How well does hand sanitizer work? Here’s the truth!
During the current ongoing pandemic, using hand sanitizer has become a part of our daily routine in order to keep ourselves safe from the virus. Hand sanitizers have become the go-to solution for cleaning our hands when we’re on-the-go and soap and water are not available. While hand sanitizers are readily available, many of us wonder how effective they really are in killing germs, and how well they protect us from getting sick. In this article, we will take a closer look at this topic and find out everything you need to know about hand sanitizers and how they work.
The basics of hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer came into existence as early as the 1960s and has since become a popular solution for killing germs on our hands. The main ingredients in hand sanitizers are ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride, which work by breaking down the cell walls of germs and killing them. Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content are considered effective in fighting germs and viruses, including the COVID-19 virus.
How does hand sanitizer work?
The main ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, which can kill germs by dissolving their cell membranes. The alcohol enters the germs’ cells and coagulates their proteins, making them inactive and unable to spread or multiply. Hand sanitizers work best when used on a clean and dry skin, and you should rub your hands together briskly until they are dry.
How to use hand sanitizer properly?
To use hand sanitizer properly, you should follow these steps:
- Squeeze a generous amount of hand sanitizer into the palm of one hand
- Rub both hands together, covering all surfaces, including the back of your hands, fingertips, and under the nails
- Rub your hands together for about 20-30 seconds, until the sanitizer is completely absorbed and your hands are dry.
The effectiveness of hand sanitizer
A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol were effective in reducing bacterial counts on the hands. Another study found that using hand sanitizer was more effective in reducing the risk of getting sick than washing hands with soap and water in certain situations. However, it is important to note that hand sanitizers do not work against all types of germs and viruses, such as the norovirus and the spores of the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
When should you use hand sanitizer?
You should use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available, or when you need a quick clean in between washing your hands. Hand sanitizers are particularly useful in situations where you have come in contact with germs, such as touching doorknobs, elevator buttons, or grocery carts. However, hand sanitizers should not be used as a replacement for washing hands with soap and water, especially when hands are visibly dirty or after using the bathroom.
Can hand sanitizer kill COVID-19?
Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content have been found to be effective against the COVID-19 virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content when soap and water are not available. However, it is important to note that hand sanitizers should not be relied upon as the only means of protection against the virus. Social distancing, wearing masks, and proper hand washing with soap and water are also important measures to take in order to stay safe from the virus.
The risks of hand sanitizer
While hand sanitizers are generally safe to use, there are some things you should keep in mind before relying too much on them:
Hand sanitizer can be toxic
Hand sanitizers are not safe for consumption, and ingesting them can cause alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Keep hand sanitizers away from children and pets, and do not use them near an open flame or heat source.
Hand sanitizer can dry out your skin
The alcohol content in hand sanitizer can dry out your skin, especially if you use it frequently. If you find that your skin is getting too dry, try using lotions or creams to moisturize your hands after using hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer may not be effective against some viruses
As mentioned earlier, hand sanitizers may not be effective in killing all types of germs and viruses, including norovirus and C. diff spores. If you are concerned about a particular virus or germ, check with your doctor or healthcare provider to find out the best way to protect yourself.
Hand sanitizer is an effective way to kill germs when soap and water are not available. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content and follow the steps to use it properly to ensure maximum effectiveness. While hand sanitizers are a useful tool in fighting germs and viruses, they should not be relied upon as the only means of protection. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, wear a mask, and practice social distancing to stay safe.
Here are some common questions and answers related to hand sanitizers:
- Q: How much hand sanitizer should I use?
A: You should use enough hand sanitizer to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together for about 20-30 seconds.
- Q: Can I use hand sanitizer on dirty hands?
A: Hand sanitizers work best on clean and dry hands. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water first.
- Q: Is hand sanitizer safe for children?
A: Hand sanitizers are generally safe for children to use, but they should be supervised to ensure that they are using it properly and not ingesting it.
- Q: Can hand sanitizer expire?
A: Yes, hand sanitizers can expire. Check the expiration date on your hand sanitizer before using it, and discard it if it is expired.
- Q: Can I make my own hand sanitizer?
A: It is possible to make your own hand sanitizer, but it is important to follow the guidelines provided by the CDC and use the right ingredients in the right proportions.
- “Hand Hygiene Recommendations.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/when-how-hand-sanitizer.html.
- “Hand Sanitizer.” National Poison Control Center, Apr. 2021, https://www.poison.org/articles/hand-sanitizer-204.
- Wickramasinghe, Nilanthi, et al. “Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers: Their Effectiveness and Limitations for Healthcare Personnel Hand Hygiene.” American Journal of Infection Control, vol. 33, no. 7, Sept. 2005, pp. 328-335, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196655305708921.