This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
Hand sanitiser, also called hand gel or hand rub, has exploded in popularity now that we are all more aware of our hand hygiene. But what kind should you buy? Does it make a difference? What percentage alcohol do you need? For more information on hand sanitiser, read on below!
Do I need hand sanitiser?
It’s important to remember that soap and water work against the COVID-19 virus. Soap is able to dissolve the protective casing of the virus, causing it to fall apart and be easily washed away.
Hand sanitisers are recommended for use when soap and water aren’t available, not as a replacement. However, it can also be used if repeated handwashing compromises your natural skin barrier (E.g, causing scaling or skin fissures).
Types of hand sanitiser
There are 2 types of hand sanitiser: alcohol-based or alcohol-free. This depends on what the active ingredient is in the hand sanitiser.
Alcohol based hand sanitiser typically contains ethanol, isopropanol, or n-propanol, and the percentage concentration of alcohol will be listed on the bottle. For hand sanitiser to be effective against COVID-19, it needs to contain at least 60-95% alcohol.
Alcohol-free hand sanitisers can contain antiseptics like chlorhexidine, and sporicides like hydrogen peroxide.
Hand sanitiser may also contain emollients like glycerin to smooth the skin, thickening agents, and fragrance.
Hand sanitisers, both alcohol-based and alcohol-free, may come in a range of formats including liquid, foam, and gel.
How well your hand sanitiser works depends on a number of factors, including how you use it and whether the germs on your hands are susceptible to the active ingredient in the product.
Generally, alcohol-based hand sanitisers work well to reduce bacteria, fungi, and some viruses when they are rubbed over the fingers and hands for 30 seconds, followed by complete air drying. Similar effects have also been reported for alcohol-free formulations.
However, most hand sanitisers are less effective on bacterial spores, nonenveloped viruses like norovirus, and encysted parasites like Giardia. They will also fail to fully cleanse or sanitise the skin if the hands are noticeably dirty before use.