2002 Fall

Hand Sanitizers Vs. Soap and Water

Have you been keeping up with the debate? Should our industry supply sinks with soap and water, hand sanitizers, or nothing at all for hand washing? As usual, there are two sides to the story. In California, new workplace safety regulations may soon require handwashing facilities on every job site. Since regulatory reform that starts in California often spreads across the country, it’s a good idea to understand the debate and be an informed resource for your customers.

Hand sanitizers work by stripping away the outer layer of oil and dirt on the skin. Combined with a paper towel, they can effectively clean your hands. However, Barbara Almanza, from Purdue University, came to an interesting conclusion when she studied the research on hand sanitizers. She found that they do not significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the hand and in some cases may actually increase it. With similar findings, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitizers should only be used in addition to soap and water, not in place of it, for food service workers. The implications are ironic... if you just want to freshen up and clean your hands, hand sanitizers do a great job. But if you need to “sanitize” your hands, nothing beats good old-fashioned soap and water.

So what should you recommend to your customers? By offering freshwater sinks, you can expect to increase your service time and equally increase your revenue per service call. Hand sanitizers are also a value-added service that you can sell to customers to increase your revenue per service call, but less substantially than sinks. If you offer nothing at all, your customers miss out on a service that really no one should be without ... a way to clean their hands after using the restroom. And, you miss out on an extra source of revenue!

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