Hand Sanitizer 101

Facts and information about the coronavirus pandemic are constantly changing. Visit the CDC site for the most up-to-date information during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hand sanitizer was already a common household staple before the COVID-19 outbreak. About 20% of us kept a bottle in our purse or pocket last year. Now hand sanitizers seem even more valuable. Read on to get the facts about how best to use them.

When should you use hand sanitizer?

When you have access to soap and water, you should wash your hands. As we’re all working to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, we know that washing our hands often is one of the most important steps we can take.

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Killing the virus with soap and water before it has a chance to spread helps slow the progress of the pandemic. 

But sometimes we don’t have soap and water available for hand washing. When we get into our cars after grocery shopping and head to another store or to a drive through for food, we can’t wash our hands before we touch another surface or meet another person. 

Here’s where hand sanitizers come in. They are a good back up in these situations. 

Choose the right hand sanitizer

Your hand sanitizer should be at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remind us that hand sanitizers with less than 60% alcohol in their ingredients may not be able to kill microbes as effectively. 

What about homemade hand sanitizers?

There are lots of hand sanitizer recipes online, but they’re not the best way to go. For one thing, some of these recipes are ineffective. Some may be dangerous, especially if you’re less than precise when you follow the recipe. Even if the recipe you choose contains the right kind of alcohol in an effective amount, you can’t be sure that each portion contains the right amount of the right ingredients — alcohol may separate from other ingredients when you mix them up at home. 

Using your homemade hand sanitizer may not protect you or others, but it could give you a false sense of security and cause you to be less careful. 

The right way to use hand sanitizers

The CDC tells us to start by covering one palm with sanitizer, go on to cover the other palm, and cover the backs of both hands as well as your fingers. Keep rubbing the sanitizer in until your hands are dry. 

Help your children to do the same. Many of us don’t use enough hand sanitizer, or rub it off before it dries. 

A final reminder

Hand sanitizers can’t clean dirty hands. If you’ve been gardening or your kids have been playing, dirt and grime can actually keep sanitizers from working as well as they usually do. Go for soap and water first.