What You Should Know about Hand Sanitizers

It seems everyone has those little bottles of hand sanitizers either in their pocket or in their purse, especially if they have children. Even department and grocery stores have an economy size pump bottle of hand sanitizer at their doors for you to use. Now there is no denying that these are handy little devices when there is no soap and water available for washing and even though they are super convenient, there are actually things you should know about them before you buy and use them frequently without thought.

There are many people who, after having a nasty flu and cold season, buy these hand sanitizers and stock them everywhere thinking that this will protect them from that flu virus for sure next time. This is a good thought and a good way to help prevent the spread of the influenza virus, but next to plain old soap and water, hand sanitizers come in a pitiful second.

Take a look at our list of 6 surprising things you never knew about hand sanitizers and how to use them wisely.

Female hands using antibacterial liquid soap

Photo credit: bigstock

1. Look for the big 60 percent

No, not 60 percent off the price, although that would be great, but 60 percent alcohol content. If it doesn’t contain at least 60 percent alcohol, it’s not going to be all that effective. So read the label and hit that 60 percent mark for the best germ killing action you can find. Find out what toxins may harm your thyroid and avoid them.


2. Skip the Triclosan

Many people aren’t aware that almost every antibacterial product, whether its soap, shampoo, or toothpaste, have triclosan added to it. Now true, it can kill the bacteria that cause infections, but it won’t do a thing for viruses or for fungi. Since colds and flus are caused by viruses, this ingredient won’t help you with that one. However, although it’s currently listed as safe for humans, it’s raised a lot of concerns lately, not only in that this ingredient is one reason we are experiencing antibiotic resistant bacteria, but triclosan in a hormone disruptor and can cause reproductive problems. Even the FDA has recently issued a warning about its use after a study done in 2012 showed that it caused muscle damage in animal studies. This is one thing you certainly don’t need in your hand sanitizer. Read more about other toxic products that are inside your home right now.


3.   It’s Not a Germ Annihilator

Although these alcohol based sanitizers can kill some bacteria and a few viruses, they don’t kill everything, contrary to popular belief. It can’t kill noroviruses, for example. What’s a norovirus? That’s the culprit responsible for what we commonly call stomach flu, the one that runs rampant on cruise ships and daycare centers. Hand sanitizers are better than nothing if you can’t find soap and water but they are certainly no Arnold Schwarzenegger by any means.


4. Got Dirty Hands?

If you have actual dirt or grease on your hands, did you know that hand sanitizers won’t work? The alcohol, which is the actual germ killer, can’t get past the dirt to kill the germs. Again, if you can’t get to a sink, try using baby wipes first, then hand sanitizer. That’s a double duty team that should help get rid of most of the nasties.

5. Your Cell Phone and Sanitizers

After you clean your hands with the sanitizers you probably feel good about picking up your cell phone, right? Think again! Most people keep their phones very close to them all day (and some people, even all night!) You probably don’t think twice about eating with one hand and using your cell phone with the other. What you don’t know is that your cell phone is more than likely simply crawling with germs! In fact, many cell phones have so many germs that doctors will tell you that you are more likely going to pick up a bug from your cell phone than from using public bathrooms! Although most manufacturers will advise you against using alcohol based cleaners, like hand sanitizers, so look for a good UV disinfectant want or a product such as PhoneSoap, which charges your phone will disinfecting it.


SEE ALSO: 15 Ways to Help Your Body Fight Toxins

6. The One-Two Punch

Hand sanitizers alone aren’t all that hot, but they are better than nothing. The best option is the one-two punch of using both soap and sanitizers. A study that involved children between 4 and 12 years of age showed that the group who combined both hand washing and sanitizers were sick fewer times per year than those who simply washed their hands.

Be aware that alcohol can strip your skin of its natural fatty acids and cause dryness. Besides hand sanitizer, you should consider keeping a small, travel sized bottle of lotion in your purse or pocket as well and use it several times per day, especially if you are using hand sanitizers frequently throughout the day. Argan oil is perhaps one of the best, most intense skin moisturizers.

You can’t go wrong with the old fashioned soap and water hand washing to kill both viruses and bacteria. If you really want to kick those germs to the sidelines, hand sanitizers, combined with hand washing, seem to be the winning combination.