Hand sanitizer, also called hand rub and hand antiseptic, is a convenient way to keep your hands clean when you do not have access to soap and water. In 1966 Lupe Hernandez, then a nursing student, patented an alcohol-containing, gel-based hand sanitizer for hospitals. The first alcohol-containing gel sanitizer for consumers was introduced over two decades later, in 1988. The term “alcohol” on the label of hand sanitizers indicates the product contains ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) – one of two alcohols permitted as active ingredients in alcohol-based sanitizers; the other being isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol in hand sanitizers is a very effective disinfectant that is safe to put on your skin.
Although there are non-alcohol containing hand sanitizers on the market, studies have found that those with an alcohol concentration of 60% to 95% are more effective at killing germs than those with lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol based ones. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can effectively inactivate many types of microbes. The alcohol’s job is to break apart the outer coating of bacteria and viruses, thus destroying them.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has resulted in increased use of, and subsequent demand for, hand sanitizers. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the best way to prevent the spread of infections and reduce the risk of getting sick with COVID-19 is by washing your hands with plain soap and water. Washing of hands should be done often and for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating and after going to the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, and blowing one’s nose. But, if you do not have access to washing your hands, hand sanitizers are the next best option. In public buildings, liquid hand sanitizers are easily accessible from wall-mounted dispensers. Consumers use hand sanitizer gels since they are convenient and are a lot easier to carry and dispense on the go as it’s easier to squeeze from the bottle, or tube, without spilling. Gels also slow the evaporation of alcohol, ensuring it has time to work against any microbes that might be present.
You need to understand that you won’t be able to wash your hands with soap and clean running water every time you touch a surface when you are outside the home. You may want to trust that every location you visit will have a hand sanitizer dispenser, but the truth is you should always travel with your hand sanitizer in order to lower your risk of infection from the highly contagious COVID-19.