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Home > Public Education > Health > How effective is your hand sanitizer!

Written by:, Hanan Khalaf, RPH.

It is well known today that hands play a major role in transmitting infections. In order to avoid getting infected and hence sick, appropriate hand hygiene is largely advocated.  The ideal way of doing this is through washing with soap and water. However, if water is not accessible for one reason or another, hand sanitizer can be used, but should not be considered a replacement for soap and water.

CDC of USA recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content. Such sanitizers have shown the ability to reduce considerably the number of germs contaminating hands, but they are definitely not active against all type of germs. Moreover, they are not that effective when the hands are visibly dirty.

Hand sanitizers exit in different formulations as liquid, gel, or foam.

The proper way to use a hand sanitizer is by applying some on the palm of one hand, rub both hands together to cover all skin with the sanitizer and keep rubbing until it dries of.

What do they contain?  Most of alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol (ethanol), Isopropanol, or a mixture of both in a total concentration that ranges from 60-90% which act to kill most germs on the skin by denaturing their protein content. In addition, they usually have moisturizer like glycerine to counteract the drying effect of alcohol, and a fragrance.

Do hand sanitizers keep their efficacy beyond their expiry date!? As a matter of fact, all hand sanitizers should bear a distinct expiry date by legislation. However, some manufacturers report that ethanol-based hand sanitizers continue to be efficacious for up to 60+ months (up to 5 + years) after manufacture. The storage conditions and physical appearance of the product should be checked before any anticipated use beyond the expiry date.

 

References:
CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/

http://www.hand-cleaners.co.uk/contents/en-uk/d68_hand_sanitizers_frequently_asked_questions.html

 

 

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