If you weren’t a germaphobe before 2020, chances are you’re now a little more careful about the things that might be living on your hands. When a global pandemic threatens the health and safety of so many, we become pretty protective of what we touch, who we touch, and what we do with our hands.
In fact, at the onset of COVID-19, when no one was sure what to do, many of us resorted to wearing gloves when we had to go out in public.
When we were told gloves didn’t help, we went after hand sanitizer, hoarding as much of it as we possibly could. If you weren’t one of the fortunate few to get your hands on some before mid-March, you were likely out of luck. A huge demand increase practically crippled the supply chain and we saw store shelves that were either empty or had only a few products at ridiculously high prices, as manufacturers began practicing price gouging.
Supply only caught up with demand when manufacturers of other products (like auto parts and liquor distilleries) began producing hand sanitizer as well. At that point, it was a gamble to purchase products that hadn’t been thoroughly inspected. Additionally, there were purchase limits, which meant even if you’d been without hand sanitizer for months, you were only allowed one tiny bottle.
All this craze over hand sanitizer and keeping healthy during a pandemic made us wonder: What kind of bacteria is really on our hands? Is it necessary to even use hand sanitizer, and if so, does it really work? Are some kinds of hand sanitizer better than others? We set out to find these answers, and now we are sharing them with you.
Bacteria: What’s Really On Our Hands?
A better question to ask would be, “What isn’t on our hands?” What we discovered was that our hands are basically petri dishes of bacteria, germs, dirt, spores, disgusting stuff, and just plain gross. Obviously, this isn’t new, we’ve survived like this for thousands of years and one has to imagine that with advances in modern healthcare, we must have less (or at least less dangerous) germs floating on our fingertips than we did in caveman days.
Still, the fact remains, our hands are germ pools. In fact, there are some 10 million bacteria living on your hands at any given point in the day, effectively making your hands dirtier than a toilet seat. So what kinds of bacteria are hanging out on our hands? Science says it is mostly a type of staph bacteria which is harmless to us.
And the rest of it? We hate to tell you this, but it’s a smorgasbord of everything you’ve touched during the day including door handles, elevator buttons, toilet flushers (and the even dirtier bathroom sink levers), other people, animals, diapers (yep, fecal matter is almost always hanging out on hands), desks, phones, and anything else. And if you shake hands with someone, you now have a proprietary blend of whatever they’ve touched, mixed with what you’ve touched.
It’s enough to make you want to soak your hands in bleach. However, we do know that not all bacteria is harmful, and some is even beneficial, so how do we determine how much of the bacteria on our hands is in need of eradicating?
It really comes down to a matter of reducing the amount of bacteria populations on the hands, not destroying it all. The CDC has determined that a safe and healthy level of bacteria can live on your hands if you simply take care to wash them regularly, for at least twenty seconds per wash. That brings up another problem: what do you do when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water?
There may be times when you can’t make it to a sink or simply don’t have time to leave the activity at hand to go wash (we’re looking at you, Zoom conference call). For these times, you can turn to a hand sanitizer spray to get the job done.
Does Hand Sanitizer Even Work?
Maybe you’re convinced hand sanitizer can’t handle the amount of bacteria on our hands. While we understand the distrust (again, fecal matter), you’ll be happy to know that the CDC has deemed hand sanitizers effective in sanitizing your hands, provided they contain an isopropyl alcohol concentration of at least 60%.
The problem is, many hand sanitizers you may find (and that is if you can find them) don’t contain enough alcohol to be effective. If you’re relying on a hand sanitizer that doesn’t contain enough alcohol to keep your hands sanitized, you are putting yourself and your loved ones at risk of transferring bacteria, viruses, and germs.
Hand sanitizers that contain the required 60% isopropyl alcohol content are:
- Effective. These hand sanitizers can kill 99.9% of bacteria, germs, and spores living on your hands. That, along with proper hand hygiene like frequent washing, can keep your hands free from germs that could potentially make you sick.
- Convenient. Sure you just downed fast food in the car, putting your hands on wrappers and food that other people have assembled and touched, but you’re stuck in traffic and can’t get to a sink. Thankfully, you’ve got a small hand sanitizer stowed in your car for times such as these.
- Safe. Don’t soak your hands in bleach, we promise that’s not a good idea, and ultimately, it’s just not necessary. Instead, simply use a hand sanitizer spray, but be sure the ingredients check out. The FDA issued a statement earlier this year warning consumers about the use of methanol (wood alcohol) in hand sanitizers. Methanol is toxic to humans when absorbed through the skin, so it’s important you buy from a reputable company and know what you are getting.
- Less irritating. Although washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to keep germs off your hands, excessive washing with soap and water can be drying and cause hands to become irritated and crack. Many high quality hand sanitizers have ingredients like glycerin that make them gentle on hands, so no matter how many times you sanitize, you don’t have to worry that your hands will feel dry and uncomfortable.
You really have no reason to avoid using a good hand sanitizer. It can help keep your hands’ bacteria level healthful, so you don’t have to worry that you’re carrying around a lot of extra gunk. However, just as there is a proper way to wash your hands (lots of soap, warm water, and a full verse of Happy Birthday to You), there’s a right way to sanitize your hands.
How Should I Sanitize My Hands?
Proper hand sanitization begins with the right hand sanitizer. We recommend the world’s best hand sanitizer spray, because it can serve as double duty on things like smartphone screens and tablets--keep in mind though, that in order for your hand sanitizer spray to be effective on both hands and non-porous surfaces, it needs to have at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.
To properly sanitize your hands, follow these steps.
- Apply enough. One of the biggest mistakes people make when using hand sanitizer is using too little. Make sure you use enough hand sanitizer to cover your hands or the surface you are spraying.
- Rub your hands together (or rub the surface of the item you are sanitizing). Make sure if you are sanitizing your hands you focus on fingers, nails, nail beds, your palms, and the back of your hands.
- Allow to dry. It is important you make sure to let the hand sanitizer dry before touching any other objects. If you are sanitizing an object, make sure the object is dry before using it.
- Store your hand sanitizer properly and in a place out of reach of small children. It’s also important to make sure you keep your hand sanitizer capped so it doesn’t spill into the bottom of a briefcase or handbag.
If you follow these steps you will be able to properly sanitize your hands and objects and keep the bacteria populations on them as low as healthfully possible.
If you’re looking for a great place to get high quality hand sanitizer for an affordable price, come check out Sanitizer.com. Our monthly sanitizer subscription allows you to get all the hand sanitizer you need every month at a price that is typically lower than any big box store. When you’re running low, you’ll find your next month’s supply has already shipped, so you don’t have to worry about where you will get your next bottle of hand sanitizer.
Our monthly subscription allows everyone to have access to affordable, effective, and accessible hand sanitizer, and we think that’s how it should be. Consumers don’t have to hoard product when they’re able to find it, and you don’t have to pay an exorbitant price from manufacturers who gouge prices when supply is short. It’s a win win situation that protects all parties involved and keeps everyone’s hands clean and safe.