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Hand hygiene, including the use of hand sanitizers, is now a part of our everyday lives, and that is a good thing!

We encounter germs every time we shake hands, touch surfaces, cough, and even handle cash.

Keeping our hands clean is essential for staying healthy and preventing the spread of illness-causing bacteria and viruses. Washing hands with soap and water is the best method, especially when hands are soiled, but it’s not always possible. That’s when hand sanitizers are a great solution.

The most effective hand sanitizers are ethyl alcohol-based because alcohol is the most proven germ-killing agent for use on skin. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available.

The top 3 reasons alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended when soap and water cannot be used are:

1. Alcohol Works Fast

2. Less Sensitivity to Added Ingredients

3. Scientific Evidence

Ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill germs in as little as 15 seconds. In comparison, non-alcohol-based products can take up to 60 seconds. That may not seem like a big difference, but in that span of 45 seconds, the person using the product may begin eating, touch a door handle, or shake someone’s hand, passing along germs to others.

Hand sanitizer formulations often include ingredients such as fragrances, coloring, or moisturizers. These additives can reduce the effectiveness of the germ-killing agent in non-alcohol hand sanitizers. Alcohol, on the other hand, is less sensitive to additional ingredients. This means that well-formulated alcohol-based sanitizers maintain their germ-killing efficacy even with added fragrances and conditioners, providing reliable protection every time you use them.

Ethyl alcohol has been proven effective in killing pathogens for over a century. Numerous medical journals dating back to the late 1880s have documented the effectiveness of alcohol in killing germs. Non-alcohol formulas have not undergone the same amount of research demonstrating their efficacy and safety.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are great for a variety of facilities, including:

In hospitals, medical offices, and long-term care facilities, proper use of alcohol-based sanitizers is crucial for preventing the spread of infections. Healthcare professionals must sanitize their hands quickly and frequently during their workday, so well-formulated alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the most appropriate option.

In places where food is prepared and served, alcohol-based sanitizers are essential for maintaining hand hygiene standards. They are effective against a wide range of pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses and are quick and convenient for kitchen and front-of-house staff to use throughout their shift.

Airports, sports and entertainment venues, and other facilities with large numbers of visitors can facilitate the risk of germ transmission. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers available from conveniently placed dispensers are preferred in these settings, providing easy access to fast-acting doses of product.

Campuses, with their high volumes of students and close quarters, are full of germs. Soap and water are not always accessible at crucial moments. Supplying alcohol-based hand sanitizer at key locations, such as building entrances and cafeterias, can help keep germs at bay.

During outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or in disaster-stricken areas where access to soap and water is limited, alcohol-based hand sanitizers play a critical role in infection control.

While alcohol-based hand sanitizer are often the best choice, there are some scenarios where you might opt for alcohol-free sanitizers.

Some people have skin conditions or allergies that make them vulnerable to harsh hand hygiene products. If skin is damaged, using alcohol-based products may be uncomfortable. While non-alcohol formulations containing soothing ingredients like aloe vera may seem gentler, it is essential to select hand hygiene products that are gentle to the skin and effective at removing germs.

In facilities where there are concerns about ingestion, such as correctional facilities, behavioral health facilities, and K-12 schools, non-alcohol sanitizers may be appropriate. Alternatively, choose alcohol-based formulations with denaturants and specialized dispensing systems to deter ingestion.

There are limits on the storage of alcohol-based hand sanitizer due to its flammability. These limits are regulated by various agencies and codes. Facilities like manufacturing and construction sites may have additional requirements. It is essential to consult with local authorities to ensure compliance with all applicable codes and regulations.

In rare cases, considerations may be needed to ensure the safety of sensitive equipment that may be negatively impacted by exposure to alcohol. This risk can be managed by optimized dispenser placement and signage to decrease exposure of sensitive equipment.

Final Thoughts

Hand hygiene is vital in our quest to keep people healthy, and hand sanitizers are an effective alternative when soap and water are not available. Alcohol-based products are preferred in most cases due to their efficacy, fast-acting formula, and resilience against added ingredients. With the backing of scientific studies and endorsements from the CDC and WHO, alcohol-based sanitizers remain the best choice for effective hygiene.

If you need assistance in analyzing your situation, the experts at Imperial Dade can guide you through the options for all your hand hygiene needs, including product options, dispenser placements, and training for your staff.

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