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The Hidden Cons of Sanitizer: Why Soap Remains the Gold Standard for Hand Cleaning

Sanitizer Myths

In recent times, hand sanitizers have gained significant popularity, becoming a go-to option for hand hygiene, especially in a world dominated by pandemic concerns. While they do serve a crucial purpose in certain situations, it's important to understand the cons of relying solely on sanitizers versus using traditional soap and water for hand cleaning. In this blog post, we'll explore the downsides of hand sanitizers and why soap remains the gold standard for keeping your hands clean and healthy.

1. Ineffectiveness Against Certain Contaminants

Hand sanitizers can be highly effective in killing many types of germs, particularly those with a lipid (fatty) membrane, such as many viruses and bacteria. However, they may not be as effective against certain types of contaminants like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, or the bacterial spores of Clostridium difficile. Soap and water, on the other hand, can physically remove these contaminants from your hands, making them a more reliable choice in these situations.

2. Limited Cleaning Mechanism

Sanitizers work primarily by killing germs on the surface of your skin, but they do not physically remove dirt, debris, or visible contaminants like feces, blood, or body fluids. Soap, on the other hand, works through a combination of chemical reactions using surfactants and mechanical action (rubbing and rinsing) to dislodge and remove dirt and germs from your skin. This makes soap like Rove Soapsheets more effective at cleaning your hands thoroughly.

3. Potential for Skin Irritation

Many hand sanitizers contain high concentrations of alcohol, which can be harsh on your skin with frequent use. Prolonged use of hand sanitizer can lead to dryness, irritation, and even dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. According to the  In contrast, soap and water are gentler on the skin, especially when you use moisturizing soaps, as they help to maintain skin hydration.

4. Reduced Effectiveness on Dirty Hands

Hand sanitizers work best on clean hands, but efficacy is reduced significantly when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. When you have dirt, grime, and grease on your hands, sanitizer will not be able to penetrate through the contaminants to reach the germs beneath. In such cases, washing with soap and water is the superior option, as it can remove both visible and invisible contaminants effectively.

5. Risk of Ingestion

Hand sanitizers are typically formulated with alcohol or other chemicals that can be harmful if ingested, especially by young children. The appealing scents and packaging of some sanitizers can make them attractive to curious kids. Soap, on the other hand, is generally safe if accidentally ingested.


While hand sanitizers serve a valuable purpose, particularly in situations where soap and water are not readily available, it's essential to recognize their limitations and potential downsides. The cons of hand sanitizers include their ineffectiveness against certain contaminants, limited cleaning mechanisms, potential for skin irritation, reduced effectiveness on dirty hands, and the risk of ingestion, especially for children. To maintain the highest standard of hand hygiene and minimize these drawbacks, it's recommended to use soap and water whenever possible, ensuring your hands are truly clean and germ-free. Hand sanitizers should be seen as a convenient supplement to traditional hand washing, rather than a complete replacement.

Check out our founder's most recent blog post with Capital City Market here where she talks about her journey in granting access to Rove Soapsheets globally.

Shop our sustainable and germ removing Rove Soapsheets here. Not your grandma's hand soap!

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