updated 3/11/2005 11:34:11 AM ET 2005-03-11T16:34:11

Mom was right. A new study by infection control specialists at University of North Carolina Hospitals confirms that the best way to get germs off your hands is with soap and water.

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Researchers tested 14 hand hygiene agents plus tap water against specific bacteria and viruses applied to the hands of 62 adult volunteers. Soap and water, or microbial soap and water, were shown to be the most effective at removing viruses and bacteria.

Hand wipes were the least effective.

The lead author of the study says soap and water works better over repeated use because water washes germs down the drain. The author says with waterless rubs and wipes, users never rinse their hands. They just rub a chemical into their hands and let them dry.

Still, hand-rub solutions are considered highly effective, especially if there’s no available alternative.

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