How Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

by Galin Djagarov March 18, 2020

How Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

If you've visited a drug store lately, you would have undoubtedly noticed the bare shelves where hand sanitizers usually sit. With the recent coronavirus outbreak, people are taking precautionary measures to stay safe, which including stocking up quality sanitizer gels and soap. 

Hand sanitizer works best when you don't have access to water and soap. But do you know how hand sanitizers work? 

Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer is also known as hand antiseptic or hand rub, usually comes in liquid, gel, or foam. This agent is applied on the hands to decrease infectious agents or for removing common pathogens, like disease-causing organisms on the hands. It's recommended when water and soap are not readily available for handwashing. Hand sanitizer is also encouraged when repeated hand washing compromises the natural skin.  

In 2019, the FDA passed a certified rule  to which a sanitizer product can only be promoted as such if it contains ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol as an active ingredient.

 

How Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

Alcohol is the main ingredient in most hand sanitizers present in the market. When it comes to the chemical composition of a hand sanitizer, then it contains ethanol, propanol, and isopropanol. All these are alcoholic, which is common in disinfectants. 

The reason is these are super soluble in water.  According to a journal published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews,  the main reason for adding alcohol is, it helps in destroying disease-causing agents, by merely breaking apart splitting cells, proteins. The disinfectants with a portion of 30% alcohol possess the ability to kill the pathogen, but the ability gets double with every increasing concentration in the cleaning solution. 

For instance, a solution that contains 60% of alcohol concentration works much faster, but effectiveness gets decline at about 90-95% concentration.  

Furthermore, the alcohol's strength is that the germs it kills don't develop resistance to it, and so it doesn't lose its effectiveness even after continuous use.

According to one more 2014 review, ethanol is much more powerful when it comes to killing a particular range of disease-causing species, including, Serratia marcescens, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol doesn't work well for all germs, like norovirus; Clostridium difficile, which can cause life-threating diarrhea. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  hand sanitizers that don't contain alcohol may not kill as many germs as the alcoholics can do. Instead, they only help in reducing the growth of the bacteria to some extent. So it is recommended by CDC to use those sanitizers, which contain 60% alcohol for effective results. 

 

Galin Djagarov
Galin Djagarov


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