Clean hands are on the front line in the fight against COVID-19. Hand sanitizer is here to stay, whether at home or in offices, hospitals, schools, or any other public place where there’s a risk of contact with viruses, germs, and bacteria.
In the rush to meet the heightened demand for hand sanitizer, Health Canada approved nearly 3,000 applications from companies new to making it. And while this has helped increase supply, it raises questions about quality control.
Not all hand sanitizers are created equally, so it’s important to understand what makes it effective and what to look for when purchasing it.
A virus isn’t killed instantaneously when you apply sanitizer.Steve Cowell, Technical Director at Empack Spraytech Inc.
What to look for — a quality checklist
Hand sanitizer works by destroying the outer layer of a virus and exposing its protein, which then denatures and inactivates the virus.
Steve Cowell, Technical Director at Empack Spraytech Inc., recommends looking for products that are Health Canada-approved and that meet certain specifications.
First, the alcohol percentage is important — and more is not better. “100% alcohol actually doesn’t work as well for either killing bacteria or denaturing viruses,” explains Cowell. “Water has to be present for the protein denaturing to occur. Water also prevents the alcohol from evaporating as fast, allowing you the longer contact time required.” For maximum effectiveness, choose a hand sanitizer with 60–85% alcohol.
Most hand sanitizers are made primarily of either ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or isopropyl alcohol. “Isopropyl alcohol is more pungent-smelling since it’s synthetically-made,” says Cowell. “Ethanol is more effective, less toxic, and more consumer-pleasing from a scent perspective.”
Some hand sanitizers also include extra ingredients like aloe and vitamin E. “These are beneficial for prolonged use to mitigate the drying effect,” says Cowell. “Our zytec® Germ Buster® hand sanitizer contains other moisturizing ingredients like glycerine, which also enhances the efficacy of the alcohol.”
Not All Hand Sanitizers Are Created Equal
5 things to look for before you purchase:
Percentage of alcohol. The most effective hand sanitizers consist of 60–85% alcohol by volume.
Type of alcohol. Ethanol is more effective than isopropyl alcohol (on its own) against viruses, is less toxic, and has less odour. There are also different grades of ethanol. Ask what grade you’re buying.
Extra ingredients. Moisturizers like aloe and vitamin E help reduce the dry feeling of alcohol.
Proper application. Clean dirt and grease from your hands. Apply a dime-size amount to the palm of one hand. Rub your hands together. Do not wipe off hand sanitizer before it dries.
Other formats. Aerosol hand sanitizers are a quick and effective way to sanitize hands and large surfaces quickly and easily. Other unique offers include BOV (bag-on-valve) gels and foaming hand sanitizers.
Is it Made in Canada? Is it made at a facility that was designed to produce hand sanitizer, with proper quality assurance and quality control in place?
Proper application for proper protection
Proper application is just as important as using the right product. First, rinse and/or wipe off all traces of visible organic matter, such as dirt, grease, and food for the hand sanitizer to be the most effective. Then, apply a dime-sized amount of sanitizer to your palm. Next, rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of both hands for at least 20 seconds until dry — the mechanical action of hand rubbing aids in the sanitizing effect. “A virus isn’t killed instantaneously when you apply sanitizer,” notes Cowell. “Both the mechanical rubbing action and the contact time are critical.”
Consumers should choose gel or liquid aerosol sanitizers. “Gel is thickened so it doesn’t run off your hands and dry too quickly, and you have to mechanically spread it, which contributes to its efficacy,” says Cowell. “The aerosol won’t roll off your hands either, and it allows for quick, effective sanitizing of not only hands but surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, and keyboards.”
Empack Spraytech Inc. is the leading manufacturer of aerosol and gel hand sanitizer. Proudly made in Canada since 2004, the Brampton, Ontario-based company’s zytec® Germ Buster® checks all the boxes for what consumers should look for in a hand sanitizer.
Next time you purchase hand sanitizer, consider its effectiveness and make a choice that’ll keep your family safe.