Before COVID-19, how many of us were this hygiene conscious?
Practicing good hand hygiene has been significant in the response to coronavirus.
After the initial news of the pandemic hit, ABHR or hand sanitizer, as well as disinfectants, were flying off the shelves. Undoubtedly, they are a “handy” tool for mitigating the spread of infectious disease. For months now, people have been carrying around hand sanitizer and slathering it on whenever they come into contact with a high-touch surface.
We know that these products can help kill germs – including the virus that causes COVID-19 – but only if you use it correctly.
10 Common Hand Sanitizer Mistakes
1.You’re using the wrong kind of hand sanitizer
Not all hand sanitizers are the same. The Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) recommends using hand sanitizer or ABHR that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70% isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol). Be sure to read the label of the product as well, to identify whether it contains active ingredients that kill bacteria, viruses, both or neither.
It is important to note that products which only kill bacteria give people a false sense of security – they provide no protection from viruses like COVID-19.
In contrast, avoid sanitizers that contain methanol at all costs. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects.
You can also check whether your hand sanitizer features on the list of brands that have been recalled by the FDA.
2. You’re not using your sanitizer for long enough
As most people already know by now, you should be washing your hands for a full 20 seconds. That’s long enough to hum the entire Happy Birthday song twice from start to finish.
Well, the same applies to hand sanitizer. A visual infographic from the World Health Organization (WHO) illustrates that you should rub the product into your hands for 20 to 30 seconds, rubbing until your hands are dry.
3. You’re not applying enough product
Neglecting to apply enough hand sanitizer could mean that you are not cleansing properly. Some people think a small droplet is sufficient, but in reality, you need enough hand sanitizer to cover both hands completely. The CDC recommends “putting enough sanitizer on your hands to cover all surfaces”.
Any area of your hands left un-sanitized can carry particles of the virus. Meaning even if you only touched something with one finger, you must still correctly sanitize both hands – front to back – just to be safe.
4. You’re not allowing the product to dry
It’s crucial to o not wipe your hands before the hand sanitizer dries. Trying to speed up the drying process with a towel or even absently wiping your wet hands on your trousers will reduce the product’s potency. Most sanitizers and disinfectants need a certain amount of contact time with a surface to be effective.
5. You’re sanitizing when your hands are covered in dirt or grease
As mentioned before, it is vital to make sure the hand sanitizer has sufficient contact with your skin to eliminate germs. If your hands are dirty or greasy, the sanitizer might be ineffective. When your hands are visibly dirty, washing them with soap and water is best before sanitizing.
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6. You’re not storing your sanitization products correctly
You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, especially when it comes to ideal storage temperature. You can’t store it in the fridge or leave it out in the sun.
While it should be safe to leave your hand sanitizer in your car, the FDA recommends your product is stored between 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 to 30 degrees Celsius.
7. You’re not sanitizing before eating
The best rule of thumb is that if you’re going to put your hands near your mouth, be sure to sanitize. While you may sanitize as soon as you’ve picked up your takeout bag, what about before you dig into your meal? Try to stay aware of what you have recently touched or come into contact with and sanitize often.
8. You’re making your own sanitizer
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, panic purchases led to sanitization product shortages. As a result, many people tried their hand at making sanitizers. This is not a safe way to stay germ-free. Experts advise against it since it is easy to create or follow a recipe that is not strong enough to protect against the virus.
9. You’re not sanitizing other items you are frequently touching
It is all good and well to sanitize your hands regularly, but don’t neglect to sanitize the items you use daily – such as your keys, phone, or credit cards. Not only can this lead to cross-contamination, but you are leaving yourself open to infection.
10. You’re not checking the expiration date
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure to check the expiry date on your sanitizing products. The active ingredients in these products degrade as time goes on. While something is better than nothing, choosing to use an expired product means it might not be as effective.
Bonus Hand Sanitizer Tips
Be careful around candles or flames
Sanitizers are alcohol-based, which means they are flammable. Some people have suffered burns because of open flame exposure after using hand sanitizer, like with cigarette lighters. Allow some time for the alcohol to evaporate – at least 30 minutes to be safe.
Don’t overdo it
Hand care is as critical as hygiene. Hand sanitizers kill both good and bad bacteria, which can lead to skin irritation. It is vital to moisturize your hands after using hand sanitizing products.
While hand sanitizers are an excellent alternative for when you can’t wash your hands, they shouldn’t be used as a blanket replacement for hand washing. Hand washing is still the most effective hygiene practice. The act of scrubbing with soap and water actively kills germs, while the friction of hand drying removes pathogens, something sanitizer doesn’t offer. So, if you are near a sink, even if hand sanitizer is readily available, using soap and water to wash your hands for 20 seconds is the preferred method. Just remember to stay safe and sanitize.