Does Your Hand Sanitiser Protect You?

common sanitisers, coronavirus, handwashing, safer alternatives, sanitation, sanitising

The recent global pandemic has had people scrambling to protect themselves, particularly with hand sanitisers.

COVID-19 has been ravaging the entire world for many months now. Shelves have been emptied of hand sanitisers, with online stores such as Amazon starting to restrict sales of these products due to price gouging.  

Health experts have stated that handwashing is the most effective way of reducing the amounts of all types of germs. However, in some cases when water and soap are not available, using hand sanitisers are the next best option.

What most people don’t know is that they might be using ineffective hand sanitisers, particularly in the prevention of coronavirus transmission.

Not All Hand Sanitisers are Created Equal

Hand sanitisers with low-level (and sometimes, zero) alcohol content are popular with those who are allergic to alcohol-based ones. Experts warn against using these types of products as they can give one a false sense of safety and security when out in public.

For a hand sanitiser to function properly, it must be 60 to 80 percent alcohol (isopropyl, ethanol or ethyl alcohol, or n-propanol). These work to reduce the number of microorganisms on your hands, including the coronavirus. However, health experts have also warned that proper usage of hand sanitisers must be observed to ensure that you are adequately protected.

Forget the DIY Hand Sanitisers

Due to the recent shortage of hand sanitisers, people have been turning to recipes for homemade ones found online. Experts are warning against many of these ineffective formulations, stating that hand sanitisers must include ethyl alcohol, with higher concentrations of alcohol than is found in spirits such as whiskey and vodka.

In addition, these formulations may do more harm than good if mixed incorrectly. Keep in mind that store-bought hand sanitisers contain emollients to protect the skin, which many of the recipes found online do not have.

Proper Use of Hand Sanitisers

Follow these steps when using hand sanitisers:

  1. Apply the product on the palm of one hand (use the correct amount according to manufacturer’s guidelines).
  2. Rub the product on all the surfaces of your hands until they are dry.

It is important to note that hand sanitisers may not work as well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, which can happen after handling greasy food, working under the hood of your car, or playing sports. In these cases when hands get heavily soiled or greasy, handwashing is highly recommended.

Another important thing to note is that alcohol-based hand sanitisers may be effective against many types of microbes when used correctly, such as MRSA and E Coli, influenza A virus, rhinovirus, hepatitis A virus, HIV, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV); however, there are certain types of germs that can only be removed by proper handwashing with soap and water, such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.


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