Hand hygiene is more important than ever and, while it can’t replace a good hand washing, hand sanitiser is a crucial part of keeping you, your family and your team safe from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Both the World Health Organisation and Australian Government Department of Health recommend the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser to remove microbes, if soap and water are unavailable.

But how do you know which one is the most effective? We’ve broken down some of the key things you need to know about hand sanitiser before you buy.

How does hand sanitiser help to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Some of you may think back to your high school science class and ask, “If hand sanitiser is mainly used to kill bacteria, then how does it work on a virus like COVID-19?”

According to biologist Jeffrey Gardner, the alcohol used in hand sanitiser — typically ethanol — unfolds and destabilises the proteins of both bacteria and viruses. This is more effective against some microbes than others; for example, viruses that have an outer shell, known as an envelope, are easier to kill with alcohol than those that don’t. Lucky for us, this includes the coronavirus!

It is important to note that the way you apply hand sanitiser is just as important as the kind you buy. The CDC recommends applying the product to your palm, using the label to determine how much is needed, and rub it all over every surface of your hands for at least twenty seconds — the same as when washing your hands with soap and water. Make sure that you let it dry completely, otherwise you may rub it off accidently and make it ineffective.

What does the ethanol percentage mean?

If you look on any bottle of hand sanitiser, you’ll see the percentage of ethanol — or alternatives such as isopropyl — that the mixture has in it.

To actually be effective against coronavirus and other microscopic nasties, hand sanitisers must contain < ahref=https://www.science.org.au/curious/people-medicine/hand-sanitiser-or-soap-making-informed-choice-covid-19>at least 60% alcohol. That being said, there needs to be a balance : too much alcohol dries out your skin, evaporates too quickly to effectively kill any bacteria or viruses on your skin, and is actually less effective.

Sixty to eighty percent is the gold standard, with 70% being the most effective as the ratio of alcohol to water allows it to better infiltrate bacteria and viruses.

What ingredients are necessary for hand sanitiser to be effective?

As mentioned, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are the most effective, as low-alcohol or alcohol-free products do not have enough to be able to kill the virus on your skin. While they may help against some bacteria or microbes, they will not be enough to keep you protected from the coronavirus.

The least effective hand sanitisers are the ones that contain no traces of alcohol.

Though sanitisers can contain a variety of other ingredients — emollients, or moisturisers, to make sure that your hands don’t dry out, scents, or other additives that make it a bit more pleasant — all that truly matters is if you have a decent amount of alcohol.

What to watch out for

With hand sanitiser being a hot seller these days, you might struggle to find it on the shelves and just be happy with any brand that you come across. There are, however, a few things you should be cautious of when looking to buy.

Homemade hand sanitiser, or hand sanitiser being made by newcomers such as breweries, may not be mixed to optimal standards. Those that use spirits, like vodka, are ineffective as they typically contain approximately 40% alcohol when used in hand sanitiser — well below the threshold. They also may have not been tested or approved with data to show that they actually work, so experts recommend avoiding these if possible.

According to <a href=https://www.canstar.com.au/health-insurance/hand-sanitiser/>Canstar</a>, products that advertise themselves as ‘antibacterial’ or ‘antimicrobial’ may also not necessarily be the best for your health, as they can strip the good bacteria as well as the bad, weakening your immune system.

We here at Franks Stationery supply Peerless JAL Zero-Bac Thin hand sanitiser. With a highly effective ethanol percentage of 70%, this is great for both businesses in high-risk environments — food preparation, nursing homes, and childcare — and general use at home and work. It is a fast-acting and fast-drying solution, pH neutralised, and uses moisturiser to keep your hands feeling healthy too.

Looking for more information? Feel free to contact our expert team!

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