When Do You Use Hand Sanitizer & Antibacterial Soap?

Updated on August 01, 2011
K.B. asks from Waukesha, WI
29 answers

First here is when I use the stuff:
Antibacterial soap: we have one bottle by the kitchen sink, the bathroom has normal soap bottle.
Hand Sanitizer: rarely use unless unable to wash hands, like when camping and a mile from the bathroom (even then we usually have a wash station set up with water and soap).

My daughter's pediatrician actually told me that using the above too much kills GOOD bacteria on your hands and body. So limit it. I really hate using the stuff anyway, it seems to dry out my hands so I have limited the use already.

My mother-in-law really grinds my gears because she is ALWAYS using hand sanitizer and offering it to my FIVE year old daughter and I. I repeatedly have told her we do no use it unless we are unable to wash our hands. The majority of the time it comes out at the restaurant, I understand that a lot of germy people go through a restaurant, but I still would rather not use the hand sanitizer. I swear that my mother-in-law is always sick and complaining of dry hands, I try to tell her that the hand sanitizer is not helping and should cut back on the use.

So if you do use the above how often, when and where do you use it? Also with my mother-in-law how else can I put nicely or maybe more demanding that she NOT use hand sanitizer on my daughter?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

MechanicMama: Love it! As I was reading yours my daughter dropped a piece of ham on the floor, picked it up, looked at it, said clean enough and ate it.

I have always said "what dose not kill ya makes you stronger" I know a little harsh.

Thank you so much for all the info, advice and input. I will be a little more stern with MIL next time and maybe find some good print outs (maybe from my daughter's doctor) to help back me up.

Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

I do not ever use antibacterial anything and neither do my kids. It's horrible stuff! We hardly get sick

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Daytona Beach on

i use it just like you do. i don't want to overdo it either. my SIL and MIL and FIL, actually everyone on my husbands side of the family are germophopes of the highest order :) and they are ALWAYS using it. my kids aren't any sicker than hers is.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I have to say, we never use either of those products. And we are healthy pretty much ALL of the time. The only time I considered hand sanitizer was when H1N1 was first going around and my son's teacher used it with all the kids in Kindergarten. I thought that was a good idea then.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Antibacterial soap is BAD. We need to stop using it.

I heard something the other day about studies showing that kids from "cleaner," bacteria-obsessed cultures like ours have more autoimmune ailments etc. because their immune systems have not been properly developed. You can look this up online.

Your dr. is right. People need to stop with all the cleaning. It's not healthy. Tell MIL you don't want her using hand sanitizer on your child, if that's what you want.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I don't use the hand sanitizer unless we are camping...

Anti-bacterial soap? hardly ever...we use hand soap...nothing special.

Agree with you and your doctor that too much is bad...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Almost never. I keep antibacterial one use packets in the car for weird stuff you run into at the mall or on the playground or when we're traveling. (It seems like we get sick any time we travel through PA so we use them then!) I never use hand sanitizer but would if we were to go camping or had an event or situation in which we couldn't wash our hands.

My personal opinion about both products is that they're used too often and will eventually lead to people getting sick because their body has no idea how to handle the bacteria. Some bacteria is good for your body and I don't mean just the good bacteria.There was a show, maybe Oprah or Dr. Oz in which they looked at the overall health of different people's immune systems. They looked at a typical American and a typical person from Africa (who lived in a tribe and all that) I believe it was. Anyway the person from Africa had I think 5 different types of worm living in their body but was healthier than the American because his/her body knew how to fight bacteria etc.. I think if we keep using these products in excess the bacteria will get bigger and badder like the viruses we see now, which are worse because doctors prescribed meds for viruses for so many years.

If your mother-in-law sees your child often and does it a lot I would be stern with her or maybe print out some literature to read about the negative effects of using hand sanitizer too often. That sounds like it'll be a tough road. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Never if I can help it. I hate even being near someone who is using hand sanitizer because of the smell. I sure don't want that smell on my hands when I am eating.
I use ph balanced cleaners. No soap either.
We rarely have communicable diseases or illnesses even when everyone else around us seems to be sick.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Very, very rarely do we use hand sanitizers and we don't use anti-bacterial soap at home at all. Studies have been done that say that they are actually harmful to your health. Funny, because I just got an email from Dr. Mercola just this morning w/ an update on the issue:


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

We use it for after school had-washing (soap) and I use the gel if we're out and my son has been touching stuff in a very public place (like a play area, park, etc. and I do not have Wet Ones or access to a sink & soap.

Seriously, I think I've used about 5 of those mini ones from B&BW in his life. He's 8.

I prefer Wet Ones for the car--meals on the go, etc.

I don't feel we "over use" any of these products and truthfully, if it was just a squirt bottle of soapy water--that would be OK with me.

I do have a friend who is a hand sanitizer freak. Her kids automatically hold out their hands constantly!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I never use antibacterial anything and I never use hand sanitizer. I use plain soap.

As for your mother-in-law, it's YOUR child and she should follow YOUR preferences, whether or not she agrees with them. Tell her in no uncertain terms, "Do NOT offer my child hand sanitzer again."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

I use antibacterial soap in the kitchen. So after preparing meat, eggs, etc. In the bathroom we have hand sanitizer and regular soap. I think we have had the same bottle of hand sanitizer for about 2 years. We rarely use it. I wonder if that stuff expires? I carry a little bottle of sanitizer in the diaper bag in case we come across lizards or turtles on our adventures or for use prior to eating if we cannot wash our hands.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I agree. The use of antibacterial soap is more hurtful then helpful. I wonder how we can encourage our schools to use regular soap? I don't like that my son has to use it all day when he is at school. We use mild natural bar soaps at home.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I use the lysol wipes on my counters and spray on my floor ( senile senior dog so she occasionally has accidents) other than that I use just soap and water in the house. The hand cleaners we use if we are out at picnics. Your doctor is right about killing good bacteria because of the antibacterial soaps. My friends husband got really sick because he had to use them for his job.

With your mother in law just tell her what your doctor said and ask if she can take your child to the bathroom to wash her hands. If need to go for pain reasons,"it really chaps her hands and hurts her". If not then remind her that you are the parent and she needs to follow your rules. Best of wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I have to use the hand sanitizer after I go to walmart! I use it on the kids then too because those carts are NASTY! If they are just dirty from dirt or stuff its just normal soap and water for that. I will use hand sanitizer too if we have been fishing or I know they have been touching frogs and lizards if we are far from a sink

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I hear you, and agree with you, We don't use antibacterial anything. I do use baby wipes on baby's face and hands before I set him down to eat.

As for your MIL- seems like she's not listening to your requests. Can you enroll your pediatrician? Maybe it wouldn't hurt to have it come out of her mouth.

If your MIL insists on continuing to use them on your daughter, I wouldn't worry about it that much. Germs are ubiquitous. Your daughter will have her hands covered in more just moments after using the sanitizers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My son is very sensitive to hand sanitizer so we only have it in the boat.
Otherwise I use yummy smelling soaps, just bought a new bottle Softsoap energizing Pomegranate and Mango handsoap. No, it is not antbacterial, (I just checked) but it smells nice and it is soap.
In the kitchen and laundry room there is a bottle of Dawn, that kills just about everything.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

The whole antibacterial thing got started back in the early '80's with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and all the headlines it created. We didn't know how it was spread and people were just scared. I remember reading articles about celebrities going to the gym and being concerned about other people's sweat on the mats and other equipment, they were concerned they could contract the disease that way. And even though we have learned a lot in the past 30 years the fear still exists.

However in the past several years many articles have been published about the negative effects of too many antibacterial cleaners on kids and adults. When kids are raised in a home that is too clean they develop allergies. The immune system needs something to do, so it starts to attack everyday things such as pollens and pet dander. I think you best defense against you MIL is to read and print these articles and hand them to her over lunch. Tell her READ THESE!!!! NOW!!!! Don't let her put them away and tell you she will read them later. Make her read them in front of you so you can discuss them as you eat.
I do use hand sanitizer once in a while, for instance if I am out all day and go through a drive through to get something to eat. Most of the time I go inside a resturant to use the bathroom and wash my hands.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We use it just when there is no water and soap available.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

We tend to use it when we're traveling or visiting a petting zoo.
I use to use it before we ate anything at Chuck E Cheese (or any playground) when my son was young.
We just use plain old regular soap at home.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I use it more during the winter months when it's flu season. I'm a teacher and my daughter is in daycare so I try to disinfect more at that time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I'm with your pediatrician. Plus, I think overuse of this stuff can lead to resistant strains of germs. I use it myself at work because of the work I do, but at home it's only if I wipe my daughter or cook raw meat. I almost never have my daughter use it--I have antimicrobial wipes that we use if out, but only have her use the antibacterial soap if she gets pee or poop on herself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We use regular hand soap (not antibacterial) in the bathrooms and kitchen sink. We only use hand sanitizer when we get in the van after we have been in a store or park. Thats the only time we use it and my bottle fits right in the dash board perfectly so everyone gets a squirt. I have said before that we also don't do immunizations or flu shot and are RARELY sick.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

At the hospital only. I use regular soap at home, Im not scared of super-germs at home, im very afraid of them at the hospital.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I have soap (homemade) at home but anti-bacterial. As for the hand sanitizer only if out and not soap and water available. Don't like the feeling my hands have after using the hand sanitizer on my skin or the smell.

Cleaning consists of soap and water and a little bleach now and then on everything washable especially in the kitchen. When my kids were little and crawling around on the floors you could eat off of them now there are not little people at home and we have an indoor cat (literbox cleaned) and we are healthy and have a good immune system.

I grew up in a time when kids ran around and played in the dirt, dropped their sandwiches in the dirt and ate them and continued on. We were much more healthier then than now as a country.

My daughter in law in the sanitizer freak because she works at a nursing home so I do understand where you are coming from. But then again you build your immune system up. When hubby was sick for almost two years and in and out of hospital I never was sick living in the hospital because my system built itself up to take care of me.

But for everyday use, I use plain old soap and water.

The other S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I use hand sanitizer constantly but then I am a nursing assistant. So maybe I don't count. Our general guideline is if you can see visible dirt on your hands then wash them. Otherwise like some one else said use hand sanitizer before and after working with each person. I have it in my purse, diaper bag, bathroom and on my kitchen table. I use it when I get home from work to keep from spreading germs to my family. I have heard you can use hand sanitizer 10 times before using soap and water. Yes I do use a lot of lotion to keep my hand from drying out. That is just the price I pay for all the hand washing and hand sanitizer I use.



answers from Chicago on

The only anti-bacterial soap in my house is for my daughter to wash her stinky feet. Otherwise I avoid it. For hand sanitizer, the kids use it in school-especially during the cold season when everyone is sniffling and sneezing and coughing since they cannot always ge wash their hands. I have a little bottle that might have 3 oz in it and have had it for a year or so. I do have one in my car though for when we are out and about and the place we go does not seem very clean.


answers from Seattle on

I have Antibacterial soap at kitchen and bathroom sinks. My kids use it just as much as i do.

Sanitizers, I have in just about every location i can. Car, purse, kitchen counter and my desk.

I am a germ freak. So, having all of my rooms covered with something to clean my hands is a must.

My hubby used to think I was nuts. But then when we all got this nasty stomach bug. I got it. But never nearly as bad as the rest of the house. He saw that being ridiculously diligent about keeping clean works.

Here is my list of when I would use either or both the cleaning items...
After using bathroom, out in public. Even if I washed I will still use sani.
After being at the doctor
changing diaper
cleaning any surface
right before cutting food
right after handling any type of meat
after any type of yard work
handling sick child
after pushing a shopping cart
using a pen

Alot of this is common sense.

Some of it is me, being a paranoid narcotic.

If my kids are in a healthy streak I do lighten up on how often I use it. As soon as someone starts showing signs of possibly being sick...I up the anti again.



answers from Minneapolis on

Never. Well, except when I volunteer at a hospital. I agree with your ped. I learned the same thing in a microbiology class as well. The overuse of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers is contributing to the development of superbugs that are able to withstand the antibiotics that we take when we get an infection. This is a crisis that microbiologists are aware of, but no one seems to be doing anything about.



answers from Seattle on

Just a note people:

SOAP is antibacterial. That's what makes it antibacterial. The soap.

If it's just perfume and thickener (like many natural 'cleansers', then you may as well just rinse your hands with water and spray them with perfume). If you're actually using soap... you're killing the e.coli, entero bacteria, and fragilis bacteria (all 3 of which cause very nasty infections) and live in your gut / you want OFF your hands after you poo or pee. Tetnus, and anthrax are both naturally found in soil. You're inhaling and ingesting enough just playing in the dirt... go ahead and wash your hands before eating after being outside working in the dirt.

HEALTHIEST I've ever been? Working in a hospital, and the past 6 months of half living there (1 week here, 1 month there, 2 weeks another time, etc.). Everyone gels in and out (sanitizer before and after every single room, and area of the hospital) and people don't come to work sick and breathe all over you ((from those in days gone by, DO remember kids used to be kept HOME when sick, and parents used to stay HOME when sick. It's not handwashing that is increasing people getting sick... it's shrinking incomes, vanishing sick days, and the complete and total disregard for other people's healthy by dragging their contagious selves and kids out in public.

That is, unless you've had anthrax lately? Or have gotten a nice e.coli or hep A infection from someone's poorly washed hands?

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