DOES IT WORK? Purell vs. Hand Soap - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DOES IT WORK? Purell vs. Hand Soap


MADISON (WKOW) -- Your hands are like a 5-star hotel for germs, viruses, and bacteria that can make you sick.

Good luck finding any Purell hand sanitizer at Madison stores after the recent H1N1 flu pandemic.

Many people in our area rushed out and bought alcohol-based hand sanitizers trying to keep from getting sick.  But Does it Work?

Call for Action Reporter Dan Cassuto put Purell up against traditional hand soap at the germ labs at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison.

We did a before-and-after test using bacteria cultures.

For Tray One, we touched every dirty surface we could find -- elevator buttons, doorknobs, ATM machines, and more.  We put our dirty hand in the culture and let the bacteria grow for 48 hours.

For Tray Two, we cleaned our hand using Purell first.  The culture should show how effective the hand sanitizer is at killing germs.

We repeated the before-and-after test for liquid soap, but we added a third tray.  Tray One had a dirty hand.  Tray Two had a washed hand for 5 to 10 seconds under the faucet.  But Tray Three had a hand washed for 25 to 30 seconds.

Mel Reppen, hand washing expert at St. Mary's, says many people don't wash their hands the right away.  Reppen says we should scrub thoroughly, under our nails, for 25 to 30 seconds.

48 hours later...

Purell Results: Both trays looked very similar.  Our hands didn't pick up as many germs as we expected.  The Purell did a fine job cleaning our hands and killing bacteria.

Soap Results: This was very surprising.  Tray One showed a large amount of germs.  But Tray Two (5-10 seconds of soap and water) looked almost identical.  A short hand wash doesn't do much good at all.  We didn't see any results until Tray Three, the long, 30-second scrub.  In that case, the soap did a great job of killing bacteria and making our hands clean.

The Experts Opinion: Mel Reppen recommends soap and water for the general public.  She says that's the best way to kill germs and actually physically remove dirt and bacteria from our hands.  However, she also recommends Purell for health care professionals or anyone who doesn't have easy access to running water or a sink.  But the real message is wash for a lot longer than you think, and use more Purell than you think.

Email Dan Cassuto at




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