Who would have thought we’d devote an entire blog article to hand sanitizer? But given the current pandemic, it makes sense to understand how exactly hand sanitizer works and why it’s going to be as essential as your keys and your wallet every time you leave the house.
Before COVID-19, hand sanitizer was somewhat of an afterthought, meaning most people used it after the fact. Now, it’s one of the most valuable and most coveted products in our “stay safe” arsenal and it’s also one of the hardest to find—it’s as scarce as toilet paper and paper towels.
The star ingredient in hand sanitizer is, of course, alcohol. The three most common types of alcohol found in hand sanitizer are propanol or isopropyl (often used in disinfectants) and ethanol (the kind we drink). Alcohol kills bacteria and germs through a process called denaturing. The alcohol bonds to the cell membrane of the invading bacteria or germ cell and damages it’s structural integrity. This process allows the alcohol to penetrate the cell and, essentially, destroy it. What’s more, most germs and bacteria cannot develop a resistance to alcohol, which means your alcohol-based hand sanitizer never loses its effectiveness.
One thing to note: not all hand sanitizers are created equal. Some of them don’t even contain alcohol at all. Read on for the Dos and Don’ts before purchasing your next bottle of hand sanitizer.
DO look for a hand sanitizer with an alcohol concentration of 60% or greater. According to the CDC, anything less may not work for many types of germs and will only reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.
DO look at the inactive ingredients. Because the alcohol itself is drying, you want to look for a hand sanitizer that includes skin-softening ingredients, like aloe, to help counteract the drying effects of the alcohol. Our Hand Sanitizing Spray includes both aloe and hemp seed extract to keep hands from drying out.
DO use a generous amount and make sure to cover both hands thoroughly, top and bottom and in between fingers.
DO use often when out and about. Germs are everywhere, so after each store visit slather on more sanitizer.
DO know that hand sanitizer does have an expiration date, but luckily that is approximately 3 years after formulation.
DON’T think of hand sanitizer as a replacement for hand washing. While hand sanitizer is extremely effective at eliminating germs, hand washing is typically even more effective because we get the whole hand—like in between the fingers and up to the wrists, which are typically overlooked when applying hand sanitizer.
DON’T wipe off the hand sanitizer. Allow it fully dry on the hands. If you wipe it off, you are not reaping the full germ-busting benefits.
DON’T use hand sanitizer on greasy or extremely dirty hands as it may not penetrate and work as effectively.
DON’T buy sanitizers with ingredients like artificial fragrance or synthetic dye as they can contribute to additional dryness and irritation.
DON’T leave hand sanitizer in reach of children. While the alcohol is safe when used as directed, if swallowed it can be harmful.