While the world is running out hand sanitizers–because how else can we arm ourselves against the dreaded coronavirus–here is a public-service announcement. When it comes to fighting COVID-19–not all hand sanitizers are the same.
In fact, there are two types of hand sanitizers–those which have alcohol and those which don’t.
Alcohol-based sanitizers are harsh on the skin
These hand sanitizers typically contain anywhere between 60% and 95% percent alcohol in the form of ethanol, n-propano, and isopropanol. The combination immediately neutralizes certain types of microorganisms.
Alcohol-free sanitizers are obviously more gentle
Alcohol-free hand rubs are generally created with disinfectants such as benzalkonium chloride (BAC) or antimicrobial agents like triclosan.
Certain hand sanitizers also contain emollients like glycerin that not only soothe the skin, but give a nice fragrance.
So, which is better?
The US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60% to 95% are better at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or no alcohol at all.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers followed by complete air-drying can prove to be quite effective in reducing fungi, bacteria, and viruses. In fact, the WHO recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands often in a bid to avoid a coronavirus infection.
But hand sanitizers are not a substitute for washing for hands
Sure hand sanitizers can tame the transmission of infectious diseases–in this case, coronavirus–but it cannot be used as an alternative to washing your hands with soap.
Studies show that when hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitizers don’t work very well. So, while you’re pumping that sanitiser at your desk or in the metro while reading this, do wash your hands with soap and water for complete protection.