Are You Using Hand Sanitiser the Right Way?

Hand washing is the single most important measure in reducing the spread of disease and infections–including COVID-19.

It’s why hand sanitiser is everywhere, and why we’re happily slathering it on at every opportunity. But are we using it correctly? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a guide to hand sanitiser this month. It turns out there’s a right and wrong way to use it, and it could be the difference between keeping yourself and others healthy and spreading illness. So it’s worth getting right. 

With that in mind, here are some five questions to help you test your hand sanitiser knowledge. 

Do You Make Your Own Hand Sanitiser?

During the lockdown, it wasn’t just sourdough starter recipes making the rounds online. There were several websites and influencers sharing advice on how to make homemade hand sanitiser.

The problem is that if made incorrectly, hand sanitiser can be ineffective, and there have even been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitisers. 

It’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explicitly recommends that consumers do not make hand sanitiser.

Where Do You Store Your Hand Sanitiser?

We hope your answer isn’t everywhere and anywhere–especially if you have children as hand sanitiser can be toxic when ingested. That’s why first and foremost, your hand sanitiser should be kept out of reach, and sight, of children. 

It should also not be stored above 40°C, so don’t leave it in a car on a hot day or a windowsill in direct sunlight.

Does Your Hand Sanitiser Contain At Least 60% Alcohol?

The CDC recommends sanitisers with at least 60% alcohol content. Most products contain between 60% and 95%, but don’t assume that the higher the percentages are more effective. 

Too much alcohol is problematic as sanitiser needs to contain some water to work at peak efficiency. But products without alcohol–or with low levels of alcohol–won’t be effective at killing microbes and germs on your hands. 

As we’ve written before, the sweet spot is 70% alcohol. That’s because medical-grade hand sanitisers usually have around 70% alcohol and are tested to show effectiveness within a hospital setting.

Are You Applying Hand Sanitiser Correctly?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three steps to using hand sanitiser properly: 

  1. Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount). Rub your hands together. 
  2. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds. 

When you’re rubbing in the sanitiser, it’s vital to cover the entire surfaces of both of your hands, including fingers and around your fingertips and nails. (Don’t forget the backs of your hands and fingers.)

You should also rub in the sanitiser about two inches up each wrist.

Do You Use Hand Sanitiser When Your Hands Are Dirty or Greasy?

Many studies show that hand sanitisers work well in clinical settings like hospitals or over an average day “out and about”, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy.

When hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitisers may not work as well. In those cases, washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential.

That’s it. Correctly applying hand sanitiser takes less time than it takes to order takeout or respond to a text. Hand sanitisers will immediately go to work, swiftly killing 99.9% of all microorganisms on our hands and allowing us to get on with our busy days.

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