Hand sanitizer is a quick and effective way to reduce germs. Designed to be used on our hands, this type of sanitizer contains a significant amount of alcohol. For community settings where hand washing is not available, sanitizer can help individuals stay healthy. Although this is an effective method for killing germs, hand sanitizer is not perfect when it comes to avoiding illness.
1.) Hand sanitizer will not prevent infections. While it may kill a significant amount of germs, hand sanitizer is not the best way to prevent infections. Washing hands with regular soap and water for at least 20 seconds is especially advised after using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing and before eating.
2.) Hand sanitizers do not eliminate all germs. There are multiple types of germs that can be exposed to the human body. Cryptosporidium and clostridium difficile are two types of germs that are easier to remove with soap and water. While alcoholic hand sanitizer can reduce many microbes, it must be used thoroughly and for the correct amount of time.
3.) Hand sanitizer does not last forever. Hand sanitizers do have expiration dates. Most hand sanitizers will contain active ingredients that may not be effective after two to three years. While sanitizers can make a positive impact after they have expired, their effectiveness is greatly reduced. Once a hand sanitizer has been expired, it’s safest to purchase a new one rather than finish the previous bottle.
4.) Some sanitizers are more effective than others. Hand sanitizers can use varying degrees of alcohol and other active ingredients. Those that contain over 60% of alcohol are the highest recommended sanitizers for killing germs. Hand sanitizers that have less than 60% alcohol can still reduce the growth of germs, but they are not usually able to eliminate them. Sanitizers that have benzalkonium chloride are not recommended against viruses.
5.) Using hand sanitizer is not the same as cleaning your hands. Hand sanitizer is effective at killing some germs, however it should not be used as a substitute for washing. When hands are visibly dirty or have been exposed to contaminants, washing hands is best. Even when hands are not visibly dirty, they can still carry germs that hand sanitizer may not be able to kill.
6.) Hand sanitizer can cause a negative reaction in some people. Those who are allergic to hand sanitizer may experience a rash or bumpy, irritated skin. While most people do not experience serious reactions, they can occur. If an individual experiences a break out or skin discoloration, they should seek medical care. Hand sanitizer should never be ingested.
7.) Hand sanitizers are not the same as disinfectant cleaners. Surface cleaners, sometimes known as disinfectant cleaners, are separate from hand sanitizer. Household cleaners should never be used for cleaning the skin as they may cause serious irritation or an allergic reaction. Disinfectant sprays cannot be used interchangeably with hand sanitizer.
8.) Adding alcohol to hand sanitizer is not an effective way to kill more germs. Hand sanitizers that have less than 60% alcohol eliminate less germs. This does not mean that an individual can add alcohol to make it more powerful. When looking for a strong hand sanitizer, shop for types that already contain more than 60% alcohol.
Hand sanitizer can reduce and eliminate germs. How many germs are eliminated depends on the type, how it is used, and the content. Hand sanitizer alone cannot effectively kill every germ all of the time. While hand sanitizers are advised in public settings or when there is little opportunity to clean, hand washing is still the primary way to reduce hand germs.