if you think you got them all; especially on your hands.  Yes, your hands are actually the easiest way to transfer illness to yourself and those around you. But preventing the spread of illness-causing germs is right there at your fingertips — you just need the right habits and the right tools on hand when you need them.


A dirty secret

Earlier this year, a survey of 1,000 adults, which was commissioned by GOJO Industries, the inventors of PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer, asked a variety of questions about this past cold and flu season.[1] The results might make for some uncomfortable reading, but what they undoubtedly show is that by making small adjustments to our lives we can have a big impact on the spread of germs.

If you're guilty of a little shortcut or two when it comes to hygiene, you're not alone. The survey showed that 57% of Americans engage in “icky” habits, including not washing their hands after sneezing or using the restroom; and 60% of those surveyed said they have witnessed a coworker sneezing without a tissue. We share a lot of tactile surfaces, especially at work, and so it's no surprise that unclean hands spread more germs than unguarded sneezing.

Health experts know that more than 80% of illnesses can be transmitted by the hands.[2] And while that might trigger a high-speed mental rewind of everything you’ve touched in the last 24 hours, it’s not all bad news. The survey also showed that, of those who haven’t gotten sick this season, the majority of them, nearly 67%, say that hand hygiene was the reason.


A clean routine

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of illness-causing germs and thereby reducing your risk of getting ill. It's a good idea to figure out and build a hand hygiene regimen; after all, your hands are constantly in use, and they do some pretty important jobs. Make sure you get into your habit of hand hygiene by remembering the key moments of when to practice it:

  • Before and after preparing food,
  • Before eating,
  • Before and after caring for someone that is sick or being around someone who is ill,
  • After using the bathroom,
  • After sneezing or coughing, and
  • After touching anything that is in a high-traffic area that may have been touched by many different hands, such as the grocery cart handle, a phone or a handrail. 

There are two basic aspects to effective hand hygiene: hand washing and hand sanitizing.

The entire hand washing process should take at least 20 seconds. Wet the hands with water and then apply enough soap to create a lather to cover both hands. Rub the hands palm to palm and carefully scrub fingers, the back and front of each hand and each thumb. Then rinse the hands with clean water and gently dry them with a clean paper towel.

Hand sanitizing should only take about 15 seconds. Apply a dime-sized amount of alcohol-based hand sanitizer — enough to cover all surfaces of your hand — then rub the sanitizer into the palms of the hands, fingers, and the back and front of the hands and thumbs.  Continuing rubbing hands together until your hands are dry.

Making this process a habit is easy, and once you get started, it should become second nature. A simple trick is to have hand sanitizing products, such as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or hand sanitizing wipes, where you need it most. This includes:

  • At home (kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and nurseries)
  • At work
  • At school
  • In your car
  • In your gym bag
  • When traveling
  • When working outdoors
  • When working with tools


WHO and CDC echo the call

We’ve talked a lot about the value of personal hand hygiene, but there’s also the impact on public health. According to the WHO, in a healthcare setting “hand hygiene at the right times saves lives.”[3]  “Affordable life-saving technology is available![4] Alcohol-based handrub," they note, "can prevent … millions of deaths every year."[5] The CDC is equally insistent. "Hygiene etiquette," they say, "involves practices that prevent the spread of illness and disease. Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.”[6]


PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes are perfect for those moments when you need to both clean and sanitize your hands, whether at home, work or on the go. When used correctly, PURELL Hand Sanitizing Wipes kill 99.99% of illness-causing germs. They’re safe for faces as well. Look for them in the soap, sanitizer or cleaning aisles at WalMart, Target and Walgreen’s.




[1] Wakefield Research conducted a survey between January 22nd and February 2nd, 2015, among 1,000 U.S. nationally representative adults aged18 and older. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.1 percentage points. Survey sponsored by the makers of PURELL Hand Sanitizer.

[2] 2013 Meta-analysis of germ transmission data by Dr. Gerba, University of Arizona

[3] World Health Organization, “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands – WHO’s global annual call to action for health workers. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/en/

[4] World Health Organization, “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands – WHO’s global annual call to action for health workers. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/en/

[5] World Health Organization, “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands – WHO’s global annual call to action for health workers. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/en/

[6] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Water, Sanitation & Environmentally-related Hygiene. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html