“Wallet? Check. Keys? Check.” These used to be the only things you needed to remember before heading out the door to run errands.
These days, the list of must-haves is a little longer:
- Hand Sanitizer
- List (because let’s face it, we’re all shopping in bulk right now)
Sanitizer is at the top of the list because inevitably while running errands - you're doing to touch something. Door handles, shopping carts, steering wheels, credit cards, you name it - there are many touchpoints - and you don't always have access to soap and water. So how well do hand sanitizers work in combating germs? Here are seven things you should know about keeping your hands clean on the go.
1. Hand Washing Is > Hand Sanitizer
When it comes to washing your hands, antibacterial soap and warm water is still the best solution. This is because washing your hands doesn't just kill the germs, it detaches them from your hands thoroughly.
When you rub your hands together and lather the soap, you’re actually creating friction that breaks bacteria down and dislodges it from your hands. When you rinse them, you wash that bacteria right down the drain.
In contrast, while alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills most germs and bugs on contact, it doesn't kill them all. This is especially the case if you have oil or grease on your hands.The good news is, right now, the CDC thinks hand cleansers made with alcohol do actually kill Coronaviruses - which makes it a great on-the-go solution.
2. All Hand Sanitizers Are Not Created Equal
Real talk: not all hand sanitizer sprays or gels are the same. To kill the most germs, you need a hand sanitizer made with at least 60-percent alcohol. If you use a brand that has less, the CDC says it is just "merely reduc(ing) the growth of germs, rather than kill(ing) them."
Another note, in June, the FDA announced a recall of hand sanitizers by Saniderm and UVT Inc and advised customers not to use hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico because of concerns there could be methanol in it.
If you used a hand sanitizer containing methanol, the FDA recommends visiting your doctor for immediate treatment. Methanol can be toxic if it’s absorbed through your skin and can be lethal if ingested. To see a running list of recalled products from the FDA, click here.
Finally, watch out for claims that a hand sanitizer is "FDA-approved" or "lasts for up to 24-hours." At this point, the FDA hasn't approved any hand sanitizers, and they also haven't approved claims of the duration of usage.
3. Hand Sanitizer Is The Best On-The-Go Option
Coronaviruses and other germs can spread from a sneeze or a cough of an infected person and land on anything from produce at the store to the hands we use to cover our mouths to the pump gas station. They can continue to live on those surfaces for several hours. This means that if you touch one of those surfaces and then touch your nose, eyes, or mouth—you can potentially be infected.
That said, don’t even think about using bar soap in a public restroom. Research shows that bulk soap in public restrooms can actually leave your hand dirtier than before you washed them. Gross. And if you’re suspicious about the cleanliness of the space, hand sanitizer is the way to go.
The CDC agrees: “use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can.”
4. Hand Sanitizer Can Be Less Irritating To Your Skin Than Antibacterial Soap
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says using hand sanitizers that contain alcohol can actually be easier on your skin than washing your hands with soap and water all the time. That said, if you want hand sanitizer to work effectively, you have to use it correctly. Spray hand sanitizers like Hand Cleanse on your palms and then rub your hands together until you can't feel it anymore. This goes for gels too. Don't rinse your hands or wipe off the sanitizer until it's totally dry.
When you're shopping for hand sanitizers, look for products that have aloe. Trilogía's Hand Cleanse is infused with aloe, and also contains anti-inflammatory terpenes - which can help reduce redness and irritation on your hands.
5. Cleaning Wipes Are The Not Same Thing As Hand Sanitizer
If you're in a rush and need to quickly give your hands a cleaning - don't use the Clorox wipes you have stowed in your glovebox. (I hope I'm not the only person who stows Clorox wipes in my glove box). Cleaning products are not made for skin. The FDA says they're only intended for "hard, nonporous surfaces," not human skin.
While we're at it, don't use cleaning products or disinfectants on anything you might consume - including your hands, food, or in your mouth. In June, the CDC reported that one-third of the respondents to a survey used cleaning products in "non recommended high-risk practices" to ward off coronavirus. Some people even said they had been bathing in bleach. Eek!
PRO TIP: Stow hand sanitizer in your bag, but don't store it in your car. Heat not only poses a fire risk, but it also causes alcohol to evaporate more quickly. This lessens the efficacy of your sanitizing spray.
6. Alcohol Should Always Be The Main Ingredient In Hand Sanitizer
On this, most health experts agree: alcohol is really good at killing all different kinds of germs, microbes, and bugs - including viruses and bacteria. Some viruses, like coronaviruses, have an outer envelope - and alcohol is excellent at destroying those in particular. To be effective, however, studies show that a sanitizer has to be made up of at least 60% alcohol. That said, you don't want to overdo the alcohol. Pure alcohol (100%) evaporates too quickly to kill germs and bugs, and it's super drying for your skin. Also note that vodka isn't a good alternative either - it's typically only 40% alcohol, which isn't a high enough concentration to combat microbes.
7. Hand Sanitizer Can Expire
If a hand sanitizer is stored correctly (e.g., not in your hot car), it can last for a couple of years, but it does have a shelf life. In all alcohol-based sprays, some alcohol content will evaporate over time, and this process happens more quickly when hand sanitizers are exposed to heat. This means that the germ-killing quality of your hand spray will lessen over time as well.
With hand sanitizer flying off the shelves these days, you probably won’t find one that’s expired - but checking the best buy date is always a good idea.
The bottom line - wherever you go, you'll encounter germs. And while some bacteria aren't harmful, it's essential to keep your hands clean to avoid getting sick. So wash your hands when you're home and regularly spritz when you're out and about. Stay healthy out there!