Posted by Fred Koenig on Jan 24th 2021

Hand Sanitizer Effectiveness and Best Formulas for Killing Viruses

Regular handwashing with soap and water can help you avoid sickness.

Handwashing is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a strategy to reduce germs and decrease the risk of spreading sickness to others.

If soap and water are not available, it is recommended that you use an effective hand sanitizer.

The most effective hand sanitizers have a minimum of 60% alcohol content (we stock high strength hand sanitizer here ).

Several studies were completed, and the data was used to create a guide for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer in community settings. The following is a summary of the findings from these studies.

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are useful for reducing the number of germs on hands, but soap and water is more effective.

There are some germs that hand sanitizers will not remove. Germs such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile require soap and water to effectively remove from your hands.

Many microbes can be effectively inactivated using hand sanitizer but only if it is used correctly. Incorrect use of hand sanitizer includes using too little and wiping it off while it is still wet.

60%+ Alcohol Content for Effective Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers that contain a concentration of 60% or more alcohol are more effective at removing microbes.

Several studies have shown that hand sanitizers with a higher alcohol content (60% - 95%) are more effective at fighting and removing germs on the hands as compared with a hand sanitizer with lower levels of alcohol Hand sanitizers with a lower concentration of alcohol may have a low level of efficacy in eliminating germs.

Best Practices for Using Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is most effective when used properly. It should be rubbed all over both the front and back of the hands until your hands are dry.

The CDC recommends a simple procedure when applying hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends that people apply the hand sanitizer to both the fronts and backs of their hands, and then rub briskly until it dries. The label will tell the correct amount of hand sanitizer to use. More detailed instruction on how to apply hand sanitizer has not been found to lead to more effectiveness.

Not a Substitute if Hands are Very Dirty

If your hands are extremely dirty or greasy hand sanitizers will not be enough to fully clean them.

If your hands are not visibly dirty, but have come into contact with germs, several studies have shown that hand sanitizers are effective.

There are several studies that have shown that lightly soiled or greasy hands can be effectively cleaned with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Handwashing with soap and water is the only effective defense against extremely greasy or dirty hands. Some examples of where handwashing is necessary would be after handling food, working with dirt such as digging in the garden, or going camping, in these types of situations, hand sanitizers are ineffective and soap and water is recommended.

Not Suitable for Pesticides/Heavy Metals

Pesticides and heavy metals cannot be effectively removed from hands with the use of hand sanitizers.

There have not been very many studies on the effectiveness of removing harmful chemicals with the use of hand sanitizers alone. From the limited studies done, it seems likely that hand sanitizers cannot remove or inactivate many types of chemicals.

One study indicated that people who used only hand sanitizer to clean their hands showed higher levels of pesticides in their bodies. It is recommended that people use soap and water to remove chemicals from their hands.

Do Not Ingest Hand Sanitizer

Be aware that ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning.

If a person swallows a significant amount of ethyl alcohol (ethanol)-based hand sanitizer it could cause alcohol poisoning. Always use hand sanitizer only as directed.

In order to increase sales, hand sanitizer often comes in appealing packaging, scented or brightly colored. This type of addition to hand sanitizer poses a unique, but very real risk as children are more likely to ingest it. The U.S. poison control centers took more than 85,000 calls regarding children’s hand sanitizer exposure from 2011 – 2015. Be aware of the risks and store hand sanitizer out of the reach of children. If you are a caregiver for a young child find a hand sanitizer with a child-resistant lid. Because of the high alcohol content in many hand sanitizers people may purposefully drink it to become intoxicated.

If you need alcohol hand sanitizer or any other form of PPE, then ROMI Medical are here to help you.

Visit our PPE section to browse our products, or contact us for a custom PPE quote here.