However, people are worried about the effectiveness of hand sanitizers. How can a little blob of hand gel protect us from bacteria and viruses? Should we use hand sanitizer all the time? Keep reading the article to find out answers to these questions and more.
But first, take a look at some of the essential facts and figures about hand sanitizers.
The Top 10 Disinfectant Statistics and Facts
- Hand sanitizers are non-prescription drugs.
- People fail to clean their hands properly 97% of the time.
- Alcohol-free sanitizers can reduce microbes.
- 70% alcohol hand sanitizer is more effective than a 90% one.
- Purell hand sanitizer claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria.
- Researchers have found that Dettol hand sanitizer destroys almost 100% of Escherichia coli.
- Natural or “green” hand sanitizers don’t kill bacteria.
- Alcohol-based hand-sanitizers are highly flammable.
- One study found that the use of hand sanitizer could increase school attendance by 26%.
- About 84% of adults prefer foam over gel disinfectants.
To discover more about hand sanitizers, how to use them, how they work, and if they’re better than hand washing, keep reading.
What is Hand Sanitizer?
1. Hand sanitizers are non-prescription drugs.
The US Food and Drug Administration labels hand sanitizers as drugs. They’re disinfectants that come in the form of a liquid or gel, and they’re recommended for cleaning your hands when soap and water aren’t readily available.
2. Hand sanitizer was patented in 1966.
Disinfectants have been around for thousands of years, but the history of hand sanitizer is a bit shorter. Namely, in 1966, Lupe Hernandez patented a gel-based, alcohol-based hand sanitizer for hospitals.
3. There are two types of hand sanitizers: alcohol-based and alcohol-free.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective in quickly reducing the number of bacteria and microbes on a person’s hands. However, as the CDC claims, they can’t remove dangerous chemicals like heavy metals and pesticides, and they’re also not as effective when our hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Conversely, alcohol-free hand sanitizers are not as effective and can’t protect us against harmful bacteria and viruses.
4. There’s only one active ingredient in hand sanitizers.
Alcohol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizers contain only one active ingredient. Both are effective in killing germs, but depending on the purpose, one may be more effective than the other.
In the case of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, the active ingredient is either propanol or isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol). Conversely, the active ingredient in alcohol-free hand sanitizer is benzalkonium chloride — a chemical used for clinical, food line, and domestic household biocides.
Hand Sanitizer Facts
5. People fail to clean their hands properly 97% of the time.
Door handles, phones, remote controls, shopping carts, and faucets are the most commonly touched surfaces, which means they are hosts to billions of potentially harmful bacteria. Frequent hand washing or disinfecting with a hand sanitizer prevents the spreading of these microbes and keeps people healthy.
6. The percentage of alcohol in hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% for the product to be effective.
As studies reveal, a higher amount of alcohol increases hand sanitizer effectiveness. Some viruses are coated with a layer of protein, while others have more complex coatings. High concentrations of alcohol quickly break apart these protective layers, entering the bacteria and destroying it. Therefore, 60-95% of alcohol hand sanitizers are the most effective.
7. Alcohol-free sanitizers can reduce microbes.
(The JP, ScienceDirect)
Alcohol-free sanitizers are not entirely useless. Sure, they may not offer the full range of the alcohol-based hand sanitizer benefits, but they contain quaternary ammonium compounds, which are effective in reducing microbes.
Quaternary ammonium disinfectant products are among the most commonly used hospital disinfectant products. Hospitals use them for disinfecting medical equipment that comes into contact with intact skin, like blood pressure cuffs.
8. 70% alcohol-based hand sanitizer is more effective than a 90% one.
(University of Toronto)
Scientists have discovered that 70% isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is the most effective in killing bacteria and viruses. It’s even more effective than 90% or 100% alcohol because it contains water, which improves penetration.
Hand Sanitizer Statistics
9. Purell hand sanitizer claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria.
Purell is a brand with the best-known commercial disinfectant products that are used in many medical clinics and hospitals. It contains 70% ethyl alcohol, which makes it perfect for killing germs.
10. Researchers have found that Dettol destroys almost 100% of Escherichia coli.
Scientists have tested Dettol hand sanitizer on five bacteria strains that are most commonly transmitted by hand. Their results show that the chemicals in this hand sanitizer are the most effective for destroying Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, pneumonia, bacteremia, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Bacillus subtilis.
11. Natural or “green” sanitizers don’t kill bacteria.
Just like “green” disinfectant products, natural hand sanitizers can’t disinfect or kill germs. These products are made from all-natural components, but the only way to kill harmful bacteria is to use high-percentage alcohol.
12. Alcohol-based hand-sanitizers are highly flammable.
Hand sanitizer and fire don’t work well together. Consequently, hand sanitizer is classified as a Class I flammable liquid substance. This means that hand sanitizers have a flashpoint of fewer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hand Sanitizer vs. Hand Washing
13. One study found that the use of hand sanitizer could increase school attendance by 26%.
(The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal)
This experiment also revealed that regular use of hand sanitizer also reduced the number of confirmed cases of illness from the highly contagious influenza A virus by 52%. However, it was not as effective with the influenza B virus.
14. Regular hand sanitizer use delayed the usual Norovirus epidemic in Japan in 2009.
Hand sanitizer facts show that intensive use of hand sanitizer led to an almost two-month delay in the Norovirus epidemic. The NoV epidemic is a regular occurrence in Japan during December. However, in the 2009–2010 season, its peak was delayed until the fourth week of January 2010, due to the intensive hand hygiene that was conducted for the pandemic influenza in 2009.
15. It’s estimated that a million deaths could be avoided with regular hand washing per year.
(NCBI, Vitality Medical)
No matter how good disinfectant products are at killing germs, nothing is better than washing your hands with warm water and soap. The WHO claims that 50% of deaths caused by diarrheal disease could be reduced by washing hands.
16. Handwashing reduces the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.
Hand sanitizers are a quick and easy short-term solution when there’s no water and soap. However, only handwashing can decrease the risk of getting a respiratory infection, but more research needs to be conducted on this topic.
Interesting Disinfectant Facts
17. Peracetic acid kills bacteria, fungi, and yeast in less than 5 minutes.
Peracetic acid disinfectant products are most commonly used to sterilize medical and surgical instruments in the US. This acid is so effective that it kills bacteria in 15 seconds to 30 minutes, with 500–10,000 ppm.
18. About 84% of adults prefer foam over gel disinfectants.
It’s a widespread myth that all hand sanitizers are sticky. According to an independent study and the derived hand sanitizer statistics, more than 80% of people prefer a foam disinfectant. Apparently, it dries more quickly, and it doesn’t slide off the hands when the full dose is correctly applied.
19. The overuse of disinfectants can be counter-productive.
(Aurora Health Care)
People who use too much antibacterial soap are at the risk of reducing the number of healthy bacteria that are living on their skin. Moreover, healthcare professionals claim that the overuse of hand sanitizer can lead to the same results, and make the antibacterial agents less effective in fighting new bacteria strains.
20. CBD hand sanitizers have a wide range of antibacterial properties.
(Panacea Life Sciences)
CBD is known for curing all sorts of ailments. Still, scientists have found that it’s not only useful for managing the pain, but it’s also effective in destroying the drug-resistant MRSA and superbugs.
Can you use hand sanitizer on your face?
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually use hand sanitizer on your face. A little dab on a pimple should dry it out quickly. It’s also effective in relieving bug bites.
How much hand sanitizer to use?
You should always read the manufacturer’s directions and apply the quantity they recommend. You should use enough hand sanitizer to cover your entire hand, including the space between your fingers.
How effective is hand sanitizer?
70% alcohol hand sanitizer is very effective.
Can hand sanitizer kill a virus?
If the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol and is used for at least 30 seconds, it can kill viruses.
Is hand sanitizer bad for your skin?
Overusing a hand sanitizer can cause mild irritation and skin dryness. Moreover, it can reduce the number of healthy bacteria living on the skin.
How often should you use hand sanitizer?
You should use it when you don’t have access to water and soap, or in combination with handwashing. However, you should never use hand sanitizer as a replacement for washing your hands.
Does expired hand sanitizer still work?
The alcohol content in expired hand sanitizers is less than 60%, so it’s efficiency is not guaranteed.
Does hand sanitizer kill STDs?
While hand sanitizer can’t kill HPV, it can kill Chlamydia trachomatis.
Is triclosan in hand sanitizer?
Since hand sanitizer is an OTC drug, triclosan should be listed as an ingredient on the label if the product contains it.
The Bottom Line
Even though these hand sanitizer statistics show that using a hand sanitizer is an excellent on-the-go way to help prevent the spread of germs, it should always be your second-best choice. Hand disinfectants are good, but nothing beats washing your hands — it’s the safest way of protecting them from viruses and germs.