hand washing
  • Skin care

What to do if you run out of hand wash

Here we look at why washing your hands regularly is so effective at killing viruses and explain how to maintain hand hygiene when you run out of soap.

By Hannah Mepham

5 Minute read

Here we look at why washing your hands regularly is so effective at killing viruses and explain how to maintain hand hygiene when you run out of soap.

Why is hand washing so effective at killing bacteria and viruses?

The advice issued by the NHS is that, to minimise the spread of infections, everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, and do this regularly throughout the dayi.

The exact science as to why washing our hands regularly is so effective against viruses is quite complex but a recently published article in the Guardian explains the science well. This explained that viruses are protected by a lipid layer and explores how soapy waters are able to disintegrate that layer, leaving viruses inactiveii.

The Guardian’s article also explains that if a virus is sneezed or coughed onto a surface, it can stick to any human skin that interacts with that surface. Surfactants work by stopping microbes clinging to the skin and by washing your hands regularly with a surfactant, such as hand wash or soap, and avoiding touching your face, you can reduce the risk of a virus entering your body.

What's the best way to use hand wash?

Hand wash is used to keep the skin clean and is essential for good hand hygiene. It usually comes in a liquid format and is always used in conjunction with water. Most hand washes will foam into a lather; this foaming effect can be achieved by either using true soaps or detergents such as SLS or the gentler sodium coco sulfate (SCS).

When washing your hands with hand wash, it is important that you spend at least 20 seconds creating a lather, taking care to wash it over every part of the hands. Thoroughly wash both palms as well as the back of the hands, in-between the finger, the nails, the thumbs and the wrists. Bacteria love damp spaces so always rinse away any excess soap and thoroughly dry the hands after using hand wash.

To maintain good hand hygiene, try to use a hand wash made with antibacterial ingredients.

The antibacterial ingredients used to make Green People’s natural hand washes and hand foams are Tea Tree and Manuka. Both of these ingredients deliver potent, natural antibacterial action without being too harsh on the skin. We also offer scent-free hand washes for very sensitive skin. 

I have run out of hand wash. What else can I use?

Can I shower gel to wash my hands instead of hand wash? Don't worry; there's lots of other products you can used to clean your hands. Here we look at your options.

Shampoo and shower gel

Green People shampoos and shower gels are surfactants and are just as effective as our hand washes are at removing dirt, bacteria and microbes from the skin surface.

To use our shampoo and shower gel as a hand wash, simply work them into a lather in-between damp palms, taking care to also cover the back of the hands as well as your nails, thumbs and wrists.


Water will wash dirt from the skin but should not be relied on continuously for effective protection from viruses.

This is because it does not contain any actives that will physically interact with a virus and, unlike soapy water, it will not loosen the bonds that hold viruses together or break the bonds that adhere germs to the skinii.

If you really do struggle to obtain soap make sure you rinse your hands regularly but, do not rely on water alone for a long period of time.

My skin is sensitive to soap. What should I use?

Regular hand washing is a real challenge for those with sensitive skin or hand dermatitis.

An easy way to reduce skin irritation caused by hand washing is to choose a product that is made with mild foaming actives and, if you know that fragrance irritates your skin, make sure that your hand wash is scent free. 

Remember to use hand cream

Washing your hands regularly has been established as the best way to protect yourself and others from infections but it is also of paramount importance that you regularly apply hand cream.

Not only will this soothe irritation caused by frequent hand washing, it will also help to support the skin barrier.

Our first line of defence, the skin barrier relies on a strong supply of healthy bacterial flora but these supplies can be depleted with frequent hand washing. To keep the skin balanced, hydrate your hands with a Squalane hand cream.

A natural emollient, Squalane will provide the skin with long-lasting hydration and deliver skin the goodness skin needs to regenerate and stay strong and healthy.

Has frequent hand washing left your skin dry? Join the conversation at @GreenPeopleUK or get help from our UK customer care team by calling 01403 740350. 

[i] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/best-way-to-wash-your-hands/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants

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