Using hand sanitizer frequently keeps you clean, but using Health Canada approved, safe hand sanitizer keeps you safe.
As Health Canada expands their list of recalled hand sanitizer, the number of trustworthy sanitizers on the market decreases. These recalls are based on concerns that these products have been made with ingredients that are not Health Canada approved.
Are you using a sanitizer that really sanitizes? Or has storage and age made your incredible hand sanitizer inadequate? Read below to find out the 4 main factors that can keep hand sanitizer from sanitizing your hands properly.
1. Ensure it is Health Canada approved.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, many companies have been releasing their own hand sanitizer. However, many of these companies are creating sanitizer that is not Health Canada approved. While any company can begin selling hand sanitizer, a testing and licensing process must be followed for Health Canada approval.
The quickest way to find out if a hand sanitizer is Health Canada approved is to look for a natural product number. This number, known as an NPN, can usually be found at the bottom of the front or back label. If you can’t find the NPN, you can also look online at the Health Canada list of authorized hand sanitizers. This list also lets you know what the active sanitizing ingredient is, and who manufactures it. For example, you can find Greeniche Hand Sanitizer’s NPN at the bottom of the front label, and on it’s product page.
2. Make sure it contains a minimum 60% alcohol-base.
The sanitizing part of hand sanitizers comes from the active ingredient. While this includes a variety of disinfectants, the most common active ingredient is alcohol, specifically ethanol. Also known as ethyl-alcohol, ethanol has been used for hundreds of years to kill germs and viruses. This is why it is so commonly used in hand sanitizers. To properly disinfect, though, hand sanitizers need to have a minimum alcohol base of 60%. Studies show that sanitizers with levels below 60% are significantly less effective against fighting germs.
Consumers should be careful not to use hand sanitizers over 95% alcohol either, though. While alcohol can help by killing germs and viruses, too much can dry out skin. The alcohol cuts through the skin’s natural oily barrier, leaving it even more susceptible to germs and viruses.
Additionally, many sanitizers have been recalled due to their use of methanol instead of ethanol. Although methanol is also a type of alcohol, it reacts differently within the body. Methanol is weak against viruses and germs, and will quickly turn into formaldehyde when it is absorbed into the body. Groups like the Methanol Institute, have warned everyone against using any products with a methanol content higher than just 4%.
3. Store hand sanitizer in temperatures under 40 degrees Celsius.
Although heat normally helps to fight germs and viruses, temperatures over 40 degrees celsius can reduce the effectiveness of hand sanitizer. This can be because of two different reasons:
- High temperatures can cause alcohol to evaporate. Although alcohol evaporates at 78 degrees celsius, many hand sanitizer bottles act like greenhouses. A 40 degrees celsius day outside can mean significantly higher temperatures in a bottle sitting in the sun. As alcohol begins to evaporate in the bottle, the alcohol content goes down, possibly below the 60% level.
- Some “alcohol-free” hand sanitizers, especially home-made versions, use hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. While hydrogen peroxide can safely kill germs in small concentrations, it reacts with ultraviolet light and turns into water. By leaving a hydrogen peroxide based hand sanitizer in the sun, the sanitizer becomes less potent and more watered down.
4. Hand sanitizer is less effective than washing hands.
Even the best hand sanitizer isn’t completely effective against dirty hands. While it can sanitize hands, no hand sanitizer is meant to completely clean hands. Excessive sweat, oil, or dirt form a barrier between the sanitizer and your skin, keeping germs safe.
So, when possible, always try to wash your hands with soap and water! If soap isn’t available, try rinsing your hands with water before using hand sanitizer. This will help get rid of some of the loose dirt and germs on your hands. Then the hand sanitizer can be even more effective.
Curious as to how hand washing is better than hand sanitizing? Check out our blog on “The Hygiene Behind Hand Washing” to learn more!