Hand washing is a commonly overlooked hygienic practice. It was not until a pandemic spread across the globe that it became a life-saving habit. Handwashing was identified to be a highly effective safety measure to avoid the further spread of the coronavirus.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), promotes washing your hands with soap and water for around 20 seconds as the proper way of handwashing. However, handwashing stations, let alone soap and clean water, are not always available in most places. With this, the next best alternative came to sanitizers and alcohol. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol concentration is enough to kill enveloped viruses just like the coronavirus.
The heightened use of alcohol and alcohol-based sanitizers have to some degree, raised concern to some sustainability advocates. They believe that anything, when consumed excessively, will have some environmental impact. This and many more facts about handwashing will be discussed throughout this week’s blog.
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Is It Safe to Use Hand Sanitizers Every Day?
The everyday use of sanitizers can have some drawbacks, especially because we use them more regularly than before.
With the threat of the coronavirus, reaching out to your sanitizer bottle for a quick disinfecting is both hygienic and anxiety-relieving. With the convenience and portability that these disinfectants offer, we may tend to overuse them. The CDC clarifies that sanitizers and alcohol are supposed to serve as handwashing alternatives only. With this said, when there is a chance to wash your hands with soap and water, always do that instead.
Furthermore, hand sanitizers’ excessive use has pointed to numerous health drawbacks. First, it gets rid of all the bacteria. This includes even the good bacteria that our body needs. As a result, our body’s microbiomes are disrupted in a few ways.
Second, its excessive use can trigger the development of bacteria resistance. If this happens, bacteria will be able to tolerate hand sanitizers that should have killed them in the first place.
Lastly, anything alcohol-based has increased skin drying tendencies. With the 60% alcohol concentration requirement of the CDC, today’s hand sanitizers may have a little bit more alcohol concentration than usual. True enough, during the early days of the pandemic, a lot of people have complained of uncomfortably dry hands. As a response, a lot of hand sanitizers with moisturizing contents have appeared in the market to combat such complaints. It would be helpful to moisturize and hydrate your hands from time to time as well.
In the end, all these drawbacks bring us to the conclusion that handwashing still is the safest most effective way to disinfect our hands. Make sure to do so more frequently.
Are Hand Sanitizers Safe for Kids?
Hand sanitizers are generally considered safe, but their use may have added risk when it comes to younger users.
The CDC has identified some risk potential when it comes to young children’s use of hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers usually come in sweet-scented formulas and are packaged in ways attractive to children. When unsupervised, young children may explore the idea of ingesting said sanitizer formula. A mouthful of sanitizer will surely put a kid at risk for alcohol poisoning. Hand sanitizers may also contain aloe vera and some essential oils that can be irritating to children’s sensitive skin.
It would be best to supervise children’s use of sanitizers. Better yet, they could be taught to wash their hands with soap and water. This encourages good handwashing habits from early on.
Is It Better to Sanitize or Wash Your Hands?
It is always better to wash your hands with soap and water, as advised by the CDC. Hand sanitizers are meant to serve as alternatives when handwashing stations are not available at the moment.
In terms of bacteria-killing capabilities and overall disinfection, handwashing with soap and water kills a wider spectrum of bacteria. Soap and water can also rid the hands of dirt and chemicals. Sanitizing with alcohol-based sanitizers is the next best alternative to handwashing with soap and water but should never replace traditional handwashing.
What Is the Recommended Percentage of Alcohol in Hand Sanitizers?
The CDC recommends an alcohol concentration of 60% or more.
Usually, hand sanitizer formulas contain isopropyl alcohols, ethanol, and hydrogen peroxide in different concentrations.
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How to Use Hand Sanitizers Eco-friendly?
The greatest environmental impact caused by increased hand sanitizer use is related to its plastic packaging. Therefore, the eco-friendly use of hand sanitizers most likely relates to this aspect.
For convenience, people buy the smallest most portable bottle of hand sanitizer that they may find. These contain very few products, so the tendency is for them to buy another bottle. A more sustainable method is to purchase one small container and one big container. Instead of buying a new bottle when you run out, consider refilling the contents of your portable bottle with your sanitizer reserve (big bottle). Be careful when purchasing your big bottle of sanitizer. Sanitizers have a shelf life, so buy only what you can use or it’ll go to waste.
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Aside from this factor, hand sanitizers are generally considered green especially if their primary ingredient is ethanol or ethyl alcohol. These are typically bio-based. They usually come from sustainable sources like corn. Moreover, the more fragrance-free and dye-free a sanitizer formula is, the more it is likely to be eco-friendly.
If you wish to take sustainability to the next step, then you can make your own eco-friendly hand sanitizer. Parents.com outlined an easy DIY hand sanitizer recipe. You would only need the following:
- 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol (preferably 99% isopropyl alcohol)
- 1/3 cup aloe vera
- Container (better if with pump dispenser)
- Essential oils (optional)
Just mix these all together and put the resulting formula in an airtight container. The portions can be changed up, as long as the alcohol to aloe vera ratio remains 2:1. As mentioned earlier, be cautious of the aloe vera and essential oils contents, as they may be irritating to some children’s skin.
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Aside from this, there are a lot of other eco-friendly hand sanitizers available in the market today. These brands claim to have a plant-based formula, organic ethyl alcohol, and many other green claims. Make sure to study up these brands before purchase.
- Hand Sanitizers and COVID-19
- This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Use Hand Sanitizer Every Day
- Hand Sanitizer Use Out and About
- Hand Sanitizer: What Makes It Green?
- How to Make DIY Hand Sanitizer That’s Safe for Kids