How to use hand sanitizer

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How to use hand sanitizerGerm-X is a line of antibacterial products for the hands and common surfaces. It’s marketed as a way to help keep your entire family germ-free and healthy. There are plenty of hand sanitizers on the market, so what would make you choose Germ-X over a generic brand?

Overview
Keeping your hands clean is not just for germaphobes, it’s something all of us should do in order to keep ourselves healthy and prevent the spread of germs. It’s been said that you unconsciously touch your face several hundred times per day, so the hands can serve as a conduit, bringing germs right to your mouth, eyes, and nose leading to illness. There are generic versions of hand sanitizer in every supermarket, so what we really wanted to know is does it work better than the cheaper versions.

The Claim
They say that it’s faster to clean your hands with Germ-X, and that it takes an average of just 15 seconds compared to a minute with soap and water. They also say that it kills the germs that make you sick, and that you don’t need to use any water, you don’t need to rinse, and you don’t need to towel off in order to use it. They say it kills 99.99% of germs. They must still be working on that .01% that survives the onslaught.

The Hype
Hand sanitizers hit their peak a few years back when everyone was using them, and they started showing up in places where it makes sense to sanitize your hands, like at grocery stores, airports, and restaurants. They’ve died down in recent years, and you don’t see people using them as often as they once did. However, it still makes sense to keep a bottle of it around, because the classic case of having it and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.

The Cost
The cost of Germ-X is very nominal, but you have to consider that they are selling a product that is an add-on to hand soap and other bathroom necessities, so they can’t charge too much for it or people wouldn’t buy it. Also, it’s a consumable product, so you’ll have to buy it again and again, setting them up for recurring income if they can make a product that everyone likes.

The Commitment
The way that it’s recommended to use hand sanitizer is to first wash and dry your hands, and then apply it. This means that if you’re using it the way it was intended it’s going to represent an extra step to the hand cleaning process. But many times it’s used in a pinch, when washing your hands isn’t really an option, so in this case it can represent no extra commitment on your part, and you’ll likely be glad that you had it handy so you can have cleaner hands without having to wash them.

Evaluation
The Germ-X line of products is ever-expanding and they seem to have a version of it for every imaginable scenario. They have travel sized packs for when you’re on the go, they have larger sizes for at-home use, they have wipes in case you don’t like using the liquid. The feedback across the board has been very supportive of the fact that Germ-X works, and works well.

Don’t try this at home:

Studies have shown that using antibacterial products might actually lead to getting sick more often, just with more advanced strains of viruses as they become immune to the sanitizer you’re using. That’s why it’s a better idea to use them as a last resort, or when there are no other options, and not as your sole means of defense against germs and bacteria.

Final Germ-X Review

The Germ-X product line is getting our Thumbs Up rating, they definitely work and contain the right amount of active ingredients to be effective. They’ve done a good job of anticipating the different situations you might find yourself in, and they’ve developed different products for specific scenarios. Each of their different items gets high marks from users, and you can use any of them for reliable germ-killing tool.

That being said, the active ingredients in generic store brands is going to be the same, and the effect will also be the same. You don’t really have to pay a premium to get Germ-X over another lesser-known brand at a smaller price. But many users say that Germ-X is preferable because of the way your hands feel when you’re finished, and there are some products like the wipes that don’t have a generic offering yet.

Our Recommendation
Keeping yourself germ-free and healthy requires a multi-tiered approach. Not only do you want to make sure that your hands are clean as much as possible, including sanitizing them when they’ve been through an especially germy situation, but from the inside as well, with a healthy and strong immune system.

Find answers to frequent questions about hand hygiene on the Hand Hygiene FAQs page.

CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer in community settings was developed based on data from a number of studies.

Note: For hand hygiene guidance in healthcare settings, please visit the Clean Hands Count webpage.

Why? Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile 1-5 . Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly 1-15 , people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried 14 .

Why? Many studies show that hand sanitizers work well in clinical settings like hospitals, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy 16 . Some data also show that hand sanitizers may work well against certain types of germs on slightly soiled hands 17,18 . However, hands may become very greasy or soiled in community settings, such as after people handle food, play sports, work in the garden, or go camping or fishing. When hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitizers may not work well 3,7,16 . Handwashing with soap and water is recommended in such circumstances.

Why? Although few studies have been conducted, hand sanitizers probably cannot remove or inactivate many types of harmful chemicals. In one study, people who reported using hand sanitizer to clean hands had increased levels of pesticides in their bodies 19 . If hands have touched harmful chemicals, wash carefully with soap and water (or as directed by a poison control center).

Why? Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers 16,20 . Hand sanitizers without 60-95% alcohol 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and 2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.

Why? The steps for hand sanitizer use are based on a simplified procedure recommended by CDC 21 . Instructing people to cover all surfaces of both hands with hand sanitizer has been found to provide similar disinfection effectiveness as providing detailed steps for rubbing-in hand sanitizer 22 .

Why? Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)-based hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed, 23 but they can cause alcohol poisoning if a person swallows more than a couple of mouthfuls 24 .

How to use hand sanitizer

We can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by washing our hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds – especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing our nose. If soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol to help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Rub the hand sanitizer all over your hands, making sure to get between your fingers and on the back of your hands. Do not wipe or rinse off the hand sanitizer before it is dry. Do not use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy; wash your hands with soap and water instead.

If you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, keep these safety tips in mind.

Hand Sanitizers Are Drugs

Hand sanitizers are regulated as over-the-counter (non-prescription) drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, read and follow the Drug Facts label, particularly the warnings section.

Store hand sanitizer out of the reach of pets and children, and kids should use it only with adult supervision. Call your doctor or the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 if you experience a serious reaction to hand sanitizer.

Keep Hand Sanitizer Out of Your Eyes

Be especially careful not to get hand sanitizer in your eyes because it can cause burning and damage the surface of the eye. Watch young children around dispensers containing hand sanitizer, which are often mounted at eye level and can splash.

If you get hand sanitizer in your eyes, rinse your eyes thoroughly with water as soon as possible, and call a health care provider or poison control center.

Use Hand Sanitizer in a Well-Ventilated Area

If you are using hand sanitizer in a closed area, such as a car, open the windows to improve ventilation until the hand sanitizer is dry.

Supervise Children Using Hand Sanitizer

Do not drink hand sanitizer. This is particularly important for young children, especially toddlers, who may be attracted by the pleasant smell or brightly colored bottles of hand sanitizer. Drinking even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children. (But there is no need to be concerned if your children eat with or lick their hands after using hand sanitizer.)

During this coronavirus pandemic, poison control centers have had an increase in calls about accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer, so it is important that adults monitor young children’s use.

Beware of alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are packaged in containers that may appear as food or drinks, and of those that contain food flavors or fragrances. The FDA has discovered that some hand sanitizers are being packaged in children’s food pouches, water bottles, and adult beverage bottles, such as beer cans, and liquor and wine bottles.

We also found hand sanitizers that contain food flavors or fragrances, such as chocolate or raspberry. Eating or drinking these products can cause serious injury or death.

Do not allow pets to swallow hand sanitizer. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control center right away.

Hand Sanitizer Is Flammable

Keep hand sanitizer away from heat and flames. When using hand sanitizer, rub your hands until they feel completely dry before performing activities that may involve heat, sparks, static electricity, or open flames.

Check FDA’s Do-Not-Use List

The FDA discovered serious safety concerns with some hand sanitizers during testing. This includes some hand sanitizers:

  • contaminated with potentially toxic types of alcohol
  • that do not contain enough active ingredient (ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol)
  • with labels containing false, misleading, or unproven claims

Before you buy hand sanitizer or use hand sanitizer you have at home, check the FDA’s do-not-use list at www.fda.gov/handsanitizerlist. We update the list regularly as new information is released.

Health care professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program:

  • Complete and submit the report online.
  • Download the form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the form or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178.

Don’t Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

The FDA doesn’t recommend that consumers make their own hand sanitizer. If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective – or worse. For example, there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer.

Also, adding alcohol to non-alcohol hand sanitizer is unlikely to result in an effective product. And using disinfectant sprays or wipes on your skin may cause skin and eye irritation. Disinfectant sprays and wipes are intended to clean surfaces, not people or animals.

Hand sanitizers are a convenient alternative when handwashing with soap and water isn’t possible. You can help protect yourself and your family from coronavirus with simple hygiene. For more information, visit: Q&A for Consumers: Hand Sanitizers and COVID-19. Test your knowledge about hand sanitizer by taking our hand sanitizer quiz.

For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit:

How to use hand sanitizer

With the growing concern about viruses and bacteria, strains resistant to antibiotics, and new mutations without treatment, many people are rightfully concerned about protecting themselves daily and during routine and short interactions. The common wisdom is maintaining a safe distance from others, avoiding touching your face when in public, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water. While all offer excellent ways to protect yourself against attacks on the microscopic level, sometimes distance and handwashing are impossible.

In these circumstances, government agencies urge wearing a face mask and suggest using hand sanitizer as a temporary alternative to washing your hands. The first part of this suggestion — wearing a mask — should be easy, but not everyone is as familiar with hand sanitizer, especially how to use it effectively. The rest of this blog will help define the appropriate times to use hand sanitizer while also describing some general instructions.

When To Use Hand Sanitizer

There are many occasions when hand washing is not a viable option, primarily when there is no easy access to a sink or restroom. While these instances can occur frequently, there is no reason that you cannot do your part to minimize the risks of infection to yourself and others using hand sanitizer. There are at least eight times when using hand sanitizer is an appropriate alternative to handwashing.

  1. After coughing or sneezing
  2. After using the gym or exercise equipment
  3. Before entering a building, and after exiting
  4. Before and after eating
  5. Before and after touching a surface, like door knobs or handles
  6. Before and after shaking hands
  7. Before and after cooking
  8. Before and after attending group occasions
  9. Before taking your mask off (if you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water)

While this is a small list of the times hand sanitizer might be appropriate, remember that handwashing is superior. However, for handwashing to be effective, you must use the proper timing and technique.

How Much Is “Too Much” Hand Sanitizer

You do not need a lot of hand sanitizer for it to be effective, like a little squirt or dime-sized drop is enough to kill the 99.9% bacteria that most brands promise. While it does not take much to cover your hands and achieve results, you can use “too much” sanitizer. Sanitizer is not meant as a permanent cleanser, and if used too often, it can lead to dry skin and an inadequate hand microbiome. Not all bacteria is bad or harmful; some of them help your skin and body maintain their health and resilience. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer does not differentiate between good and bad bacteria, killing the majority of both. Therefore, it is vital to use sanitizer only when necessary, primarily when soap and water are not an option.

How To Properly Apply Hand Sanitizer: Step-By-Step

While it might seem unusual to explain the steps of applying hand sanitizer, there is a right way that provides the best results. The process consists of eight steps:

  1. Apply a dime-sized amount of hand sanitizer into your palm
  2. Rub your palms together to spread the sanitizer
  3. Alternate between rubbing the back of the hands with each palm
  4. Continue rubbing palm-to-palm while intertwining fingers
  5. Rub the backs of the fingers in each palm
  6. Cover each finger by wrapping and twisting each hand around each digit
  7. Go over every inch of your hand again
  8. Keep rubbing until the sanitizer is dry

When to Not Use Hand Sanitizer

While hand sanitizer is extremely beneficial, there are some situations where hand sanitizer is a no-no! Especially when it is alcohol-based. For example, avoid lighting a match, candle, or any fire related. Hand sanitizer is extremely flammable and can cause serious burns. Also, if you have pets or small children in the house, make sure you are storing your hand sanitizer in a safe place that is out of reach. If swallowed, alcohol poisoning can occur, so it’s best to avoid that at all costs!

It seems that there is more need than ever to ensure good hand hygiene. While soap and water are the ultimate tools against bacteria and viruses, hand sanitizer is an effective alternative in a pinch.

The recent pandemic has left the world scrambling, wanting to stay as safe as humanly possible. Could hand sanitizer really be the key to that safety?

Well, no, not entirely, but it’s certainly a start. However, the aid it can give must be used at full effectiveness. To that end, all hand sanitizer shouldn’t be used past its noted expiration date and should be disposed of in the proper manner.

How Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer works by killing the protein layer of microbes when applied correctly. Microbes exist in all living things, and can cause good as well as harm. The point of hand sanitizer is to destroy the harmful microbes that contain germs that can cause diseases such as COVID-19.

These sanitizers don’t get rid of all germs, but can take care of the majority when the alcohol content is above 60% and between 60-95%. Hand sanitizers without at least 60% alcohol may not work for some germs and in fact may only slightly slow the growth rate of germs, instead of killing them.

When using hand sanitizer, make sure your hands aren’t greasy or grimy before use, as it will make it harder for the sanitizer to access the germs. Additionally, be sure to use enough sanitizer to cover the entirety of your hands, and to let it dry for at least 20 seconds before using your hands for anything else.

If you use hand sanitizer too often without washing your hands in between, it can create a filmy layer on your hands that traps pathogens instead of killing them. Be sure to keep in mind that hand sanitizer should be your second option, behind washing your hands with soap and water.

What To Look for When Buying Hand Sanitizer

You should always buy an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with an alcohol percentage rate of between 60-95% alcohol . These sanitizers can come in the form of a spray, gel, foam, or liquid.

Two types of alcohol can be used for hand sanitizer: ethanol (ethyl) and isopropyl (rubbing alcohol). If the sanitizer doesn’t specify which type, it’s likely ethanol, as that is the most popular to use. Again, only look for sanitizers that are alcohol based, otherwise they will not do an efficient job of killing off germs.

Do not use sanitizers with methanol (wood alcohol). There is no proof it helps with specific viruses like COVID-19, and it’s very toxic, sometimes causing blindness, severe skin irritations, or even death.

Keep in mind that aerosol disinfectant is not the same as hand sanitizer. Do not spray it on your skin or on animals, as it can be a major skin irritant. Additionally, some chemicals cannot be taken off with hand sanitizer and must instead be taken off with water and soap.

Still confused on what to look for? Don’t worry, we can help! We at Hope Health Supply have an excellent antibacterial hand sanitizer spray for your convenience and health.

Does Hand Sanitizer Expire?

Industry standards typically state that hand sanitizers can last around 2-3 years before expiring.

However, there is not enough investigation into the matter to fully prove when hand sanitizer actually expires, or even if it expires.

The reason why industry standards typically state 2-3 years for alcohol-based hand sanitizer is because alcohol inside the formula evaporates when exposed to air. It is left to the manufacturer to assume when the alcohol will evaporate enough to not be as effective as it should be, and that date is the expiration date.

In all actuality, if the sanitizer does contain alcohol then it will likely work after the stated expiration date, just not as well. It’ll be less effective, but not technically “dangerous” to use, unless you take the pandemic into mind and want to stay as safe as possible.

Overall, there aren’t enough studies done about the use of such sanitizers after their expiration date, and therefore they should not be used and instead should be replaced with a new sanitizer to help combat the pandemic.

So, What Do You Do With Expired Hand Sanitizer?

The answer is relatively simple: throw it away. However, there are some circumstances that need extra care.

If your hand sanitizer has been punctured, is otherwise leaking, or perhaps has irritated your skin but hasn’t been recalled, put it in a sealed ziplock bag and then throw it away. If it says recyclable, then be sure to first empty everything in it out and clean the container with water, then recycle it.

If the hand sanitizer has been recalled, oftentimes you can still throw it away in a sealed ziplock container, but it cannot be recycled. Some recalls have specific instructions, so if in these cases, follow the instructions. There are also hazardous waste bins at some pharmacies you can use if you still feel uncomfortable putting it in your trash. Some recalls might require that as well.

Definitely do not put hand sanitizer down the drain or expose it in any way that could lead to animals consuming it. Both could have toxic results.

Why is Using Hand Sanitizer Important?

COVID-19 has shown the world the need for making health and wellness a priority. Hand sanitizer is one such tool that can aid overall health and as such, is very important, especially when in situations that seem somewhat unclean or crowded.

Although hand sanitizer can be a great tool, it is not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and water. The two should coexist during a pandemic, it shouldn’t be one or the other.

However, many situations don’t allow for easy hand washing, especially with many public restrooms being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In these cases, carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer can be very beneficial.

If either pets, children, or yourself accidentally ingests hand sanitizer, call 911 and poison control immediately. Additionally, be careful with it around a flame and don’t let it heat up past 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid making your own hand sanitizer , as there will more likely than not be issues with the formula and consistency of the make. Also, do not add alcohol to hand sanitizer that has already been made, but does not contain alcohol. Both making your own sanitizer from scratch and adding alcohol to already existing non-alcohol sanitizer is foolhardy and will likely cause your skin harm and irritation, at the very least.

To Conclude

Can we say that hand sanitizer conclusively expires at its expiration date? Technically, no, there currently isn’t enough data.

Nevertheless, it should still be thrown away due to the fact that it’s less efficient than you need and want it to be, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. How you dispose of it depends on why it needs to be thrown away, and the guidelines surrounding each issue.

If you’re worried about what type of hand sanitizer to use, why not check out our products at Hope Health Supply and see for yourself what a small, family-owned business with gumption, lightning-fast shipping, and affordable prices can provide for you.

Posted by Alyssa Mertes July 20th, 2021 7 Minute Read

Learn More About Hand Sanitizer

Learn More About Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is more popular now than ever before. With the spread of COVID-19 around the world, we are all being conscientious about hygiene and sanitation.

This is a good thing since we come into contact with about 60,000 germs every single day. Bacteria is hiding everywhere – on doorknobs, elevator buttons, the cereal at the grocery store, and even on your dog!

While you shouldn’t start bathing Fido in sanitizer, you can use hand sanitizer on other surfaces besides skin. It’s time to get the most out of your bottles!

What You Can Use Hand Sanitizer to Clean

You typically use hand sanitizer to clean your hands, but this disinfectant is also a great way to remove germs from many other items you use every day. Just put on rubber gloves and get to cleaning*!

Sanitizer works on any of the following surfaces:

  • Door handles
  • Smartphones
  • Keyboards
  • Computer mice
  • Pens
  • Faucets
  • Tables & countertops
  • Metal kitchen utensils
  • Eyeglasses
  • Flat irons & curling irons
  • Makeup brushes
  • Diamond rings
  • Exercise equipment

Door Handles

A study found that there could be as many as 5 different bacteria living on your front door’s handle. People are in and out all day, and who knows where their hands have been?! Wipe down handles and doorknobs with sanitizer before opening a door.

Smartphones

It’s tough to imagine a world without cell phones. We use them to watch TV shows, text our friends, and post updates on our social media accounts. With all that action, is it any surprise that there are over 25,000 bacteria per square inch on your smartphone? Put a little bit of sanitizer on your screen to ward off germs.

Keyboards & Computer Mice

EHS Today, a magazine focused on health and workplace safety, found that the average desk harbors about 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Set a reminder on your phone to sanitize your desk at least once every work day. This should include wiping down your table, the keyboard, and the mouse.

Pens

Before COVID-19, we used to borrow pens all the time, whether it was to sign the receipt at a restaurant, jot down a quick note, or fill out paperwork at a dentist appointment. All of that sharing has resulted in about 200 bacteria per square inch on the average pen. If you’re a business, make sure you’re frequently wiping yours down with sanitizer.

Faucets

Restaurants, stores, and other public places usually have a cleaning checklist hanging on the wall in their restrooms. It would be a good idea to add “sanitizing the faucets” on that list since up to 229,000 bacteria per square inch can be living on the handles. People are turning the knobs for cold or hot water right after they’ve done their business, which makes this area a hotbed for germs!

Tables & Countertops

You can wipe down your desk, kitchen table, and other surfaces using sanitizer. Just make sure you’re not using the solution on authentic wood as that may stain or cause damage. Everything else is fair game, which is good since your bathroom countertop is home to about 452 bacteria per square inch and E. Coli can be hiding on your kitchen counters.

Metal Kitchen Utensils

Cooking at home is a great way to save money and eat more nutritiously. If meal planning is part of your routine, be sure to periodically sanitize your metal kitchen utensils. E. Coli, yeast, salmonella, and even mold can be hiding on your spatulas, tongs, pizza cutters, can openers, and other kitchenware.

Eyeglasses

Smudges on your eyeglasses can be a huge pain in the butt! Luckily, you can get rid of them using hand sanitizer and a microfiber cloth. The U.S. National Library of Medicine published a study in 2018 that also showed traces of microbial contamination on the frames and lenses of spectacles.For that reason, it’s also a good idea to use the sanitizer as a disinfectant.

Flat Irons & Curling Irons

Make sure your flat iron and curling iron is off, and then you can use hand sanitizer to wipe them both down. Try to incorporate this into your routine at least once a month since hair oil can cause bacteria to grow and breed. Gross.

Makeup Brushes

Dirty makeup brushes can cause your pores to clog up and may even lead to a staph infection or pink eye. Keep them nice, clean, and sanitized to avoid any health issues in the future! It’s worth the effort, and it’s pretty simple to do. Just pour the hand sanitizer into a cup, and leave the handles inside overnight.

Diamond Rings

Polish your gemstone and make it shine by dipping a Q-tip into sanitizer and wiping it on the top. Avoid getting the sanitizer on any gold or silver-plated rings since it can tarnish the metal. Healthcare professionals at Georgia State University recommend removing your rings while washing your hands since they can be an area where bacteria can flourish. You should then take it the extra step by sanitizing them before you put them back on your finger

Exercise Equipment

Do everyone a courtesy and wipe down exercise machines, dumbbells, and yoga mats after you’ve worked out. Why? Studies have found that more than 1 million bacteria per square inch exist on exercise equipment. Gyms and fitness centers usually make this easy by having sanitizer sprays nearby, but if they don’t, bring your own from home.

Sanitizer in bottles works more or less the same as antibacterial wipes. You just need to pour some of the solution on a clean towel, and you can go about disinfecting a variety of items and surfaces.

*DISCLAIMER: Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any damage caused by using hand sanitizer on these surfaces. If you’re at all unsure, contact the product’s manufacturer and ask if sanitizer is a safe cleaning solution to use.

Did You Know?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol after doing the following:

  • Washing laundry
  • Changing a diaper
  • Blowing your nose
  • Using a public restroom
  • Touching your face mask
  • Eating or preparing food
  • Petting your dog or cat
  • Caring for a sick person

Final Thoughts

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, you should still always have hand sanitizer in your supply cabinet. It’s a good substitute when hand washing isn’t possible, but it can also be used for other household cleaning and disinfecting.

Are you curious about how hand sanitizer is made? Check out this video!

You wouldn’t go too long without vacuuming or sweeping, right? Add sanitation to your list of chores! It can make all the difference between being healthy and having to take a sick day.

There are three important things to keep in mind when applying hand sanitizer: how much you use, your technique, and consistency.

Hand sanitizer has become something of a holy grail as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The demand has become so high that small businesses have popped up left and right to counteract the shortage of top brands, like Purell and Germ-X, in hopes of giving people a fighting chance for proper hand hygiene. For anyone other than medical practitioners, the CDC recognizes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as the most hygienic option. This is because hand sanitizer doesn’t strip the hands of dirt, grease, potential harmful chemicals, and many types of germs like cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.

However, soap and water aren’t always “on hand.” For these times, hand sanitizer is your next best choice. Here’s everything you need to know about proper use, as explained by medical professionals.

When to Use Hand Sanitizer

When you’re running essentials errands, like grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, getting gas, and so on, you’re undoubtedly touching high-contact surfaces that put you at risk. That’s when hand sanitizer makes its case. “Whenever possible, washing hands with soap and water is more effective,” says Sachin Nagrani, MD and Medical Director for Heal. “Hand sanitizer is great for use outside the home after touching any potentially contaminated surface, such as a door handle.”

“Sanitizer use is important, and especially critical in the current environment, after coming in contact with any items that may have been touched by others as well as prior to touching similar items,” adds Dr. Grigoriy Mashkevich, MD, facial plastic surgeon at Specialty Aesthetic Surgery. “In a medical sphere, this also applies to contact with other individuals, such as patients requiring examination.” Other situations that call for hand sanitizer include when you’re riding public transportation, handling money, touching elevator buttons or door handles, or handling things like mail and packages.

The Most Effective Type of Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is in short supply, so you might be tempted to grab a few bottles of the first option you come across, but it’s important to remember that not all brands are created equal. The CDC recommends using a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content. The active ingredient in hand sanitizers to look for is isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), a similar form of alcohol (ethanol or n-propanol), or a combination of them. It should also contain some water to boost effectiveness. Some products on the market claim to sanitize, but offer below the recommended amount of alcohol, or no alcohol at all, and should therefore be avoided.

“If it is not possible to use soap and water, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can reduce the risk of getting sick or transmitting sickness to others,” notes Dr. Lucky Sekhon, fertility specialist and board certified OBGYN in New York City. “Sanitizers with lower concentrations of alcohol may not successfully eradicate all types of bacteria or germs and may be more bacteriostatic (reduce growth) than bactericidal (killing bacteria).”

How to apply hand sanitizer.

Much like washing your hands, there’s a protocol to applying hand sanitizer. Unless you’re applying it correctly, you may be lessening its effectiveness and potentially leaving harmful microbes on your hands. There are three important things to keep in mind when applying hand sanitizer: how much you use, your technique, and consistency. “When using hand sanitizer, it is important to use an adequate amount to cover all surfaces on both hands and all fingers, and rub until hands are dry,” says Dr. Sekhon. “This usually means at least a quarter-size amount.”

Don’t neglect the skin leading up to the elbow, “which tends to be a neglected area that usually is sufficiently close to experience accidental contact,” adds Dr. Mashkevich. Remember to only stop rubbing in the hand sanitizer when your skin is dry. Wiping your hands before it’s dry can make it not as effective in killing germs.

Is hand sanitizer actually effective against coronavirus and the seasonal flu? Is it safe for pregnant women and young children? Here’s what concerned parents need to know.

With the spread of coronavirus and seasonal influenza, Americans have been stocking up on hand sanitizer. And with good reason: The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is an effective alternative to hand washing. Here’s the best method for using hand sanitizer—and whether it’s safe for young children and pregnant women.

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Does Hand Sanitizer Actually Work?

When it comes to banishing germs, nothing beats washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, says Christine Schindler, CEO and founder of PathSpot, a hand hygiene system that protects against food-borne illness. Soap loosens dirt and bacteria off the skin and helps wash it down the drain. But in a pinch, the CDC says you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer—as long as it has at least 60 percent alcohol. Anything less might actually encourage bacterial growth.

How to Use Hand Sanitizer

It’s not enough to briefly rub sanitizer on your palms and call it a day. Using a nickel- or quarter-size dollop, rub the sanitizer all over your hands—between the fingers, on the fronts and backs, and under your nails by scraping them against your palms. You should keep rubbing until the sanitizer is completely dry, says Schindler. Don’t let kids wipe any off on their pants; that reduces effectiveness.

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Also keep in mind that hand sanitizer isn’t effective immediately. Research published in mSphere in September 2019 found ethanol-bred disinfectants don’t swiftly destroy the influenza A virus. The study found it takes at least four minutes to kill it, and that’s due to the “stronger than expected” mucus surrounding the virus. Only once the mucus is completely dry will the virus die. Hand washing without soap was found to be more effective—it killed the virus within 30 seconds.

Is Hand Sanitizer Safe for Pregnant Women?

Pregnant women may be especially reliant on hand sanitizer to banish germs. But as it turns out, some ingredients may be unsafe while expecting—although this hasn’t been proven definitively.

Hand sanitizers often contain triclosan, a chemical used for antibacterial purposes that’s also found in antibacterial soaps, fluoride toothpastes, and some cosmetic products. According to an April 2017 study published in the journal Environmental Research, “Triclosan may reduce the levels of thyroid hormones that are important for fetal growth and development.” In particular, it’s associated with lower birth weight and reduced gestational age.

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A 2010 study from the University of Florida also found that triclosan interferes with the “metabolism of estrogen.” A disruption could affect how estrogen is moved through the placenta—and it may also impact brain development, gene regulation, and fetal oxygen levels, according to the study.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously noted that triclosan was found in the urine of 75 percent of Americans, so exposure is very common. But if pregnant women want to avoid it, they can choose a hand sanitizer made without it. Triclosan should be listed on the ingredient label in any product containing it.

How About Young Children?

Babies have thin and delicate skin, so the chance of absorption is high. “Parents need to keep in mind that hand sanitizer contains alcohol,” says Debra M. Langlois, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. Also, she notes that young children might accidentally ingest the hand sanitizer, or put their hands in their mouths before the product is fully rubbed in. “Ingestion of hand sanitizer could lead to alcohol poisoning, which is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include confusion, vomiting, slowed breathing, seizures, and coma,” she says.

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The good news is that there are rarely major effects from exposure in kids under 6, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. To be safe, though, Dr. Langlois says parents should store hand sanitizer out of children’s reach and always monitor usage.