How handy is hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizers: they seem to be the best thing that ever happened to hygiene since the creation of baby wipes. But for all its hype, how much do you really know about its effectiveness?

Despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) praised it for its role in reducing flu outbreaks a year ago, its important to know that not all organisms can be successfully eliminated by hand sanitizer. For instance, anthrax and CDI (Clostridium difficile infection) are entirely resistant to it, and both have the potential to multiply rapidly.

In addition, because we aren’t actually rinsing our hands while using hand sanitizer, they don’t actually clean visible dirt – such as that bit of ketchup that dried up on your hands after eating. Moreover, if the alcohol percentage of the hand sanitizer is less than 60%, it’s pretty much ineffective – tests have shown clumps of bacteria to still be left on one’s hands upto 24 hours later. Some researchers have even described this as “frightening”, given the amount of hand sanitizers on the market stating that it can kill 99.9% of the germs and yet they have an alcohol content that cannot possibly live up to that claim.

Essentially, the bottom line is this: hand sanitizer will quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands in certain situations… But they definitely don’t kill all types of microbes. In fact, heading for the sink to wash your hands with old-fashioned soap and water will do much more for you instead. Keep that in mind the next time you automatically reach for your handy dispenser!

Source: Draelos, Zora Diana. Hand Sanitizers Don't Cleanse. Dermatology Times. 1 MAR 2014.

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