In this pandemic time, masks, hand sanitizers, soap, and clean water have become more important than ever. To maintain cleanliness and stay infection-free, one must wash his or her hands frequently and wear masks.
You might get tired of the reminders every time! Before you eat? Wash your hands. After you go to the bathroom? Wash your hands. If you touch anything? Wash your hand, and so on. It is a bit of excellent advice not only for COVID-19 but in daily routine also. Unfortunately, we don’t have soap and water always available, and for most of us, it would be uncivilized to do it in public areas.
Fortunately, you can use a little drop of hand sanitizer to rub your hands and make them free of any infectious bacteria and viruses. Hand sanitizers provide a convenient and effective way to clean your hands if soap and water aren’t available.
But do hand sanitizers really work? That’s the question stuck to the minds of many of our curious friends. We decided to find out and share what we learned!
How does hand sanitizer work?
When it comes to hand sanitizers, most of us think that higher the percentage of alcohol more effective, a hand sanitizer solution is. Well, that is not entirely true. If you start using a 100% alcohol sanitizer, the result will be far less useful than the 60% – 80% alcohol sanitizer. 100% alcohol may sound better, but it needs extra ingredients to work effectively. The extra ingredient in a hand sanitizer is purified water that acts as a catalyst. When filtered water is combined with 60% – 80% Ethyl Alcohol, the hand sanitizers become less effective than hand sanitizers with a concentration of more or less than that.
When you start rubbing a hand sanitizer, it begins penetrating the microbial cells. But to kill the bacteria and viruses, you must rub your hands until the hand sanitizer dries off. On average, it should take at least 20 seconds.
Known myths and facts about hand sanitizers
Myth #1: We need only a quick pump of hand sanitizer
Fact: No, this is entirely a myth. It begins with a quick pump, but merely squirting some hand sanitizer onto your hands won’t cut it. As with soap and water, sanitizer won’t work unless used at the proper duration and with the right amount and proper technique.
The expert recommends a 20-second hand wash, and this recommendation has been reinforced by The Joint Commission (2020).
Myth #2: All hand sanitizers work the same way
Fact: Many people think that all hand sanitizers are the same, but this is not true. There are tons of options available—and not all are equally effective.
The significant difference between hand sanitizers is their alcohol concentration. Some hand sanitizers even are alcohol. While they seem appealing, for this reason, they are not at all practical. People choose alcohol-free hand sanitizers due to their qualities like:
- They don’t dry out the skin.
- They’re not flammable.
- They don’t smell like alcohol.
But what use they have if they are not killing germs, bacteria, and viruses. Almost all of the studies conducted by medical experts conclude that to be effective, a hand sanitizer must have at least 60% alcohol. And the same studies show that sanitizers and more are the most effective at killing germs and bacteria when used in the right way.
Myth #3: Hand sanitizer is the best way to protect against all germs.
Fact: While it is recommended that healthcare workers use hand sanitizer, it cannot kill certain germs.
Hand sanitizers will not kill the germs that cause C. diff infections, norovirus, and Cryptosporidium (the parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis).
Besides, non-alcohol-based sanitizers can contribute to certain germs becoming resistant to sanitizing agents and some antibiotics. The main antibacterial ingredient in non-alcohol based sanitizers is triclosan, which can add to bacteria growing immune to many types of medicines.
Myth #4: Anyone working in a healthcare facility — not just nurses and physicians — should use hand sanitizer to clean their hands.
Fact: It’s crucial for everyone who could have contact with patients to keep their hands clean. But there are different recommendations for different types of workers in health care facilities. Cooks, cafeteria workers, and anyone else handling food should follow the hand hygiene recommendations for the food industry. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines state that since sanitizers are not as effective when hands are wet since people handling food often have wet hands—soap and water should be used instead of sanitizer.
Various medical organizations recommend health care workers to use soap and water when:
- Hands are visibly dirty.
- Hands are visibly soiled with blood or other fluids.
- They’ve potentially been exposed to Clostridium difficile (C. diff) when the facility is experiencing an outbreak or higher rates than usual.
- They’ve possibly been exposed to patients with infectious diarrhea during an outbreak of norovirus.
- They’ve potentially been exposed to Bacillus anthracis (anthrax).
- They’ve recently used the bathroom.
- They are preparing to eat.
Myth #5: Hand sanitizer causes antibiotic resistance
Fact: No, this is entirely a misconception. The alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not include the ingredients the same as antibiotics. It works in a completely different way than antibiotics. Several medical studies suggest that antibiotic resistance occurs due to the overuse of antibiotics. If you rub a hand sanitizer on your hands, it will kill the germs by destroying their cell membrane and denaturing proteins. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer leaves no way for bacteria to stay alive and become resistant to anything.
Moreover, once the hand sanitizer has done its job, it evaporates from our hands. Bacteria and viruses can become resistant to alcohol-based hand sanitizers only when we don’t use them correctly. As recommended, you should take enough drops of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and rub it for at least 20 seconds on your hands.
GET A EXPERT ADVICE
If you have any doubt or question? Do not get confused. Ask the experts to find out which hand sanitizer would be a good choice for you. Whether it is water soap or hand sanitizer, but always keep in mind that whatever option you are choosing, they should be used in the right amount. Also, choose a trustworthy brand.
Hope this article helps you find out how hand sanitizers work. And together you must have come to know about its myths and facts.