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Personal Safety Supplies: How Does Hand Sanitizer Actually Work?

“Kills 99.99% of bacteria!” is a phrase we’re all familiar with, especially nowadays. We take it for granted when we read it, believing it to be (understandably) a synonym for safety when it comes to our personal hygiene. So, when we swipe that bottle of hand sanitizer off the shelf and into our shopping trolley, or click order on that bulk buy of disinfectant wipes, online, we no longer pay too much attention to those words or that percentage. Have you ever stopped to actually wonder how these products work, though? As a workplace solutions provider, here at Lemonwe offer all manner of personal safety supplies, one of which is hand sanitizer. In this blog, we’ll look at how these products work, as well as some other key questions, like whether it should be used over hand-washing?

The Science Of Sanitizers

Most hand sanitizers are ethanol-based (that’s alcohol-based to you and me). They work because alcohol is a very effective chemical (especially when used in higher concentrations) when it comes to killing pathogens. What is a pathogen, I hear you say in your head? Well, without turning this into too much of a biology lesson, a pathogen is something that causes a disease, and these most commonly come in the form of bacteria and viruses (such as the particular strain of Coronavirus that’s wreaked such havoc over the past few months).

Alcohol kills these pathogens through a process called denaturation. Essentially, this is a biological process where the pathogen’s membrane material – its coating or film, if you like - is broken down, exposing the pathogen’s integral interior components, and killing them in the process. It’s complex and scientific and more for the likes of scientists in white coats than me. But what matters though, is that it works, because it does. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) hand sanitizer is one of the most essential bits of equipment needed in any healthcare setting.

What About Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizers?

This raises an interesting question, though, because you’ve probably noticed as you’re perusing the shop aisles, that you can also get hand sanitizers that aren’t made from alcohol. So how do these work? In actual fact, they work in much the same way as their alcohol-based counterparts.

Here at Lemon, for instance, one of the main personal safety supplieswe offer is OXYL-PRO hand and surface disinfectant, based on stabilised hydrogen peroxide. Unlike many hand sanitizers, this comes in spray form, rather than a gel or foam, meaning that you can fog, mist or spray both surfaces and your hands, making it an incredibly versatile tool in the quest for hygiene and cleanliness.

To Wash Hands? To Hand Sanitize? Or Both?

Walking into the gym the other day, I was met by the hand sanitizing station near the entrance. There was a sign by it, asking me to either utilise the cleaning station, or go and wash my hands at the toilet with soap and water, whichever I would prefer. That got me to thinking, is there a ‘right’ option? Should we be focused on one more than the other? Or should we be doing both?

According to the science, there’s no real substitute for good old hand washing with soap and water. The benefit of hand-washing is that it’s very effective at dislodging viral cells; you first get the benefit of the soap, but then it is the rinsing that really proves effective, helping to properly get rid of the viral cells coating, most usually, your hands. Most people, when using hand sanitizers, aren’t as thorough as they perhaps should be, meaning parts of your hands may still have viral cells on them. You don’t have that rinsing away benefit that hand-washing provides - you’re not dislodging any that are left behind.

That being said, when you’re out and about it isn’t always possible to wash your hands (when was the last time you were on a bus with a wash basin?) and so hand-sanitizers are still very effective when you’re on the move, or when there’s no hand-washing alternative. If it’s one or the other, you’d choose hand-washing, but using both to be on the safe side is no bad thing, and if there’s no other option then using hand sanitizer is definitely better than nothing! When it comes to personal safety supplies, there really is nothing quite like traditional rinse, lather and then rinse again, but hand sanitizer certainly gives it a good run for its money.

We’re Living In Unprecedented Times

So, should we be worried about the 00.01%? Ordinarily, probably not. We’re exposed to tens of thousands of different types of germs, every day, and so there’s always going to be a degree of risk involved purely in the act of, well, living! But we’re not living in an ordinary time…

At the minute, an extra degree of caution is more than necessary. And although hand-washing and hand sanitizers can kill viruses such as COVID-19, as we’ve seen if you contract the virus, the results can be devastating. So, until a vaccine is procured (and it’s in everyone’s best interests that there is) it’s imperative that we all abide by the social distancing measures and uphold high levels of personal hygiene. Being sensible is not the same as scaremongering, and this is a time where we all need to be sensible and pull together.

So, if you’d like to find out more about our work offering personal safety supplies, head over to our instagram to view our latest products. Or get in touch by contacting Lemon today or email us at info@lemon.co.ukor calling us on 0333 241 6950.