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No One Knows How Well Hand Sanitizer Works, But You Should Use It Anyway

Especially at the grocery store

Hand sanitizer is everywhere, luring us with the promise of an antiseptic existence where germ-free bliss is as easy as the old squirt and rub. But there are no studies demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing infectious disease in the population at large, The New York Times’ “Well” blog reports. That said, keeping your hands clean in general, whatever method you use, does do the trick of cutting down respiratory infections (by 21 percent) and gastrointestinal diseases (by 31 percent). That’s a lot less sickness and poop!

But there are at least a few cases where the sanitizer is your best bet: Places you can’t easily wash your hands in the traditional manner, like say, sketchy bathrooms or port-a-potties, but especially when touching a grocery cart.

Karen Weintraub writes:

Grocery carts can be particularly risky points of transmission. Someone grabbing chicken or meat can leak the juices onto a cart and their hands, and then continue to push the cart around, transmitting pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli onto the handle. The next person who handles the cart, or the next child who sits in the top of the wagon, can then pick up the bugs.

Guh-ross. When we think of the grossest places on earth, we usually think of bathrooms, but studies testing the microbes on grocery carts found that bathrooms are comparatively an oasis of sanitation in a desert of grody. In other words, the fecal matter isn’t in the bathroom, it’s on your grocery cart. The call is coming from inside the house, ya dig?

Many grocery chains now have those wipe stands next to the carts, which we often breeze past thinking they are for germaphobes and losers who have time to worry. We just want to get our E. coli hands on that sample slice of deli turkey, amirite? But they are for every last one of us, because we are filthy. Use them. Also, if you have kids, invest in a protective seat cover for your grocery cart starting today, and if you can’t do that, build a time machine constructed out of hand sanitizer and do your best.

And if you can’t get ahold of wipes, or forgot to bring your own wipes or sanitizer, just try not to touch your face, your baby’s face, your friend’s face, or shake anyone’s hand, then drive home without touching your car, baby, groceries or steering wheel, and then get home and inside your house without touching your baby, groceries or door knob, and just get in that bathroom and wash your hands the old-fashioned way. With soap, water, and 20 seconds of vigor. Sure, someone is probably calling social services by now, but at least your hands, if not your conscience, are clean. We got this.