Everyone knows it’s essential to wash your hands regularly, especially during a pandemic like we’re experiencing right now. Clean hands reduce our likelihood of contracting coronavirus and other diseases. But it’s not always possible to run to the bathroom every time we touch something new, especially when we’re out of our homes and therefore most likely to be exposed to germs. Hand sanitiser keeps you hygienic— and protected— in the meantime.
What people don’t know is that not all hand sanitisers are equally effective. In fact, many people have been tricked into purchasing hand sanitisers that will not kill the coronavirus simply because they assume all hand sanitisers are the same. You need to know the truth about hand sanitiser so that you can make an informed decision for you and your loved ones.
Why vodka is better in a cocktail than as a hand sanitiser
People have been getting creative in the face of shortages of hand sanitisers, using alcohol-free hand sanitisers or even vodka. Unfortunately, that’s a bad idea— one that can lead to infection. According to the and the , hand sanitiser should be at least 60% alcohol in order to kill a majority of germs. Alcohol at this concentration can kill almost all bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including the coronavirus. Lower percents of alcohol cannot kill all the germs, even in commercially made and sold hand sanitiser.
So why not just use alcohol you can drink? Most vodkas are only 80 proof, which is 40% alcohol, and most other spirits are in the same range. This won’t break down the structure of enveloped viruses like Covid-19. You won’t kill the virus— or many other germs.
If 60% alcohol is good, why isn’t even more alcohol better?
If hand sanitisers that are 60% are good at killing germs, wouldn’t 90% or even 100% alcohol be even better? Surprisingly no. While higher alcohol concentrations do kill some rare germs better, the optimal concentration of alcohol to kill most bacteria, viruses (including coronaviruses), and fungi is a range that begins with 60% alcohol. Higher levels won’t kill those infections any better.
Hand sanitisers with incredibly high concentrations of alcohol come with trade-offs. You see, hand sanitisers with concentrations between 60-70% alcohol also contain emollients, ingredients that moisturise your hands. The higher the per cent alcohol, the more drying the hand sanitiser. Since alcohol is incredibly drying, these gels cannot be used regularly without damaging your hands. shows that you can actually make yourself more vulnerable to disease after using such cleansers.
How to make sure your hand sanitiser is killing all the germs possible
Of course, even proper-strength hand sanitiser can’t kill diseases if you don’t use it correctly. First, you need to make sure to apply enough cleanser to your hands to cover the entire surface. You can’t just use a tiny drop of hand sanitiser and expect it to be enough. Second, you must rub all hand sanitiser in for the gel to kill germs. That means you can’t simply wave hands dry after applying.
Instead, follow the WHO-recommended procedures for hand sanitiser:
- Apply the amount recommended on the label to your palm
- Rub your palms together to divide gel
- Continue to rub your hands together as you would wash your hands, ensuring that every surface of the fingers and hands is moistened
- Do not stop rubbing hands until they are fully dry, which should take about 20 seconds
Following these procedures optimises the benefits of hand sanitiser, killing as many germs as possible.
If you want to stay safe and healthy, hand sanitiser is crucial— so long as you choose the right one. Not all hand sanitisers are created equal, but with this information, you can select the gels that protect you best.