Teaching Tuesday- All About Hand Sanitizers

Everyone knows that good hand washing is the first line of defense in protecting your health and stopping the spread of germs. Many bacteria can live on surfaces for hours, some many days. And, of course, viruses, especially ones that attack the stomach and intestines,  also can be picked up and transmitted when your hands touch surfaces where they reside and then make their way to your open skin, mouth, or a mucous membrane. 

In fact, studies show that the that the computer keyboard, the phone receiver, and the desk are worse than the bathroom in terms of being covered with micro-organisms. While washing with plain old soap and water should be your first choice, when you're stuck between meetings, about to grab lunch at your desk, or have to use somebody else's keyboard, using a hand sanitizer (before and after) is a good idea.  Even when you are at home there are many times when it's difficult or inconvenient to get to soap and water, so using a sanitizer is quite helpful. 

And hand sanitizer was created just for these instances and more. Hand sanitizer has become quite popular, in fact, you can find hand sanitizer dispensers in most  all hospitals, daycares, airports, and even many department stores and shops now set out large bottles for customer and employee use, especially during flu season. But do you know all that you need to know about the hand sanitizer?

The first thing you need to know is if the particular one you have will be effective. Just because it says it will kill the microbes doesn't mean that it will. Studies show that there needs to be a concentration of at least 60% alcohol to effectively dispatch the nasties (whatever type of alcohol is used, so you may see; isopropyl, acetol or others). Believe it or not, there are several on the market that do not meet this threshold. This is especially true in ones that are marketed as "children's hand santizer". Also, this threshold needs to be taken into consideration when creating your own hand santizer, or using one made by someone else.

Once quality is assured, the issue then becomes quantity. If you don't use enough product to do the job, your efforts are wasted, as germs will remain and can still be transfered. So just how much is enough? You need to (vigorously) rub your entire hands, all sides, with enough gel (or foam) to get them wet, and then rub them together until they are dry. If your hands are dry within 10 or 15 seconds, according to the C.D.C. guidelines for health care workers, you haven't used enough product.  

As an aside, some of the homemade recipes for sanitizer depend upon other ingredients, such as essential oils, to augment or even replace alcohol as the active ingredient(s). While many EO's have been proven to posses antimicrobial/antiviral properties, I would venture to say that it is beyond the scope of the average kitchen crafter to create an adequate sanitizer formula  without using a 60% concentration of alcohol. And any such formulations should be laboratory tested for their effecy.  Consider this when making your own sanitizer, as well as when you are buying from an Indie company. After you do the research, read all the labels, and ask any questions you may have, you may just find that the best quality, and and least expensive hand sanitizer is a commercial one. I never, ever thought that I'd say such a thing, much less mean it. But in this instance, the assurance of a safe and effective formulation, coupled with the cheap cost, certainly outweigh my need to create. Besides, it gives me more time for making soap! Lol 


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