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VERIFY: Hand sanitizer should be used for about 20 seconds, not three to four minutes

There's a set of hand sanitizer tips going around through email that offers advice on how to get the most out of hand sanitizer. But one claim is a bit off.

As everyone works to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a viewer shared an e-mail that offered some great tips about hand sanitizer mixed in with some confusing ones.

It offered five tips for using hand sanitizer correctly, but the second tip seemed a bit confusing. 

“Alcohol sanitizers work slowly,” it read. “The maximal effectiveness would be to keep the hands wet for 3 to 4 minutes.”

Credit: VERIFY

THE QUESTION

Should consumers leave hand sanitizer on their hands for three to four minutes to make it the most effective it can be?

THE ANSWER

No. Not only would it be difficult to keep hand sanitizer “wet” for that long, but there’s also really no reason to do so.

SOURCES

CDC “Handwashing and Hand Sanitizer Guide”

WHAT WE FOUND:

The Centers for Disease Control have a guide for the best practices for hand washing and using hand sanitizer. 

They say that washing your hands is definitely the best way to keep your hands clean of germs, but hand sanitizer can be an effective option in a pinch.

The claim above does have some decent advice overall, but the idea that hand sanitizers need to be left on hands for three to four minutes doesn’t check out.

According to the CDC, when using hand sanitizer, you should “Rub hands together, until hands feel dry...This should take around 20 seconds.”

For a hand sanitizer to be effective, it needs to be 60% alcohol or greater.

Alcohol also dries out quickly. So to keep the hand sanitizer “wet” on someone’s hands for three to four minutes, you’d have to use a large amount of sanitizer for no known benefit.

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