How Hand Sanitizer Works
Odds are by now, you’re probably using hand sanitizer on a daily basis. Although it can be an easy habit to get into, you may stop once or twice to wonder: “What is this clear stuff anyways?”
Before diving into what is actually in hand sanitizer, we need to gain an understanding of how it physically works. Similar to washing your hands, there are particular best use practices! Just because hand sanitizer is used, does not mean germs are dead. This is often the most common concept users miss out on. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Full cover: Sanitizer must touch every part of the skin you want to be germ-free! Similar to a band-aid, if it’s not covering everything, something will get in.
Air-dried: Sanitizer must be completely air-dried (evaporated) in order to work. We will cover this in more detail as to why below.
Now that you know some basics, it’s time for a science lesson. “Germs” are actually viruses, bacteria and more. They’re the culprits for causing infections and sickness! Depending on the type of germ on your hand, it likely is made up of cell(s). Anywhere there’s a cell, there is a cell wall that can be broken down to kill the cell. See where we’re going with this?
Alcohol does just that, it breaks down the cell wall. Because alcohol is a polar molecule, it has the ability to disrupt protein and lipid molecules - which is what the cell wall is made of. The FDA recommends sanitizer that’s at least 70% alcohol, just to be sure the job is getting done. But what's the other 30%?
If the sanitizer was 100% alcohol, 2 things would happen. First, instead of being an easy to use gel, your sanitizer would effectively just be a bottle of totally liquid alcohol (and not even consumable, lame). And second, your hands would be as cracked as the desert because alcohol draws water out of your skin!
Enter Glycol, Vitamin e, and Aloe Vera. These additional ingredients are the extra 30%. Glycol effectively turns the sanitizer into a gel which is important for usability, transportation, and more! Although not required in all sanitizers, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera are used to help keep your hands happy and moisturized.
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