Now that almost all places in the entire world are taking measures to stop the spread of the corona virus that’s responsible for causing the COVID-19 hand sanitiser’s are becoming very popular and hard to get. But they are not all the same and some are not as effective as others.
We have all heard since we were small children that washing our hands is the best way to keep ourselves clean and healthy, while we stop the spread of germs, harmful bacteria and disease.
How and Why Does a Virus that’s On My Hands Infect My Body?
Viruses on your hands can quickly enter your body when you touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth, they enter through the mucous membranes there. It has been estimated that although most people are totally unaware they do it, the average person touches their face at least 24 times every hour.
When you consider all the things such as doorknobs and handles, touch screens, ATM’s, handrails, taps, supermarket trolleys, cans and food packets as well as your cell phone and any money you have used, just to name a few of the things we come into contact with each day, you come into contact with many germs. Think about how many other people have also touched those things, any viruses or unwanted bacteria on any of those surfaces will be transferred to your hands and unless you wash them to your face and inside your body.
This is why regularly washing your hands is so very important!
When Should You Wash Your Hands?
- Whenever they look dirty
- Whenever you touch a surface that others could have touched
- Before and after you have touched food
- Before eating
- After handshaking. (Best to avoid where possible)
- Before and after contact with anyone who is sick
- Before and after treating any wound, sore or if coming into contact with any bodily fluids
- After using the bathroom
- After changing baby nappies
- After handling any waste products or garbage containers
- After sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose. If you are not well, it’s important to wash your hands often to avoid contaminating others
- After touching pets or animals, especially if handling their waste or food
- After contact with anyone outside your immediate family or home environment
- Anytime you feel or doubt your hands are clean
These top hand sanitiser tips will help you decide on the best methods and types to use:
The Best Method to Sanitise Your Hands
Washing your hands using a common type of soap is the best method of sanitising your hands as it’s a very effective defense from almost all invisible pathogens.
The majority of people consider that soap as a soothing and as gentle product that softly cleans your skin, but as far as microbes are concerned it’s extremely destructive. Just a few drops of soap in a little water will rupture and kill a huge range of bacteria and viruses including the corona virus.
Why is Soap so Effective?
Soap’s effectiveness is because of its unique hybrid structure, it’s a surfactant meaning it likes both oil and water. Soap’s made up of pin shaped molecules. These have a head (hydrophilic) that bonds readily with water and a tail (hydrophobic) that shuns water, but links to fats and oils.
When placed in water the soap molecules float around as individual units and interact with other molecules they contact, then form small bubbles called micelles. These bubbles are arranged with the molecule heads pointed towards the outside and their thin tails tucked inside.
Soap, for the most part, doesn’t actually kill germs and bacteria on our skin and other surfaces, it removes them. This is done because germs will stick to grease, fat and oils on our skin, as water and oil do not mix, water alone is unable to remove the oils and grease. When you add soap to the water the solution easily removes oils, fats and grease taking the germs away with it.
When you wash your hands using soapy water the soap molecules bind together at the same time with both the oil and water molecules allowing them all to be rinsed away. This works adequately with cold water, but using warm or hot water makes it more efficient.
When washing your hands using any type of soap and water, the microorganisms present on your skin are surrounded by the soap molecules. The long tails of soap molecules try to avoid the water and become wedged into the envelopes of various viruses and microbes prying them apart,catching ans also and destroying them.
What is Soap?
Soap is a mixture of any type of oil or fat, an alkali and water.
It’s thought it was first discovered by the ancient Babylonians of around 2800 BC, so it’s been an important part of human history and evolution over the ages. When oil, water and an alkali are mixed together in the correct proportions, they cause a chemical reaction known as saponification or soap.
Effective Hand Washing
In order for the soap to be effective when washing your hands you need to work the soap and water mixture into a good lather so it’s well mixed. The friction this causes helps to loosen and lift any oils and dirt attached to your skin, while the soap goes to work on any microorganisms it contacts.
It’s suggested in order for it to be effective, you need to scrub or rub your hands together in the soap and water solution for at least 20 seconds (30 plus is better) and make sure you cover the fronts and backs as well as areas under your fingernails where dirt and many types of bacteria gather.
The amount of hand scrubbing depends on the amount of dirt on your hands and the time and effort it takes to remove it. Drying your hands on a clean towel or air dryer is recommended as wet hands are more likely to attract and spread germs than dry hands.
The Correct Hand Washing Technique
By following these simple steps you can be assured you will have clean, germ free hands until you touch something and need to wash them again.
- Wet your hands using cold or warm, clean water
- Lather up your hands
- Rub your hands together so that you cover both sides, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. This should be done for at least 20 seconds
- Consider how you will turn off the tap. You do not want to touch it if it’s still dirty after you have washed your hands
You could use the soap on your hands to wash the tap and then rinse then both
You could turn off the tap using a clean towel
As a last resort use your elbow to turn off the tap after rinsing your hands
- Rinse your hands in clean, preferably running water
- Dry your hands, the best method is to use a dry, sterile paper towel or a blow dryer.
If neither of these are available, shake your hands to remove any excess water and allow them to air dry.
Do not use your clothing as any airborne bacteria may have settled there and you are just recontaminating your hands
- If you used a paper towel to dry your hands use the same paper on the door handle to leave the bathroom
Normal or Antibacterial Soap
Antibacterial soaps are made with additional hydrophobic molecules and designed to penetrate the cell membranes of bacteria, killing them. Studies have found that these soaps are no more effective in removing harmful germs than standard plain soaps and the FDA ruled that they were not allowed to be marketed publicly in 2016.
If water and soap is not available which is often the case when you are out and about then hand sanitiser is the next best option.
The World Health organisation recommends two different type of formulations for hand rubs, these being:
To produce final concentrations of ethanol 80% v/v, glycerol 1.45% v/v, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) 0.125% v/v.
To produce final concentrations of isopropyl alcohol 75% v/v, glycerol 1.45% v/v, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) 0.125% v/v:
Only pharmacopoeial quality reagents should be used (e.g. The International Pharmacopoeia) and not technical grade products.
Hand sanitiser’s are not cleaners and will not remove dirt and grime, oil, grease and chemicals such as pesticides or heavy metals. They are also often ineffective when the hands are dirty or oily
Using Alcohol Based Hand Sanitisers
To be effective an alcohol based hand sanitiser should be:
- Applied to the palm of one hand (in the amount specified on the container)
- Rub your hands together, including the wrists, areas between your fingers and the back of your hands and under your fingernails.
- Rub until all the sanitiser has dried up and your hands are dry
Other Types of Hand Sanitisers
Often, especially now with the corona virus, it can be very hard to find an effective hand sanitiser for sale in the shops so people are looking for alternatives to the conventional alcohol based shop brought verities such as:
Rubbing alcohol with a concentration of 70% or more is effective at killing many viruses. The suggested way of using is to first wash your hands with a detergent to remove any dirt or oils. Then use the rubbing Alcohol, allowing it to sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds. Then wipe clean with a sterile towel or wipe
Bleach is not recommended for use on any skin as it is very harsh and can burn or destroy flesh. If it must be used because there is no alternative use at the rate of 1 tsp for every two cups of water and use very sparingly, caution as extreme care needs to be taken to avoid contact with the eyes to avoid permanent damage.
There are some reports that having a moderate to heavy amount of alcohol in your system may prevent a person from catching a virus, but this is largely wishful thinking. Drinking alcohol is probably of no real use and possibly out to do more harm than good.
Are there any Dangers Because Of Frequent Hand Washing
One of the problems of using hand sanitisers too often is they tend to remove the natural oils from your skin. This can cause the skin to become raw, flaky, itchy, produce rashes, dry out or crack or become chapped. If this happens, it provides an easy way for viruses and germs to enter your body.
The best way to avoid this is to use a good quality moisturizer or if you are in a situation where you are constantly in contact with other people or items that people are handling is to wear proper protective gloves whenever possible so you can avoid the need to continually wash your hands.
Hand sanitiser’s, especially alcohol, iodine and specialised sanitiser’s, work well in hospitals, dental surgeries and labs where they are not so concerned with heavily soiled or greasy items, but are concerned with combating germs and viruses. These same sanitiser’s tend not to be so effective in community settings during sports and in the workplace. Using normal soap and water is the best hand sanitizing option available.
Frequent hand washing using plenty of soap and water is the best, most cost effective and quickest way to ensure your hands remain sanitised and safe for yourself and family. It only takes 20 seconds and this is probably the most important time you can invest for your total health care?