Answer: No, hand sanitizers are not needed if you are properly washing your hands.
Hand sanitizers, especially alcohol-based gel sanitizers have become increasingly popular the last few years. In some cases, people are using hand sanitizers as a replacement for handwashing. For consumers, the use of hand sanitizers is not needed and they are expensive. Proper hand washing is sufficient.
Research has shown that hand sanitizers can be as effective as hand washing only in certain situations. Because dirt, food, or anything else on your hands can make alcohol in sanitizers less effective, it is important to first wash your hands with soap and water.
Some confusion occurred when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2002 guidelines "recommending alcohol-based gel as a suitable alternative for healthcare personnel in health care settings." However, the guidelines only apply to hospital and clinics. These guidelines are not appropriate for and do not apply to the general public. The reason being that the level of soil on the hands are quite different between the two settings.
For consumers, hand sanitizers should only be used in situations where traditional hand washing with soap and water are not available. In those situations, use of an alcohol gel is certainly better than nothing at all.
For more information about hand washing, visit the web site http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandWashing/ or http://missourifamilies.org/features/healtharticles/health92.htm.