Over the last few months, hand sanitisers have very much become an integral part of our society and the way we go about our daily lives. If we’re not carrying a small bottle with us, then we can also find sanitiser in most places we go - from supermarkets, to cafes, to the hairdressers.
Unsurprisingly, because of this huge surge in demand, sales of hand sanitiser increased by 255% in February alone. And then in March, we saw the mad rush of people stock piling sanitisers and consequently prices sky rocket in some places. But what do we actually know about hand sanitisers?
We’ve pulled together seven key facts we think you should know about hand sanitisers:
1. Hand sanitisers shouldn’t be seen as an equal substitute to soap and water
The World Health Organisation (WHO) still recommends that washing your hands with soap and warm water is still what we should be prioritising when it comes to hygiene practice. Hand sanitiser shouldn’t be seen as an equal substitute. It’s more a substitute when washing hands isn’t a feasible option.
2. 60-95% alcohol-based sanitisers are the most effective
The WHO has advised that alcohol-based sanitisers should have a minimum of 60% in alcohol content, so to be effective. There are also alcohol-free sanitisers that usually contain the ingredient benzalkonium chloride, which also provide some effectiveness in eliminating germs. These alcohol-free sanitisers are not as effective as their alcohol-based counterparts, but they do provide some protection if an individual chooses not to use alcohol-based products.
3. Hand sanitisers do not treat all germs equally
Even though hand sanitisers are great at eliminating most bacteria and viruses, it doesn’t kill them all. For example, sanitisers won’t kill germs that cause norovirus. So, we should still prioritise washing our hands with soap and water, but hand sanitisers are generally effective when washing your hands isn’t an option.
4. Hand sanitisers do not cause antibiotic resistance or ‘super germs’
The idea that hand sanitisers can cause antibiotic resistance or ‘super germs’ is a myth. The active ingredient in most sanitisers is ethyl alcohol, which works in a different way to antibiotics. Also, alcohol works to eliminate germs quite rapidly, so there would be little to no time for the germs to become exposed to it and develop a resistance to it.
5. Hand sanitiser needs to be rubbed into the hands until they become dry
Just like the washing of hands, there is a correct way to apply sanitiser. It needs to be rubbed into the hands all over until your hands become dry.
6. Most people need half a teaspoon of product for it to be effective
It’s hard to know just how much sanitiser is needed per use for it to be properly effective at killing germs. And it of course depends on the size of a person’s hands. However, most scientists seem to agree that around half a teaspoon is how much is needed per use to kill off germs.
7. It’s safe for babies and children
Hand sanitisers are safe for use on babies and children, with adult supervision. The only thing to make sure of is that their hands are completely dry afterwards, so to avoid them licking or putting their hands in their mouths.