Truth Revealed: How Effective are Hand Sanitizers?
Before grabbing a snack from the deli or touching your face, it's good practice to sanitize your hands. This is especially important when you have a long shift in groceries, hospitals, offices and other workplaces. You've been exposed to all kinds of microbes. The last thing you want is to allow these potentially pathogenic organisms to enter your body and cause all kinds of health mishaps.
While washing hands is considered ideal, it's not really practical to carry around bar soaps let alone locate the nearest bathroom sink. For most people, using personal hand sanitizers is the most practical choice.
But does it really work? How effective are hand sanitizers? How do you use it to maximize its benefits? Get answers as you read on.
Are hand sanitizers effective? What the experts say...
Sanitizers are among the most in-demand products in the world. Data from Allied Market Research reveals that the world hand sanitizer market in 2016 was valued at $919 million and was projected to grow by up to 9.9% by 2023.
Accurately enough, recent events have caused the sales of sanitizer to surge by up to 80.7% in drugstores and 57.9% in multi-outlets compared to the previous year.
The demand for sanitizing products continues to increase because it's not only useful for individuals; commercial establishments use them to prevent the spread of germs from one person to another. There are also plenty of brands that customize hand sanitizers and give them away as promotional giveaways.
The big question is whether it can effectively clean your hands. Is it really worth the hype?
Experts say that it all depends on the product's content. Not all hand sanitizing gels and sprays are made equal. They can contain varying concentrations of alcohol. Some alcohol-based gels contain ethyl alcohol while others make use of isopropyl alcohol.
Others can even have additional antiseptic or antimicrobial ingredients such as triclosan, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and eucalyptus essences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insist on using sanitizing products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Products with lower concentrations of alcohol aren't as helpful in keeping your hands free from disease-causing microbes.
How to maximize the effectiveness of hand sanitizers
Besides looking at the amount of alcohol found in your sanitizing products, you also need to learn how to use it properly. As much as possible, avoid following the routine below:
Putting a pea-sized amount of sanitizing gel on the hands.
Quickly clapping the hands together to spread the product.
Forgetting to let the product dry before using the hands to eat or to touch one's face.
Are you guilty of making the same mistake? Thousands to millions of people fail to sanitize their hands correctly. Many are not aware that they do very little to protect themselves from germs or spreading illnesses because of how they sanitize their hands.
The correct way to do things involves the following steps:
Start by wiping away dirt or grease from your palms and fingertips.
Apply the prescribed amount on the entire surface of your hands.
Rub it on for at least 10 seconds and make sure to apply it evenly.
Wait until the product dries up completely.
Do hand sanitizers expire?
Proper hand sanitizer application is indeed a crucial factor that affects the potency of the product. But there's one more factor that you shouldn't overlook, and that is the product expiration date.
When you purchase sanitizing solutions, see to it that you read the label. Look for the manufacturing and expiration dates. These should be printed somewhere on the packaging or on the bottom part of the bottle. Generally, hand sanitizing sprays and gels expire two to three years after the manufacturing date.
Stay away from products with a nearing expiration date. Unless you can use up the whole bottle before the solution goes bad, don't buy it.
Why you shouldn't use expired sanitizing products
Expired products such as sanitizers are no longer as effective as they were when you first bought them. There may not be noticeable differences with scent. However, its antiseptic functions might have started to deteriorate.
Instead of killing off bacteria and viruses, the solution might only reduce their number. And that's not what you want. Again, double-check the expiry date before applying the product on your hands.
Are sanitizers better than soap and water?
Sanitizers come handy for a lot of people, especially those who don't have immediate access to water, soap and a wash area. It's very useful regardless if you're constantly on the move or even when you're glued to your desk because of work. They are also essential for kids at school, health workers, bus drivers, train operators, janitors and a long of other people
However, if you do have the option to wash your hands, then you should do so. The lipids from the soap are far more helpful in disarming harmful viruses and bacteria latched on your hands. Also, aside from germs, soap and water can remove grease and dirt. Handwashing is also recommended if you want to remove heavy metals, pesticides and other types of chemicals.
Pro tips to remember
You'll never know how much bacteria and viruses are stuck in between your fingers, on the surfaces of your hands, and even under your fingernails. That's why it pays to have a solid personal hygiene routine. Keep your hands clean at all times with the right products such as hand sanitizers.
Hand sanitizing is proven effective in reducing the number of pathogens on your hands as long as you use it the right way. Look at the product's alcohol content and make sure that you use it before the expiry date.
Lastly, if you can wash your hands, don't hesitate to do so. If they are visibly dirty, you should opt to wash them instead of just using sanitizers. Hand sanitizing products won't be able to remove stains, soil debris, grease and other types of contaminants.
Practice proper hygiene self-care so you can keep yourself healthy and avoid transmitting communicable diseases especially to your loved ones.