The coronavirus pandemic has spelled doom for countless businesses and industries, but hand sanitizer has never been in higher demand.
In the midst of the medical crisis triggered by COVID-19, it’s clear that hand sanitizers now play an essential role in controlling the spread of infection in public places and healthcare institutions. But with so many brands vying to become the world’s go-to pandemic hand sanitizer, it’s important for consumers to select products that live up to their promises.
Here’s what you need to know the next time you shop for hand sanitizer.
Why Does Hand Sanitizer Help?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “hand hygiene for infection prevention is an important part of the U.S response to the international emergence of COVID-19.” Since it’s not always feasible to keep your hands clean with hot soap and water- say, when you’re in the car or in the grocery store- hand sanitizer gets the job done.
“The alcohol in the sanitizer basically breaks up the virus,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Linder, professor and chief of the division of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Hand sanitizer destroys the outer membrane of the virus cell which kills it or at least makes it unable to reproduce.
Though washing with soap and water is the preferred method of hand hygiene, hand sanitizer offers a much better alternative than doing nothing.
What Is the Best Hand Sanitizer?
The CDC provides specific guidelines to help shoppers identify the best hand sanitizer: find a sanitizer product with 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.
The key is the amount of alcohol in the formula. Without at least 70% or 80% alcohol, hand sanitizer isn’t guaranteed to attack viruses effectively.
However, the FDA also warns that less credible manufacturers are attempting to sell ethanol-based hand sanitizer products that test positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. The FDA recommends that all consumers check labels and steer clear of known culprits.
Business Insider recently created a list of trusted hand sanitizer products from well-established brands:
- Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Smoothing Gel (70% ethyl alcohol)
- Pharma-C-Wipes (70% isopropyl alcohol)
- Highmark Advanced Hand Sanitizer with Aloe
How to Use Hand Sanitizer Properly
Applying hand sanitizer is second nature; like washing your hands without water. However, the FDA, CDC, and WHO have all used the COVID-19 pandemic to remind us of the best hand sanitizer application methods.
Experts recommend that when soap and water aren’t available, it’s best to rub hand sanitizer into the hands for a full 20 seconds. Avoid wiping or patting your hands dry during that time, since doing so may weaken the virus-fighting effects of the sanitizer’s ingredients.
As soon a soap and water become available, wash thoroughly to ensure all germs and grime are removed.