What is Hand Sanitiser? Frequently Asked Questions
Hand sanitiser has been a part of daily life for almost everyone over the last two years. A convenient alternative when a sink isn’t nearby, hand sanitiser has helped everyone do their part to slow the spread of Covid-19 by keeping their hands clean.
But sanitising hand gel has been around for much longer than the Covid-19 pandemic and has been a useful tool in cutting through the cycle of infection of other diseases like flu and common colds. Get a thorough understanding of what exactly hand sanitiser is in this article.
What is hand sanitiser?
What is hand sanitiser gel? Hand sanitiser, sometimes called hand gel, hand rub, hand antiseptic, or hand disinfectant, is a substance used to kill germs, bacteria, virus cells, pathogens, and other microorganisms on the hands.
Hand gel is designed to be used when no soap and water are available and so doesn’t require rinsing or drying off of the hands.
What is hand gel made of?
Hand sanitiser usually comes as a foam, liquid, or ‘easy-flowing gel’ (a gel that turns to a viscous liquid quickly). The main components of hand gel are alcohol, water, and emollients.
What is in alcohol hand gel?
|Alcohol: either ethanol, isopropanol or n-propanol at a concentration of 60-80%|
|Water: sterile or distilled.|
|Emollients: oils or moisturisers to combat the drying effects of alcohol.|
|Additional antiseptics: occasionally other antiseptics are included like chlorhexidine or quaternary ammonium derivatives.|
|Sporicides: occasionally sporicides like hydrogen peroxides are added to eliminate bacterial spores present from other ingredients.|
|Colourants, foaming agents, perfumes.|
What does hand sanitiser do?
The alcohol content of hand gel reduces the number of bacteria, pathogens, and virus cells on our hands. This means stopping the cycle of transmitting infectious materials from one person to another via touchpoints.
How does hand sanitiser kill bacteria?
Alcohol is the key to how hand sanitiser works. The active ingredient in hand gel is alcohol. Clinical Microbial Reviews tells us that alcohol breaks down cells into pieces, destroys their membranes, and affects their metabolism to kill them.
Antibacterial hand sanitiser of as little as 30% concentration is enough to start destroying these cells, but the concentration at which alcoholic kills enough cells to properly disinfect the surface begins at 60%. Its effectiveness increases as the alcohol content increases.
How does alcohol-free hand sanitiser work?
Alcohol-free hand sanitiser is often made with benzalkonium chloride, povidone-iodine or triclosan, antiseptic and antibacterial agents. Alcohol-free hand gels work in a similar way to alcohol-based ones but they are less effective. Additionally, the alcohol in a hand gel acts as a preservative, keeping the gel sterile in its bottle, whereas non-alcoholic hand gel is more prone to contamination before even being used.
Alcohol-free sanitisers may be effective when used immediately on skin but could become contaminated over time as they do not contain an in-solution preservative.
What is hand sanitiser used for?
The primary function of hand sanitiser is to disinfect your hands if you do not have access to soap and water. However, if you can’t get to a sink, a hand sanitiser is a convenient way to sterilise your hands. Here are some instances when hand sanitiser should be used:
- When using public transport.
- When entering a shop, bar, restaurant, or cafe.
- At the gym.
Is hand sanitiser bad for you?
For those asking ‘are hand sanitisers safe?’ hand sanitiser is not bad for you when used correctly. Using hand sanitiser too much can lead to drying out of the skin, leading to a higher chance of contamination and even infection if the skin breaks. Using a hand gel with moisturising properties is important to avoid this.
Is hand sanitiser toxic?
Hand sanitiser can be toxic if ingested, The British Medical Journal has reported, following two deaths from swallowing hand gel. The alcohol in hand sanitiser is not the same and the alcohol found in drinks. If you have ingested hand gel you should treat it as an emergency and call 999.
Are all hand sanitisers the same?
All hand sanitisers aim to produce the same effect, which is to neutralise potentially infectious substances that can be picked up as we touch things in day to day life. But not all hand sanitisers are the same, in fact, they can vary quite a lot.
Hand sanitisers may be made with different types of alcohol or none at all, they may have different alcohol content, they might contain emollients, or colours and fragrances. All of these factors can affect how well the hand gel works, and how pleasant it is to use so it’s important to do some research before buying a hand sanitiser.
What is the best hand sanitiser?
When looking for a good quality hand sanitiser that will provide the best level of protection look for the following:
- Alcohol content of 60% minimum.
- Testing to conform to EN1500 Standard, a test that evaluates the efficacy of hand rubs.
- Emollients that protect the skin with moisturising properties.
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