What Is Hand Sanitizer And How It Works

What Is Hand Sanitizer And How It Works

Hand sanitizer (or also named handrub, hand rub or hand antiseptic) is a substance you apply on your hands to remove bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms that can cause disease. As a result, you prevent different kinds of germs from entering your body (by touching your nose, eyes, and mouth).

There are several forms of hand sanitizers available, starting from gels to wipes.

Basically, it is advised to use hand sanitizers when you cannot access water and soap, or you simply are on the go. There are plenty of cases when hand sanitizers can be a very good alternative to washing your hands.

Hand sanitizers are widely used in many places, starting from schools, day-cares to clinics, and even supermarkets.

The effectiveness of hand sanitizers depends on several factors starting from the type of the product used like alcohol-based or alcohol-free and, of course, the method you use it.  None hand sanitizer will work if not applied as directed (including the amount applied, duration of applying, and the method used).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using hand sanitizers containing at least 60% of alcohol as a lower percentage would dramatically reduce its effectiveness and protection properties.

In simple words, the alcohol-based hand sanitizer destroys the outer layer of viruses and bacteria, causing them to break apart. So if you are using alcohol-based hand sanitizers as directed, it might kill even up to 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Another great advantage of hand sanitizers is that you will reduce the risk of spreading different types of germs to other people, which is incredibly crucial at the difficult period of coronavirus pandemic we all live in now.

There will be cases when you are not advised to use hand sanitizer, for example, if your hands are visibly dirty, as in such cases it simply will not provide you with the necessary protection against pathogens.

In cases when it is not possible to wash your hands with water, hand sanitizers can significantly help to reduce the prevalence of many diseases. Still, you have to keep in mind that they are not capable of killing all types of bacteria and viruses.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer would work pretty well in killing:

  • enveloped viruses (for example, flu (influenza virus), coronavirus),
  • fungi,
  • bacteria.

However, hand sanitizers would not be effective against:

  • non-enveloped viruses (for example, Norovirus which causes vomiting and diarrhea),
  • encysted parasites (for example, Giardia),
  • Cryptosporidium (parasite),
  • Clostridium difficile (bacteria that causes diarrhea and colitis),
  • bacterial spores.

Main forms of hand sanitizers include:

  • Gels,
  • Foams,
  • Liquids,
  • Sprays,
  • Wipes,
  • Lotions,
  • Pens.

They might vary from alcohol-based to all-natural products. There actually is not a big difference in the brand you choose or even in the form of hand sanitizer, if it contains at least 60% alcohol, you are good to go.

There are small hand sanitizer items available, which you can easily take with you in your pocket or purse or even on your keychain.

One of the common mistakes people make when applying hand sanitizers is not using enough sanitizer to clean hands or to wipe it off before sanitizer has dried. In these cases, your hands would not be properly protected against pathogens.