Hand sanitisers, like Palm⁺ Antibacterial Hand Gels, have seen an unprecedented surge in popularity this year, as nations around the world attempt to guard themselves in the battle against the global Covid-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization identifies hands as the main pathways of germ transmission in health care. But when it comes to busting germs, can these hand gels live up to the age-old method of trusty hand-washing with soap? We take a look at the pros and cons of each.
- Hand washing with soaps, like Palm⁺ Hand Wash, has long been regarded by leading health organisations and medical professionals around the world as the most critical way to prevent the spread of germs.
- Effective hand washing with soap is more thorough in removing actual dirt, debris and grime to properly clean your hands.
- Some germs like C-Diff (Clostridioides difficile – a bacteria which can cause life-threatening diarrhea) can only be killed by hand-washing as they are resistant to hand gels and aren’t broken down as well by the alcohol compounds in sanitiser.
- It’s cheaper! In general, effective hand washing is cheaper than using effective hand sanitiser as studies show that sanitiser needs to contain at least 60% alcohol to kill germs whereas handwash does not need to contain an antibacterial agent in order to perform. As demand for hand sanitiser has increased this year, so has the raw material price of the alcohol, leading to a marked increase in the average price of hand gel.
- Less plastic pollution – as hand washes are typically sold in larger bottles than sanitisers, their packaging uses significantly less plastic on average, and the fewer plastics used, the more beneficial it usually is for the environment.
- It is more time consuming. Washing hands effectively takes at least 20 seconds, not including the time it takes to dry, which can vary significantly based on whether towels or air-drying are used. If hands are still wet, they can still pick up germs. Whereas hand sanitiser usage takes 20 seconds to work well, inclusive of time it takes to dry.
- Hand-washing requires access to clean, running water. However, more than three billion people today still don’t have household access to piped water.
- Hand wash cannot be used on-the-go. In today’s modern working world, we are constantly on the move, travelling between home, work, school and various other social meeting places. As we move between more places, our hands come into contact with an increasing number of surfaces that are likely to host many different bugs and bacteria, which are likely to cause illness.
- Great for when you’re travelling. The pocket-size, waterless format of hand sanitiser makes it ideal for when you’re on-the-go, helping to keep hands germ-free e.g. after riding public transport or using public toilets.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is recommended by the World Health Organization as the preferred mean for “routine hygienic hand anti-sepsis if hands are not visibly soiled”. WHO states that it is “faster, more effective and better tolerated by your hands than washing with soap and water.
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) cites alcohol-based hand sanitiser to be more effective and less drying than using soap and water.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are the preferred way by medical professionals to clean hands in healthcare settings, and are advised for use before and after visiting loved ones in hospital.
- Hand sanitiser needs to contain over 60% alcohol like Palm⁺ Antibacterial Hand Gels in order to be effective at killing bacteria
- Not all hand sanitisers are equal. It’s a good idea to check out the claims before putting that sparkly or sweet-smelling hand gel in your basket. Whilst it may look appealing, it may not necessarily be effective at removing bacteria. Check for antibacterial efficacy by ensuring yours has passed BS EN 1276 (the European Standard for effective bactericidal activity of chemical disinfectants against controlling harmful micro-organisms)
To summarise, effective hand washing with products like Palm⁺ Hand Wash , is largely considered the best way of removing all dirt, bacteria and viral cells for good infection prevention and control. However, when clean water is not immediately available for hand washing, it is recommended to use alcohol-based hand gel with active levels of over 60%. Whilst alcohol can have a drying effect, hand gels with moisturising ingredients like glycerin can help prevent cracked skin and keep hands in good condition.