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VERIFY: Hand sanitizer can protect against coronavirus, but not as well as washing your hands

A viral tweet is discouraging people from buying hand sanitizer to protect against coronavirus. Our VERIFY fact-checkers looked into the claim.

While the chances of getting coronavirus in the U.S. remain very low, that’s not stopping people from spreading misinformation online.

One viral tweet in particular has been discouraging people from buying hand sanitizer by claiming that it doesn’t affect viruses.

“Hand sanitizer is anti-bacterial, the coronavirus is a virus. A bacteria and a virus is not the same,” claimed one Twitter user in a tweet that has more than 100,000 retweets and 400,000 likes. “Wash your hands. Sanitizer will do nothing for the coronavirus. Sincerely, a scientist that is tired of this [Expletive].”

THE QUESTION

Does hand sanitizer protect against the coronavirus?

THE ANSWER


Yes, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests washing your hands with soap and water, they also recommend alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not readily available.

WHAT WE FOUND

Part of the confusion here might come from the name of the product. Some people know it as “hand sanitizer,” others call it “antibacterial gel.” While the names are different, the solution is actually the same. As long as they use alcohol, they can kill or stop viruses, bacteria and more.

According to the CDC, sanitizers with an alcohol concentration higher than 60%, are effective at killing germs and keeping your hands clean. 

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While there is currently no vaccine or specific medicine to prevent or treat coronavirus, there are a few ways to protect yourself and others. The CDC explains that some of the best ways to avoid exposure is keeping your hands away from your face, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, making sure you stay home when you’re sick, disinfecting items you touch a lot and surfaces you regularly use, washing your hands with soap and water, and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.