Special Healthcast Report: Germ Killers

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - This flu season, the advice to "wash your hands" sounds like a broken record. With so many hand cleansing products on the market, 7News wanted to find out what is best at killing those germs and the results might surprise you!

There's regular soap and then antibacterial, don't forget the liquid soap concoctions and did we mention the slew of hand sanitizers?  For this special Healthcast, we headed up a science experiment of our own to get the dirt on what works best.

Here at KPLC, every area is a common area.  Director Julie Meche says, "We share everything.  There's nothing that's individual in this place."

Julie calls herself a bit of a germophobe with her master switchboard.  "If there's hand sanitizer," she says, "I'll pass by and get a squirt every time I pass by a hand sanitizer bottle...so maybe a little bit OCD."

And Julie's not alone! Producers Michael Addison and Kris Perez also wish there was a germ-free bubble they could float around in at times.  "I'll cough or sneeze or I'll hear someone else cough or sneeze," says Kris, "and I pull out the Germ-X and just give myself a little squirt.  It just makes me feel a little more protected."

We wanted to find out if a squirt here or there of hand sanitizer really keeps you protected or if good old fashioned soap and water is the best in the war on germs.  Dr. Jay Comeaux with McNeese State University's microbiology lab had each participant in this experiment choose a product and do a before and after "pressing" on touch plates.

Traditional Michael used regular soap and water. I used liquid soap and water.  Julie chose generic hand sanitizer and Kris selected the boutique fragrance hand sanitizer. A little pressing here and there and the samples were ready for Dr. Comeaux. "We put them in an incubator and incubated them for two days to allow any of the microorganisms that could've been present to grow," he says.

Now for the grand reveal: what did and did not grow on each plate.  Dr. Comeaux says, "There has been substantial reduction in the number of bacteria on each plate, but they were not totally eliminated."

The most bacteria remained after a cleaning with regular liquid hand soap, which was very surprising to me since I thoroughly washed my hands!

Third on the list was basic soap and water.  Second on the list was the designer hand sanitizer and at the top with an almost clean plate was the generic hand sanitizer. But Dr. Comeaux says to not be misled - a good handwashing with soap and water is still the best at long-lasting germ and virus protection.  "The waterless hand cleansers are not a substitute for washing your hands," says Dr. Comeaux, "you should do that on a regular basis."

*To reiterate Dr. Comeaux's point, while the plates for soap and water showed more growth than those for hand sanitizer, it's important to remember that hand sanitizer is a quick fix and is not effective when your hands are actually soiled or for deep cleaning.

*A good handwashing should take at least 20 seconds and regular soap versus antimicrobial does not matter.

*If you're using hand sanitizer instead, make sure the alcohol concentration is 60 percent.

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