Hand sanitizers have a long history in medical settings. However, the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize the importance of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in avoiding infection. When our lives rely so much on it, let’s have a look at how far do we know the product we’ve been using daily to keep the virus at bay!
- Not all hand sanitizers are alcohol-based. While an alcohol-based hand sanitizer contains ethanol, IPA (for IPA hand sanitizer), n-propanol, the alcohol-free counterpart contains Quaternary ammonium compounds such as Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) as an antimicrobial agent (Alcohol-free hand sanitizers can reduce microbes, but cannot kill viruses such as Coronavirus).
- Alcohol disrupts protein structure and destroys viral envelope and bacterial cell wall. Without the protein capsule, a viral genetic material cannot enter its human host and infect it. A similar scenario applies to the Novel Coronavirus causing COVID-19.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are fast. A sanitizer containing at least 70% alcohol kills 99.9% of germs within 30 seconds of application and 99.99%-99.999% of germs within one minute.
- Alcohols are highly inflammable. So, you need to store them away from heat or open fire. Also, do not get close to a fire source soon after applying alcohol-based hand rub. Wait until the flammable alcohol evaporates and hands become dry.
- Alcohols are also a dehydrating agent. That’s why most alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain moisturizing substances (glycerine or aloe vera gel) to counter the dehydrating effects on your skin and keep it hydrated.
- Initially, sanitizers were used to disinfect hands and medical instruments in healthcare settings. In 2002, the CDC and in 2009 WHO recommended the use of alcohol-based hand rubs as an effective alternative for soap & water to disinfect hands.
- As alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain a high amount of alcohol, ingesting it can be dangerous and lead to alcohol poisoning. You can observe effects like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, especially in children.
- Although hand sanitizers kill most of the viruses and bacteria, it has limitations too. They are less effective against certain pathogens like norovirus and Clostridium dificile.
- Studies suggested that the germ-killing ability of alcohol increases with increasing alcohol concentration. Alcohol concentration exceeding 60% kills a wide range of viruses and bacteria faster reaching its limit up to 90-95% of concentration.
- The effectiveness of hand sanitizers lasts for 2 minutes only. It doesn’t mean you apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer every two minutes. Apply it frequently while you touch too many surfaces and when chances for contamination are high.
- Hand sanitizer doesn’t expire! Alcohol can sustain for a very long time if you keep them in a sealed container at room temperature. However, alcohol is volatile due to its low boiling point. Therefore, opening and closing your hand sanitizer bottle might help some of the alcohol escape. Eventually, the alcohol concentration gradually decreases, so does its germ-killing capability.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer has other health benefits too. It helps to soothe itchiness caused by mosquito bites and helps you to get rid of pimple or zits.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good stain remover and shining agent. You can wash splattered walls and stained clothes. Also, remove fingerprint smudges and make phone screens and glasses shiner with few drops of it.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is fast, effective and a good alternative for soap & water in hand hygiene. It has become an important part of the healthcare system an helps to restrict many diseases like COVID-19.