Experts recommend the use of both soaps and hand sanitizers in a proper hand washing program. Although they are perceived as interchangeable, these products are actually quite different.

Most commercial sanitizers are 99.9 percent effective at killing germs. Soap is not nearly as effective (especially when used improperly), and it can only be used when water is available. More abrasive varieties of soap can also damage the skin unless used in combination with a moisturizer.

Although once perceived as a skin irritant because of its alcohol content, many sanitizers are now available with moisturizers built in to prevent dryness.

Although hand sanitizers are relatively new — at least compared to soaps — manufacturers are already coming up with new delivery systems for the product. In addition to the popular gels, the product is now available in foam and misting spray. These systems promise better coverage and require the use of less product.