As the pandemic hits every part of the world, we must take extra precautions in safeguarding our health. It can get pretty overwhelming, though, to think about all the safety protocols in protecting ourselves and others from the virus. Because of this, we often take for granted the most basic hygiene protocol, if not the most essential – hand hygiene.
Hand hygiene is a habit that we need to start and maintain with or without a pandemic. It washes away germs and chemicals from our hands which are most susceptible as carriers because of surfaces that we touch. We can transfer these germs without even realizing it. Hand hygiene can be in the form of handwashing, which should be the topmost priority according to the CDC. Or if soap and water are not accessible, then hand sanitizer is the way to go.
We all know that handwashing is the most effective way of disinfecting and killing germs on our hands. It may make you wonder, are hand sanitizers even essential to hand hygiene? If so, can this replace handwashing?
Are hand sanitizers essential?
Whether in the form of hand sanitizer gels or alcohol hand sanitizers, sanitizers have a bad rap because others claim that it promotes antibacterial resistance. But this has not been proven. There is no evidence that antimicrobial products such as hand sanitizers are harmful or have adverse effects even in hospitals.
CDC recommends alcohol-based hand sanitizers because of their convenience, especially when soap and water are not available. It is better than not disinfecting your hands at all. Imagine having to wash your hands every time you sneeze or cough. That can be bothersome, if not too difficult, especially when you are outdoors or in a community setting. It can quickly decrease microbes in some situations as well.
Can you use any hand sanitizer in the market?
Be aware that not all hand sanitizers that you see in the market are effective in killing germs. CDC points out that for a hand sanitizer to be effective, it needs to contain at least 60% to 95% alcohol and must be used properly. This Microshield Angel Blue from Schulke has 70% Absolute Ethanol that does not leave your hands dry, and more importantly, kills bacteria even without water.
Do not just purchase hand sanitizers, hand disinfectants, or disinfectant liquid that you can get your hands on. Anything that contains less than 60% alcohol wouldn’t do anything for you. These are useless in fighting germs.
How do you use them properly?
We have this misconception that we can use hand sanitizers any way we want, and it would be effective just the same. However, there is a proper way to use it and ensure that we get the most benefits out of it.
First, read the label to determine the right amount to use because any less would decrease its efficacy. Second, rub the gel all over your hands’ surfaces. Then let it dry without wiping or washing it off. You must leave the product on for a significant amount of time for it to be effective.
Can hand disinfectants replace handwashing?
Hand sanitizers can have a lot of benefits, but they should never replace handwashing. They are also not effective in washing off chemicals such as pesticides or heavy metals such as lead.
Be aware that if you have heavily soiled or greasy hands, maybe from gardening, handling food, or playing sports, hand sanitizers would not be effective as well. As much as possible, wash your hands with soap and water in these kinds of settings.
At the end of the day, all of us should be proactive in maintaining cleanliness whether we are indoors or outdoors. It wouldn’t hurt to place hand sanitizers in convenient locations such as inside the car, at the entrance of your workplace, even inside your bag for better access. Using these disinfectants may be trivial to some, but it is one step towards ensuring protection for you and the people around you.