Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Viruses?
COVID-19 has changed the way we see the world, live our lives, and, most importantly, view hygiene. Clean hands are essential for our health and the health of those around us, which is why hand sanitizer is no longer debatable. Hand sanitizer kills viruses, bacteria, and some fungi, making it the ideal protection from the COVID-19 virus.
Good quality hand sanitizer kills 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria. It is the gold standard in waterless hand hygiene. Alcoholic solutions have been used since as far back as 1888 to sanitize and disinfect hands, surfaces, and objects, primarily in the healthcare industry. Solutions consisting of 60% to 90% alcohol are what are recommended by the FDA, CDC and various other public health bodies the world over.
Why Do We Use Hand Sanitizer?
It’s long been known that hygiene helps stem the spread of viruses and bacteria, thereby preventing infection and disease. The simple act of handwashing and using hand sanitizer kills 99.9999% of these germs so that they do not enter our bodies and make us ill. From the common cold and diarrhea to COVID-19, salmonella, skin infections, eye infections, and many other infections.
How Do Germs Enter Our Systems?
When we neglect our hand hygiene, we unwittingly spread whatever we have on our hands to everything we touch. Objects such as cell phones, computer mice and keyboards, handrails, and contaminated food are all covered in potentially harmful pathogens. From our hands, the doorway is open for germs to enter our bodies.
We frequently touch our mouth, nose, and eyes, which is one way bacteria and viruses infect us. In the preparation and consumption of food, unwashed hands can also transfer these germs and make you sick. People become critically ill daily from infections and illnesses that can be prevented by hand hygiene, with an effective hand sanitizer being a vital tool to keep people healthy.
How Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Viruses?
Effective hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol. Without alcohol, they aren’t especially effective against viruses and bacteria. The alcohol kills viruses by denaturing them; this means that they bond with the protein of the fat membrane, which encases the cell; the alcohol then breaks down this outer membrane and dissolves the cell. Ultimately the cell is neutralized and can no longer reproduce and infect people with pathogens.
There are non-alcoholic hand sanitizers and sanitizers with alcohol in them. Those which are alcohol-free are not recommended by the CDC because they are simply not effective enough to kill viruses, even when they contain biocidal agents.
Biocidal agents are even thought to promote antibiotic resistance, which is increasingly problematic in treating bacteria borne infections.
Viruses Versus Bacteria
While hand sanitizers kill 99.9% of germs, there is a big difference between viruses and bacteria. They don’t only pass on different illnesses and diseases, but they also need to be treated differently. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics; while viruses do not respond to antibiotics, the symptoms can be treated using over-the-counter medication and antivirals.
RNA and DNA are enveloped inside the protein coating
The DNA and RNA float freely in the cytoplasm
Causes systemic infections
Causes localized infections
Treated using antiviral medications
Treated using antibiotics
Requires a host to reproduce
Can reproduce by itself
AIDS, common cold, influenza, chickenpox, COVID-19
Strep throat, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections
What Types of Viruses Does Hand Sanitizer Kill?
Hand sanitizer kills most viruses; their virucidal activity ensures that both enveloped viruses and non-enveloped viruses are neutralized to combat gastroenteric and respiratory infections. This includes everyday viruses which cause minor infections, and more serious viruses.
Viruses such as Zika, Ebola, SARS-Cov (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus), MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), and COVID-19 are all killed by hand sanitizer.
What Type of Alcohol Do Hand Sanitizers Contain?
To begin with, hand sanitizers, both gel and spray variants, need to contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. The most common types of alcohol used in hand sanitizers are ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol.
Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, can be produced through either petrochemical or natural fermentation processes. Ethanol is the same type of alcohol used in alcoholic drinks and is fermented using sugars and yeasts. When ethanol is produced naturally, it is more likely to be an environmentally friendly compound.
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as isopropanol or rubbing alcohol, is derived made using a process called hydration that combines propylene and water.
While both ethanol and isopropanol are the industry standard, ethanol has been found to offer higher virucidal activity and is gentler on skin.
How To Use Hand Sanitizer To Kill Viruses
As with washing your hands under a tap with soap and water, hand sanitizer must be used as per directions to kill viruses.
How to use hand sanitizer:
1. Dispense a generous amount of hand sanitizer into the palm. The amount used must be enough to cover the entire surface area of the hand.
2. Rub the palms together and distribute the hand sanitizer to cover the entire hand.
3. Don’t forget to cover the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the tips of your fingers, under your nails and the nail beds.
4. Rub the hand sanitizer into your hands for 30 seconds.
5. Allow hand sanitizer to dry; once your hands are dry, they have been disinfected.
Is Home-Made Sanitizer Effective Against Viruses?
Many people have turned to making their own hand sanitizer when in a bind or when looking for a more skin-friendly option. Unfortunately, as very few of us are chemists, this is not the ideal solution; in fact, it’s not recommended at all. The primary reason for this is that it’s difficult to know precisely how much alcohol is contained in the final solutions. Many hand sanitizer recipes also tout an alcohol-free variant, which is not effective enough to be considered a viable option.
The best virus killing hand sanitizers contain enough alcohol–ethanol–to be effective, and just enough moisturizing ingredients to keep your hands from drying out and cracking. Elyptol is one such hand sanitizer. Have a look at our extensive range of products to find the right sanitizing solution for you.