Story of a hand sanitizer 

Story of hand sanitizer is like that unpopular boy in class, who was barely noticed by anyone. But he gained extensive popularity overnight. Now each and everyone at school is seeking his company. Yes, I am referring coronavirus pandemic and use of hand sanitizer. But did you ever wonder how does hand sanitizer kill viruses?
A couple of months back dusty hand sanitizers used to lay overlooked on shelves of pharmaceutical stores. People bought all other medications exempting sanitizer. Lately after a dramatic turn of events, it got widely popularised. All thanks to an unknown virus, which is considered untreatable till now. 

These days ‘hand sanitizer’ is no less than a ‘superstar’.

During covid-19 pandemic everyone wants to get one sanitizer irrespective of its cost. Social media is flooded with videos, on how to use it.

Most amusing part is that, its demand soared up so much that, even liquor companies manufactured sanitizer instead of booze.
Literally everyone is using hand sanitizer routinely, but many of us are still unaware of some vital facts for instance ‘how does hand sanitizer kill viruses’ . Sole purpose of my blog is to spread awareness through some commonly asked questions.

1. What are alcohol based hand sanitizers and non alcohol based hand sanitizers? Which one is better?

Non alcohol based hand sanitiser has chemicals like triclosan, chlorhexidine, iodophors or quaternary ammonium compounds. These can produce antibiotic resistance. So FDA discourages use of this sanitiser.

On the other hand alcohol based sanitizer is more effective and more popular too.

2. How to choose a sanitizer while buying?

CDC recommends to choose an alcohol based hand sanitizer. It should have at least 60% of alcohol concentration. Conventional alcohol concentration is 60-95 %

3. Does hand sanitizer work on viruses? If yes then how does hand sanitizer kill viruses?

Hand sanitizer does work on most of the viruses. But it is not effective against some viruses like norovirus, that causes diarrhoea in human. The main concern for human race these days is corona virus. Against it hand sanitizer is efficacious.

As per FDA no one should use non alcohol based hand sanitizer.

How does hand sanitizer kill viruses is in fact interesting. Alcohol based hand sanitizers have ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. These kill most of the bacteria and viruses by denaturing protein present in protective outer coating of germs. These also dissolve their membrane. Hence destroy microbes.

However concentration of alcohol should be at least 60%, for an alcohol based hand sanitizer to be effective.

ALSO READ: Herd immunity explained covid-19

4. Is hand sanitizer better than hand wash?

The answer is a clear ‘NO’ . This is one of the interesting facts about hand sanitizer which is often misjudged by people.

A hand wash is more effective in safeguarding against almost all germs unlike hand sanitizer. C.difficile , Cryptosporidia, norovirus are few germs which are notorious to cause severe diarrhoea in human. Hand wash or soap can kill these microbes, but hand sanitizer can not. Hand wash or soap can remove heavy metals and chemicals too unlike hand sanitizer.

Following are the situations where hand wash is preferred over sanitizer

  • If hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • If hands are soiled with blood or body secretions.
  • After using bathroom.
  • After changing diaper for a baby.
  • Before, during or after preparing food.
  • Before eating.    

ALSO READ: Top myths and facts about coronavirus

5. How to use hand wash?

Remove watch and rest such accessories upto elbow

  • wet your hands.
  • Lather soap or hand wash.
  • Scrub it all over hands like palm , back of palm, fingers, web between fingers, nails, knuckles, thumb, wrist etc.
  • Wash thoroughly.
  • Dry.

6. How long should it take to wash hands?

As per CDC (July 2019), for effective hand washing it should take at least 20 seconds.

Need a timer? Hum song “happy birthday” twice, from beginning to end while hand washing.

6. Why hand sanitizer is still more popular than a hand wash or soap?

It is because hand sanitizer is easy to carry and quick to use. It can be used even when water is unaccessible, especially during travel. Hence it is preferable and convenient for outdoor settings.

7. How to use hand sanitizer?

Take adequate amount on one palm rub and spread it all over your hands. Let it dry. 

Do not wipe a sanitizer unless it is completely dry. 

8. Does hand sanitizer expire?

The date of expiry should be verified wherever it is mentioned. Few products prepared based on temporary policies are expected to be used during public health emergency, and may not bear a date of expiry.

9. How to make hand sanitizer gel at home?

Internet is flooded with videos and articles demonstrating how to prepare hand sanitizer.

Following things are needed to prepare an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

  1. Isopropyl alcohol or surgical spirit having 99% alcohol. ( 1 cup)
  2. Aloevera gel ( 1/2 cup)
  3. Essential oil ( clove oil/eucalyptus oil/lavender oil etc) , few drops for fragrance.

Take a clean container. Mix all these things properly in it. 1 table spoon of glycerine may also be added to it.

But this procedure should be done by professionals only under guarded conditions. It is not recommended by FDA, to formulate home made sanitizer, because in home made sanitizer if proportion of alcohol is not maintained, it may either lead to less efficient product or may burn your skin too. It may further release toxic gases that may be inhaled.

Hence it is always advisable to buy sanitizer prepared by professionals.

I came across several videos and articles spreading misleading datas. Some people suggesting to prepare and use alcohol based sanitizer with 40-60% alcohol content. But this is not recommended. Some are advising to use improper proportions of mixtures too. So stay away from such informations.

ALSO READ : 10 productive things to do at home during covid-19 pandemic.

10. Can I prepare alcohol based sanitizer from non alcohol based sanitizer?

It should not be tried as it is difficult to maintain required alcohol concentration.

11. Can whiskey or vodka be used to prepare a sanitizer?

It is another interesting question. The funniest part being some random people in internet are suggesting to prepare such sanitizers.

But vodka has only 40% alcohol , so it can not be recommended to prepare hand sanitizer.

12. Where can I buy a hand sanitizer?

You should always buy a hand sanitizer from a pharmacy. Branded hand sanitizers are better. Check date of expiry if mentioned.

13. How to store a sanitizer?

Do not store a sanitizer in a hot and humid place, for instance do not keep it inside your car in summer. It should always be placed in a dry and cool environment away from children, especially less than 6yr old kids. 

Kids may ingest it because of its attractive colour and odour. If so then rush for medical emergency. In few sanitizers denatured alcohol is deliberately mixed to impart an undesirable taste.

14. Is there any adverse effect of using hand sanitizer?

It can produce rash or skin burn. in that case you should seek medical advice.

15. Can I use disinfectant instead of a sanitizer?

Disinfectants are not meant to be used on living beings like humans and animals. So never use it on your skin.

To wind up

This blog is a small endeavour to make everyone aware of how does hand sanitizer kill viruses. I hope you share these interesting facts about hand sanitizer with people you care for and spread consciousness.

If you have any info that I missed out, you are welcome to share in comment box below and let the knowledge flow.