This is the third part of a four-part article about the different types of soaps available.

The basics of hand washing haven’t changed: Wet the hands, apply the soap, create a lather, scrub the hands for 15 to 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry with air or a clean towel. If users follow these steps, then their hands will be clean no matter what soap they use.

“The truth is, what we’ve been doing all these years really takes care of your needs,” says Steven Attman, vice president of Acme Paper and Supply in Savage, Maryland.

Gentle soaps are the safe bet for most schools and elderly care facilities. When used properly, these mild products remove dirt and germs from hands without irritation or long-term risks. Clearly, that’s a big benefit when working with susceptible populations like children and the elderly.

For even more protection, many facilities choose “green” gentle soaps. Although antimicrobial products aren’t available in environmentally friendly versions because of the chemicals in them, mild soaps are available as green without sacrificing efficacy or adding cost. These products are typically made without dyes and fragrances that can aggravate a user’s allergies or sensitivities. They also cause less harm to the environment by eliminating petroleum or other harsh chemicals, and they sometimes use recycled materials for packaging.

“They do the job intended and eliminate sources of irritation while supporting green initiatives,” says Scott Uselman, director of sales for High Point Sanitary Solutions in Houston. “I think all market segments look at it and say, ‘If we can eliminate a possible source of irritation, why wouldn’t we make that change?’ It’s great to see so many manufacturers getting on board with these types of products.”

For K-12 schools and elderly care facilities, it’s also wise to offer hand sanitizer.  Although not a substitute for hand washing, these products can serve as a supplement. Hand sanitizers can be used between washings and when soap isn’t immediately available.

In health care facilities, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based sanitizers for maximum effectiveness. These products are suitable for schools, as well, however, some facilities with young children prefer non-alcohol products, which reduce fire risk. Unlike the sanitizers of many years ago, newer products include enough emollients to prevent drying.

“Soap and water is more drying to the hands than a hand sanitizer,” says Attman. “With some of the hand sanitizers, the more you use them, the softer your hands get.”

The trend in health care and education is to offer more hand sanitizing stations, especially in areas where sinks aren’t available. Schools place them in classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, entryways and more. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities place them both inside and outside of resident or patient rooms to allow for sanitizing after any point of contact.

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Antimicrobial Soaps Are Not Always Necessary
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Jan/San Distributors Must Understand Customers' Soap Needs