When and how to use hand sanitizer

How to wash your hands correctly? Due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the demand for hand sanitizer is high. But sadly many people don't know how to use a hand sanitizer properly. Go through this article and learn when and how to use a hand sanitizer effectively to stay safe and free from germs. Also, get to know when not to use a hand sanitizer and the benefits and the risks of using a hand sanitizer.

What is a hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is a gel, a liquid or foam which generally reduces or kills the germs or any other infectious agents present on the hands. It is available in two types- alcohol-based and non-alcohol based. But out of these two, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are more preferred because it is highly effective in killing a variety of microorganisms present in the hands. Alcohol contains antiseptic properties and hence the hand sanitizer which contains 60-90% of alcohol is preferred more for hand washing at the health care centres in most of the situations. As alcohol is flammable, high care must be given while using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. But this type of hand sanitizer is recommended to use only when soap and water are not available. It is listed on the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of essential medicines and is also used predominantly in hospitals and health care centres as an alternative to antiseptic soaps.

Non-alcohol based hand sanitizers are less effective and have no recommendations. It can be used for hand-washing outside the health care setting. Alcohol-free hand sanitizer will contain agents other than alcohol to kill the microorganisms. But this type of alcohol-free hand sanitizer solution gets contaminated easily and may result in less effectiveness or cause any other infection because of the contaminating organisms present in the solution.

When to use a hand sanitizer?

Germs are present everywhere. We more commonly use our hands for daily activities which in turn get dirty often. So, for hand hygiene, everyone must wash the hands regularly using soap and water to kill the chemical and microbes present in the hand. But what if soap and water are not present? So, at that situation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone to clean the hands using a hand sanitizer which contains at least 60% of alcohol to reduce the germs in the hand.

In general, soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers in reducing certain kind of germs. But alcohol-based hand sanitizer when used properly can reduce the number of microbes or inactivate the germs in hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work effectively against certain types of infectious agents on slightly soiled or less greasy hands. Most importantly, it works well in clinical settings where the hands are more often used in contact with the germs. For example, you can use it after visiting a patient from a hospital, after using your friend's laptop, after wearing your shoes, etc.

When not to use a hand sanitizer?

Do not use a hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly greasy or dirty. It is highly recommended not to use a hand sanitizer before eating food, after touching garbage, after coughing or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal cages, animal food or animal waste, after gardening, after camping, playing outdoors and after using the bathroom. In such situations, try to wash the hands using soap and water because alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill all types of germs. Also, remember that hand sanitizers may not remove pesticides, harmful chemical and heavy metals on hands.

Note: Do not apply the hand sanitizer on your face. Swallowing the alcohol-based hand sanitizer may lead to alcohol poisoning. Keep the hand sanitizers out of reach from young children.

How to use a hand sanitizer?

  1. Make sure your hand is less greasy or free from organic matter such as dirt, grease or any food particles before applying the hand sanitizer because it works effectively when applied on clean hands.
  2. Squirt enough hand sanitizer on the palm of one hand to cover all the surface of your hands.
  3. Rub your hands gently together. The solution should cover the surfaces of both the hands including fingers. Also, remember to rub the sanitizer around the fingertips, nails and about 2 inches up each wrist.
  4. After rubbing, let your hands dry for about 20 to 30 seconds. Allow the skin to absorb the sanitizer. Do not wipe off the hand sanitizer before it is dry. The hand sanitizer will work effectively only when the hand is dry.

How to wash the hands using soap and water?

Hand washing is different from using hand sanitizer. Washing the hands using soap and water is one of the best methods to reduce and kill the germs. Hand sanitizers will help to protect us from germs but hand washing with soap and water is always highly preferred because it protects a person from the novel coronavirus, parasites, norovirus and as well as from other illness like seasonal flu, viral infections and the common cold. Probably many of us even don't know how to wash the hands properly using soap and water. Mentioned below are the instructions listed by CDC on how to wash the hands effectively

  1. In clean running water (warm or cold), first wet your hands and apply soap.
  2. Rub both the hands together with the soap.
  3. Make sure to scrub all the surface of both the hands including the palms, front side and backside of the hands, fingers, under the nails and gaps between the fingers for about 20 seconds.
  4. After scrubbing, rinse the hands using clean water.
  5. Wipe off the water in the hands using a clean towel or let them dry in air.

Benefits of hand sanitizer

  • Promotes hand hygiene and reduces the risk of diseases.
  • Easy accessibility and portability. A small bottle of pocket hand sanitizer can be used at any places where we don't have access to soap and water.
  • Convenient and easy to use.
  • Takes less time than hand washing.
  • Reduces the number of germs in hand and protects a person from getting sick.
  • Alcohol-free hand sanitizers soften and improve the texture of the skin on the hands.

Disadvantages of hand sanitizer

  • It is not a cleaning agent like soap.
  • It does not work effectively on visibly dirty hands.
  • Contaminated hand sanitizer may cause serious infection or skin irritation.
  • Hand sanitizers with toxic chemicals, scented materials may cause hormone disruption and weaken the immune system.
  • The ingredients present in hand sanitizers may cause dry skin or damage the skin cells.

Bottom line

Using hand sanitizer periodically will reduce the chance of getting sick. But use the hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available. It is advisable to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are prepared as per guidelines listed by WHO. Using hand sanitizer is really a complementary habit because it exposes us only to fewer germs and positively keeps a person at a distance from deadly diseases. Keeping the hand sanitizers for the usage of people at public places, schools, offices, trade shows, work desk, meeting halls, grand opening, community events, etc will prevent the germs from spreading and reduce the risk of infection.

As recommended by the health authorities and CDC, wash the hands whenever possible to keep your hands free from germs and disease-causing virus and bacteria. Do not overuse hand sanitizers, use it at a minimal rate based on your activity.

Stay safe and healthy!


Author: Umesh25 Mar 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Keeping the germs away from the hands is an essential action as we touch our face and other places with hands only. In such cases, soap water or sanitizers are the only solutions and one has to be very alert and cautious in maintaining this cleaning activity for getting rid of the germs from the hands. One thing which is very important in this context is that one may have to wash the hands multiple times also. For example, the family person, who goes out and brings some provision and vegetables and then keeps all the things at a stipulated corner for cleaning and arranging at a later time, has to wash his hands again thoroughly. This is a very important action and may look redundant and repetitive but it is not. It is required to get rid of the germs which again has come to the hands while arranging and cleaning the material brought from outside. It is also advisable to do these things single-handedly as more people doing it would be riskier. This is only one example but while working in the house we would encounter many such situations like taking milk from the milkman or receiving a package from the courier or delivery boy. A friend or relative visiting a household is to be discouraged to do so.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha26 Mar 2020 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

The effective solution to kill the germs of coronavirus is to apply sanitiser once the hands are thoroughly cleaned so as to have its germicidal effects. While segregating the different vegetables and stacking in the fridge, we have to ensure that our hands are property cleaned by means of sanitisers so that such stuff is not the root cause of infection at the later stage. However, use of hand-sanitizer should not be repeated very frequently and instead, the hands or the exposed part of the body should be thoroughly washed with a soap solution for at least 20 seconds so as to kill the germs effectively.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao26 Mar 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

These days these sanitizers are becoming very common due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Many people are advising the usage of this and mentioning the merits of these items.

Basically, these are all alcohol-based liquids containing an active ingredient. This active ingredient may be a natural product or a synthetic product. They destroy the infectious agents that are there on our hands.

But I like to caution the users that after applying these sanitizers do not go near the fire. These alcohol-based sanitizers may catch fire and we will have burns on our body.

Author: Swati Sharma27 Nov 2020 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

The author has given a very informative article. The corona epidemic has devastated the entire world. At this time, most precautions are required. But sometimes when you are in a situation where you do not have a system of water and soap. At such a time, you can clean your hands with a sanitizer. But not all sanitizers may be good for you.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are needed to avoid corona. At this time it is considered correct to use tested and trusted brands of sanitizer. All sanitizer brands available in the market after the Corona epidemic may not be correct from the safety point of view. The label should always be kept in mind when purchasing a sanitizer. Ethyl alcohol is the safest. At least 60 percent ethanol and 70 percent isopropanol are considered safe according to CDC guidelines.

Sometimes alcohol-based hand sanitizers come with an expiry date. This is because alcohol evaporates over time and if this happens, applying it on hand will not affect it. Choose any sanitizer that has both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Author: Swati Sharma04 May 2021 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

These days when the second and even more dangerous wave of Covid-19 is spreading, many doctors and other health experts are giving advice regarding sanitizers, I would like to share this advice here-

Sanitizer is not particularly effective in clothes - Whenever you come from outside, you are not safe just by spraying a bottle of sanitizer on your clothes all over. You should soak the used clothes after coming home and it is also mandatory to take a shower.

Some small habits and tips can save you and your family, so please do not avoid these small steps when you are outside. Do not go out if not needed, be at home and stay safe.

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