Usage of hand sanitizer has gone viral worldwide since the outbreak of COVID 19. Sanitizer is effective in killing germs like bacteria and viruses. Hand sanitizer is an alternative to handwashing with soap and water. Both work to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus, but hand sanitizer is more convenient. How does hand sanitizer work?
Have You Ever Wondered How Hand Sanitizer Works?
Ingredients such as ethanol, benzalkonium chloride, or isopropanol are needed for a hand sanitizer to work effectively. However, not all companies are using the ingredients safely unfortunately. Prior to making a hand sanitizer purchase, always research the manufacturing company and the ingredients they are using. Don’t get caught buying product that is already red flagged.
The main germ-killing ingredient in hand sanitizers is alcohol. Alcohols are compounds made up of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. According to scientific journals, alcohol kills germs by interfering with cells’ metabolism, breaking cells into pieces, or destroying the cells’ proteins.
Studies have shown that the higher the concentration of alcohol in the hand sanitizers, the higher the effectiveness. Proper hand sanitizers are the ones that contain at least 60% alcohol, and it works better if the concentration is higher than 60%. Alcohol kills a broad category of viruses and bacteria, with optimal activity at levels between 90-95%.
When you apply hand sanitizer, it works by removing the outer oil layer on the skin. Therefore, if you use a little amount of hand sanitizer, or don’t rub it well, not all the germs will be killed. Also, keep in mind that greasy or dirty hands reduce the effectiveness of hand sanitizers. Moreover, ensure you don’t use hand sanitizers with less than 60% alcohol.
Using hand sanitizer does not keep you safe from every kind of infection because alcohol does not kill all kinds of germs. For instance, hand sanitizer will not be effective against norovirus, which causes nausea, high fevers and stomach pains. Also, hand sanitizers are not entirely effective against things like pesticides that may be on your skin.
Some small scale studies have shown that hand sanitizers free from alcohol, but contain about 0.13% of benzalkonium chloride, may be more effective in killing bacteria. However, according to Hazardous Substance Databases, benzalkonium chloride, specifically at higher concentrations, may not be safe.
Hand sanitizers with alcohol are considered safe because they do not have a toxic effect on the skin. Some research demonstrates that, for a virus, sanitizers work by destroying the virus’s outer coat, whereas for bacteria, it works by breaking the cell membranes. Furthermore, using hand sanitizer reduces the pathogen burden on the skin by lowering the number of bacteria.
It would be best to know how hand sanitizer types work to make sure you purchase the right ones for use at home or work. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers should not replace soap and water. however, if it is complemented with consistent handwashing, it would significantly help fight many germs and Covid-19.