You already know about COVID-19. After all, you are living through your worst nightmare, what with the extended lockdowns. Even those who thought work-from-home was much better than going to the office each day is craving to step outside and smell the fresh air. Everyone is waiting with bated breath for things to go back to normal. But, that’s not happening anytime soon. As reported by CNET, leaders warn that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. There is a possibility of a second wave coming real soon.
Amidst the growing concerns regarding COVID-19, the demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizers has skyrocketed across the seven continents. WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have stated that sanitizers are not just a quick fix, but its diligent use, along with maintaining the practice of social distance is possibly the best way to keep the virus away. Additionally, it is crucial to maintain one’s personal hygiene and a balanced diet to prevent the risk of getting infected, as well as, spreading the virus to others.
While almost everyone is aware of the basics before purchasing a hand sanitizer, it can get difficult to separate facts from fiction, thanks to WhatsApp University’s forwards.
So, let’s find the answers to some of the lingering questions about hand sanitizers that might have crossed your mind.
Question 1: Why 60% and above, and not 100% alcohol concentration?
Alcohol is considered to be highly effective in killing microbes, including viruses and bacteria. However, you cannot rub undiluted alcohol on your palms as that will dry out your skin or even cause irritation. This is the reason why hand sanitizers make use of Isopropyl alcohol. You can use sanitizers as frequently as you want, and it will not cause any irritation or dryness.
Studies have shown that hand sanitizers need to have at least 60% alcohol to be able to kill viruses and germs. The FDA recommends a concentration between 60% and 95% isopropanol (ethanol) alcohol to be the most effective in protecting against coronavirus. The more the alcohol concentration, the more is the sanitizer’s germicidal efficiency.
But, 100% alcohol concentration is not recommended as that leads to dryness of skin and itchiness.
Question 2: Is a pump of hand sanitizer enough to kill the virus in the hand?
Just like with water and soap, hand sanitizers are effective only when you use it in the proper way. If you don’t use the right amount or the right technique, it won’t work.
When you use a sanitizer, make sure that your hands are covered entirely. You can take a few drops in one palm of your hand and then, rub your hands together. Do not forget to rub it between your fingers as well and remember not to rub too quickly. Once the sanitizer is completely absorbed, stop only then.
However, if you are coughing or sneezing into your hands, just a pump won’t be enough to disinfect your hands. Since your hands may have been contaminated with mucous, you will need to apply more than a few drops. If water and soap are available, make sure to wash your hands properly after you’ve sneezed.
Question 3: Is making homemade sanitizers a good idea?
You might have received a number of WhatsApp forwards claiming that you can make homemade alcohol-based hand sanitizers. You may have even seen several DIY hand sanitizer videos on YouTube, including those that use hard liquor like, vodka. But, in such alcohol, the ethanol concentration is generally 30-45%, which is not very high and not enough to kill microbes. Moreover, pure alcohol evaporates quickly and fails to kill viruses or bacteria efficiently, especially when the air is not very humid.
While rubbing alcohol on scrapes and cuts could be useful, a DIY hand sanitizer is not a good idea.
Question 4: Is there an expiry date on hand sanitizers?
Unfortunately, yes. Hand sanitizers come with an expiry date, just like everything else in life. Alcohol is volatile, and therefore, it slowly evaporates with the passage of time and the sanitizer starts to lose its ability to effectively kill viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. Even though the scarcity of hand sanitizers due to the COVID-19 pandemic might make a lot of people overlook this factor, it is best if you don’t. Make sure that you’re not using a sanitizer that has already expired.
Hopefully, this clears all your doubts regarding hand sanitizers. Make sure to get sanitizers with more than 60% alcohol concentration, preferably between 80 and 95% as you need to defeat the deadly coronavirus.
Question 5: Are hand sanitizers more effective than washing hands using water and soap?
Even though hand sanitizers have somewhat become a staple today, they are not a replacement to soap and water. So, do not use hand sanitizers as a substitute. If soap/hand wash and water are available, make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. For maintaining proper hand hygiene, it is important that you wash your hands using an antibacterial soap or hand wash.
Coming to hand sanitizers, they’re waterless solutions and perfect for use when water and soap are not easily available. You can carry hand sanitizer bottles in your pocket, bag or car. They are a quick fix to eliminate germs and saves you the trouble of looking for soap and water when you are camping or out on the road.
However, water scarcity is a real issue in today’s world. This is why you are recommended to use hand sanitizers frequently even when you are home in lockdown. But, also make it a point to wash your hand with soap and water in between using hand sanitizers. This will make sure that your hands are clean and germ-free.
Friendly advice: Do not drink hand sanitizers. They don’t work that way. They’re only for your hands.