Why hand sanitiser is so effective against coronavirus
As a global community we’ve been fighting to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since the start of the year, and that battle is finally reaching a turning point. As the number of infections begins to slow, we have to consider how we continue to stay healthy as a community, and a big part of that is PPE.
The first thing people think of when discussing PPE is disposable face masks and protective goggles. However, one of the most effective methods of reducing the risk of coronavirus infection is antibacterial hand gel, or any hand sanitiser gel used for hand sanitising. The World Health Organisation recommend you wash your hands frequently to stop the spread of germs.
Even before the discovery of germs, washing your hands properly has repeatedly been linked to your general health and wellbeing. Louis Pasteur made massive in-roads in identifying germs between 1860 and 1864, emphasising that you had to wash your hands with plain soap and water. Even in the decades before Pasteur's research poor hand hygiene had also been linked to an increased risk of infection.
In 1966 the first patent was filed for an alcohol hand sanitiser, and since then the popularity of hand sanitising has grown massively. After the initial shortage following lockdown, thankfully it’s now far easier to buy hand sanitiser, including in our PPE shop. Let's break down what makes hand sanitiser such a necessity against COVID-19.
What is hand sanitiser?
Using hand sanitiser gel versus everyday antibacterial soap to prevent the spread of germs is still quite new, especially outside of hospitals. Alcohol hand sanitiser only really became widespread in use in the 1980s, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only seen its ubiquity increase further.
The most pertinent questions are what is hand sanitiser, and how does it differ from plain soap and water? Well, most hand sanitisers are alcohol based (though there are some alcohol-free forms), and are designed to be rubbed into the skin. The alcohol content means that hand sanitiser gel will usually be absorbed or evaporate rapidly.
The traditional blend of a hand sanitiser is alcohol, water, and an emollient to help prevent skin irritation. This hand sanitising mixture then helps remove common pathogens from the skin, including coronavirus and other germs and bacteria. It's an effective way to ensure you wash your hands consistently while out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What hand sanitiser works best?
You can split hand sanitiser into two broad categories: alcohol-free hand sanitiser, and alcohol based hand sanitise. The vast majority of hand gels have some level of alcohol content. In nearly all studies that have been performed alcohol based hand sanitiser outperforms alcohol-free hand gels every time.
The use of alcohol as an antiseptic dates back to 1363. Alcohol's properties for preventing infection were very widely known as a means to stay healthy before its use in antibacterial hand gel. This also plays a part in choosing what hand gel to buy. Some hand sanitisers have quite a low alcohol percentage, which greatly reduces their efficacy.
Based on advice from the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we’d always recommend choosing a hand sanitiser with at least a 60% alcohol content. Any lower and the pathogens might not be exposed to the alcohol for long enough to ensure their removal. Our signature antibacterial hand gel contains 70% alcohol as standard.
How should I use hand sanitiser?
Using alcohol based hand sanitiser is not something you should do constantly throughout your day. Washing your hands properly too frequently can lead to its own issues. You can dry your hands out, get cracked skin, and remove essential oils your skin needs to protect itself. To stop the spread of coronavirus, we must still consider the safety of our skin.
So how often should you use hand sanitiser? We’d recommend using it as soon as you get home after you’ve ventured outside, and always before you make the mistake of touching your face. Then, it’s just a matter of common sense; using it before eating, or after coming into contact with someone else.
Simply apply a couple of compressions of hand sanitiser to your hands, and rub it in thoroughly. That means between your fingers and the back of your hands—not just your palms! Do that for 15-20 seconds, or until the gel has disappeared, and you should be clear of all unwanted germs and bacteria.
Hand sanitiser isn't a replacement for washing your hands with antibacterial soap. It's a means of effectively countering the spread of germs and bacteria in line with World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. If you really want to stop the spread of coronavirus, make sure you're equipped with antibacterial hand gel.
Practicing proper hand hygiene
If antibacterial hand gel isn't the only part of practicing proper hand hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic, then what else can we do to stay healthy? Any effective method for stopping the spread of germs on a national scale relies on two core things: soap and water. The importance of washing your hands properly cannot be understated.
You can also limit your contact with coronavirus where possible when in public. Since COVID-19 lives on surfaces for up to five days, avoid touching anything when possible, particularly door handles. Door handles are often a breeding ground for germs since so many people come into contact with them each day.
Blowing your nose hygienically is also important. When blowing your nose, either in public or at home, make sure to use a tissue, dispose of it quickly, and use hand sanitiser as soon as possible. Likewise don't touch any surfaces, clothing or door handles if possible, and sanitise them after if necessary.
Washing your hands with plain soap and water
The process for washing your hands with regular soap rather than hand sanitiser (as recommended by the UK government, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organisation) is as follows.
Wet your hands under running water, before applying a lather using soap. Preferably use antibacterial soap when washing your hands, although plain soap is also effective. Rub your hands together firmly to create a consistent lather, ensuring that you achieve full coverage.
Use one hand to rub the back of the other hand and clean in between the fingers, before repeating on the other side. Clean between your fingers thoroughly, as well as the back of your palms and around your thumb. This ensures the antibacterial soap reaches all potential contamination points.
You should rub your hands together with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds, making sure you rub your hands thoroughly. A helpful way of timing this is to sing Happy Birthday twice. Once you're sure you've achieved total coverage you can then rinse your hands clean under running water.
When you dry your hands, it's advised you use a disposable paper towel. That way any remaining germs are disposed of in the paper towel, avoiding future cross-contamination. Every step is important to ensure we all stay healthy.
In short, this is the process to follow for good hand hygiene:
- Wet your hands under running water
- Apply antibacterial soap or regular soap
- Rub your hands together thoroughly
- Time this for 20 seconds (2 x sing Happy Birthday)
- Rinse your hands clean
- Dry your hands using a paper towel
Buying hand sanitiser
Washing your hands properly, both with antibacterial hand gel and regular soap is essential in stopping the spread of coronavirus. If you’re looking for hand sanitiser to prevent the spread of coronavirus then you should be buying 60%+ alcohol hand sanitiser. That’s why our best hand sanitiser has a 70% alcohol rate. You can buy hand sanitiser here.
Because we’re dedicated to your safety, we also stock a wide range of other PPE options. We provide certified equipment, including KN95 masks, defensive goggles, face shields and thermometers. Prioritising your safety during the COVID-19 pandemic means prioritising the health and safety all of those around you.