LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - An intense flu season, fueled by worries of coming down with H1N1, has prompted a hand sanitizing frenzy.
"It kills the germs, that's why I use them," said one mall shopper.
But are hand sanitizers really as effective as they claim? With the help of UMC Medical Technologist Kevin Willingham we set out to see which one works the best.
"What we are going to do is you are just going to press your hand on the augur, before you use the sanitizer and then after you use the sanitizer and then we will just compare," said Willingham.
But before the tests, what should you look for when picking a hand sanitizer. First make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol.
"But if you could find one that was a little higher, it will kill more organisms whether that's bacterial or viral," said UMC Clinical Virology Manager Mary Frances Flores.
Hand sanitizers should be used multiple times a day.
"If you've coughed into your hand, you need to use it, if you've touched a surface that somebody else has touched that you don't know whether or not they've been infected you need to use the hand sanitizers," said Flores.
So are there differences between these popular brands? We tested anyone we could find like Tony who works in construction, 3 year old Ava, Manuel who spends his day working outside, and the UMC Microbiology Lab Assistant Director Eddy, just to name a few.
"The last of the process we are just going to incubate these for 48 hours," said Willingham.
We tested Germ-x, CVS, Target, Walgreens, Purell, Bath and Body Works and Smart and Silky kids foaming hand sanitizer. All have at least 62% alcohol, except the kid's sanitizer, which doesn't contain alcohol at all.
"It looks like all of the hand sanitizers helped some," said Willingham.
So now to the results. Remember Tony, the construction worker. After using Bath and Body works, there is an unbelievable difference. Now to Manuel who does a lot of outdoor work, his hands were the dirtiest in our test. The Petri dish was black from dirt upon testing, but after a little Germ-X, it's hard to believe the results.
Have you ever wondered how dirty a child's hands can get?
"3 year old Ava's was really dirty, but most kids are going to look like that because they are touching everything and then when she cleaned her hands, it did better but she still has a lot on there and that might be because she did it herself and may not have done it real well," said Willingham.
The least impressive results in our test were Eddy's, the assistant director of the lab, he used the Target brand sanitizer, and you couldn't tell which was the before and which was the after.
"I would say the Purell worked well, Germ X, and even the Bath and Body so those are all name brands, so I would say spend the money and get a higher alcohol content if you can and stay away from the off brands," said Willingham.
We broke down the top three sanitizers and for your money Germ-x is best of the best, followed by Purell and Bath and Body Works. Also it's important to note, experts tell us it's perfectly fine for children to use an alcohol based sanitizer, in fact that's what they recommend.
We do want to mention that soap and water is your best bet, but when a sink isn't available hand sanitizers are a close second.