Across Australia, hand sanitiser has been selling out in shops for several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Variations in alcohol levels mean some brands aren’t providing adequate protection against the virus. While there are tens of thousands of products marketed as hand sanitiser, not all are equal.
The Department of Health recommends washing your hands with soap and water whenever possible to reduce the amount and types of germs on your hands. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitiser is the next best thing. You can use it to minimise illness and spreading germs to other people.
How do you know which hand sanitiser product to choose? Keep reading for a guide for properly using hand sanitiser and how to choose the best hand sanitiser in Australia.
How Hand Sanitiser Works
When hand sanitisers first hit the market, there wasn’t much research showing what they were or weren’t capable of. Scientists are always researching, so we’re learning more all of the time.
Alcohol kills microbes by dissolving their protective outer layer of proteins and obstructing their metabolism. The active ingredient in hand sanitiser is isopropyl alcohol, ethanol or n-propanol alcohol, or a combination of both.
Research shows that hand sanitisers disinfect as effectively as washing your hands in hot, soapy water unless your hands are greasy or visibly dirty. Hand sanitiser can also not remove harmful chemicals from your hands.
There are some common germs that sanitisers can’t kill, such as:
- Clostridium difficile
Benefits of Using Hand Sanitiser
If you’re not convinced that you need to add hand sanitiser to your shopping list just yet, you may want to after learning more about the benefits of the germ-fighter.
This benefit shouldn’t surprise you. The first benefit of hand sanitiser is basic: it sanitises. Designed to kill germs, sanitisers get the job done when used properly—eliminating up to 99.9% of the germs on your hands.
Teachers, office workers, and students can use it periodically during the day to kill germs without having to leave their office or classroom. Those who go to the gym can use a pump of hand sanitiser gel before switching workout machines.
While some companies have been accused of making unproven claims against Ebola, e. Coli, salmonella, rotavirus, influenza, and MRSA, studies are beginning to suggest that hand sanitisers are effective at killing these germs.
- A study on hospital-borne infections shows that “alcohol-based hand rub” by patients’ bedsides may help reduce the spread of MRSA.
- In Japan, hand sanitiser was used intensively in response to a flu pandemic and seemed to have reduced short-term rates of norovirus.
- Use of hand sanitisers in elementary schools cut absences due to illness by 26%. It also reduced confirmed cases of the influenza A virus by 52%.
- In 2018, a study on daycare centres discovered that when hand sanitisers are introduced to staff, children, and parents, the overall days missed due to overall illness dropped.
It’s impossible to take a sink on the go. When you’re out and about, there won’t always be convenient access to soap and water. Hand sanitisers often come in smaller, portable bottles. For these situations, it’s easy to slip some hand sanitiser into your glove compartment, purse, or pocket.
Having hand sanitiser on your person is great when you’re eating food bought at a sporting event or are just leaving a public place, such as a grocery store.
Minimises Exposure to Germs
To stay healthy, you must minimise your exposure to other people’s germs—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season.
Each time you sanitise your hands, you’re reducing your chances of falling ill. Even quick trips, such as to a friend’s house or to the bank, can expose you to germs that can cause several illnesses. It’s crucial to keep your hands as clean as possible to remain healthy.
When to Use a Hand Sanitiser
While it’s always better to wash your hands, there are specific situations when hand sanitiser is convenient. Use hand sanitiser when:
- You don’t have access to a sink with soap and running water.
- You want added protection after washing your hands.
Basically, use hand sanitiser whenever you want to feel clean, but can’t otherwise disinfect your hands. It’s not going to hurt, but it won’t be as effective as hand-washing.
How to Use Hand Sanitiser
When using hand sanitiser, apply the product into one of your palms. Read the label carefully so that you know how much to pour.
Then, rub your hands together, making sure to cover your entire hand and wrist—including between your fingers. Don’t stop rubbing in the sanitiser until your skin is dry. If you stop rubbing before it dries, you may wipe it off accidentally.
It’s not recommended to use hand sanitiser after it has expired. You should find an expiration date on the label or printed on the bottom of the container. If you can’t find an expiration date, it’s safe to assume that it will expire approximately three years after you purchase it.
When the alcohol evaporates from hand sanitiser over time, it reduces its potency. You want to be sure the sanitiser you’re using is effective, so toss it out and buy a new one if you’re unsure how old it is.
How Not to Use Hand Sanitiser
There are ways to incorrectly use hand sanitiser. Don’t rely on hand sanitiser if:
- You can otherwise wash your hands with soap and water.
- Your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
- You have potent chemicals on your hands.
- You’ve been possibly exposed to infectious agents that do not respond to hand sanitiser.
- You’re at risk in a high-infection situation.
One of the most common mistakes people make is not dispensing enough hand sanitiser in their hand. When hands become very dirty (like after playing in dirt or mud), sanitiser won’t work as well. In cases like that, it’s always best to choose soap and water.
What to Look for in Hand Sanitiser
When choosing a hand sanitiser, pick one with at least 60% alcohol. Most hand sanitisers contain between 60-95% alcohol—but don’t assume that those with higher percentages are most effective. To be effective, sanitisers need to contain some water.
There are some products on the market that claim to sanitise your hands but are not effective at all. These will not offer you adequate protection. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many alcohol-free products are selling out.
At first glance, it can be hard to tell which products are less than ideal. Many product packaging won’t mention “alcohol-free,” but the back contains small print that lists benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Somewhere, you’ll find the words “alcohol-free formula.”
While alcohol-free hand sanitisers shouldn’t be your first choice, they’re better than nothing when products are in short supply.
Why You Shouldn’t Skip Hand Washing
We’ve said it again and again, but hand washing is still the number one way to minimise germs on your hands—especially when preparing food and before eating.
You should also always wash your hands after coughing and sneezing, blowing your nose, using the restroom, touching or cleaning up after an animal, handling the garbage, and changing a diaper.
To wash your hands correctly, you must:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water. Then, apply soap.
- Rup your hands together while lathering and scrubbing well. Don’t forget to scrub the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Count to 20 while washing your hands. Some people like to sing “Happy Birthday” twice or the “ABC” song once to pass the time.
- Rise your hands under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands on a clean towel or air dry. Don’t wipe your hands on your clothes to dry them.
Time to Stock Up
Not only do hand sanitisers fight germs efficiently, but it’s convenient as well. Using it regularly will improve your cleanliness and help prevent exposure to others if you are sick.
You can never have enough hand sanitiser, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of any hand sanitiser sales.
To maintain employment and bolster supplies nationwide, we’ve reallocated resources to produce high-quality, 70% v/v ethanol v/v hand sanitiser.
We recognise the importance of making useful and quality products for our customers. Not only is our sanitiser formula ideal for use in offices, hospitality, shops, airports, and other public areas, but our spray is excellent for cleaning device screens as well! Both the spray and gel formulas are nourishing and fast-drying—so your hands will feel clean and moisturised—while killing germs fast.
Click here to check out our selection of products designed to keep you and your family healthy and safe.