Hand Sanitizer: Keeping Hands Clean Without Water
By Thomas R. Fuszard
GOJO Industries, Inc.
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With building occupants becoming more concerned about cleanliness in the workplace, building service contractors and in-house service providers are seeing an increased demand for hand sanitizers. Jan/san distributors can help by educating customers on the numerous options available and the best areas in a facility to place sanitizers.
The two most common variations of hand sanitizers fall into two categories, according to Zachary Christensen, director of purchasing for ProStar Industries in Bryan, Texas. They include alcohol-based products (such as foams, gels and mists) and non-alcohol based items, such as water-based or biobased products.
Foam is very effective and cost-efficient, Christensen says. Commercial sizes typically are 1,250- or 2,000 milliliters, though other sizes are available. Dispensers are found in numerous public places, such as gyms, restrooms and stadiums. And many dispensers today are touch-free, Christensen says, which offer an additional sanitary element.
“The less you touch, the better,” he adds. “You’re not spreading any diseases before you clean your hands.”
Gel sanitizer is usually packaged in pump bottles, says Pat Carey, president of Miller Marketing Associates in Anaheim, Calif. A thick, clear liquid, gel clings to the hand well, allowing the user time to clean thoroughly. Gel is available in numerous sizes from 0.5 ounces to 1 liter, Christensen says, with an 8-ounce size being very popular in office settings.
Though not as common, a mist version is also available. Manufacturers claim the product covers surface area best, Carey says, but, if the users don’t rub in the sanitizer thoroughly, especially in their cuticles, it will not be as effective.
Hand sanitizing wipes are another consideration. Besides killing germs, wipes often provide enough friction to remove dirt from hands and under fingernails.
Alternatives exist for those who are uncomfortable using alcohol-based sanitizers. Stan Halpern, environmental cleaning consultant for Healthy Clean Buildings in Melville, N.Y., says his firm offers a hand sanitizer made from natural plant oils. A patented process combines lemon grass oil with other plant oils to create an acidic mixture. While not harmful to humans — Halpern compares it to washing hands with lemon juice — the mixture has a “devastating” effect on bacteria.
Not only are botanical versions just as effective as alcohol sanitizer, they are safer, especially around children, says Halpern. For example, many school children have fallen ill because they consumed alcohol-based sanitizer right from the dispenser.
Traditional hand sanitizers use a petrochemical based alcohol such as ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. These “chemical” grade alcohols tend to be harsher on the skin causing the skin to dry out and crack, even develop rashes, Halpern says. Healthcare professionals, who use hand sanitizer frequently, are particularly prone to these problems. Manufacturers have responded by adding moisturizers and Vitamin E to the product, says Christensen.
Educating End Users
Hand sanitizers kill 99.99 percent of germs on users hands. Regardless of the type of hand sanitizer, proper use of the product will ensure maximum effectiveness. Only about a dime-size amount of the solution is needed, says Carey.
Users should massage their cuticles into their hands, then rub the solution over their hands and palms. The entire process should last 10 to 15 seconds, Carey says.
Alcohol-based products have about a one-year shelf life, so Carey advises customers to monitor their products to ensure they get the proper turnover throughout the year. It is also recommended to keep product no longer than six months.
“You don’t want the efficacy to wear away,” Christensen says.
Distributors can also suggest where customers should place dispensers or individual bottles. A number of places inside office buildings are good candidates for hand sanitizers, Carey says, starting with the reception or entry area.
“People coming in always want to shake the receptionist’s hand,” he adds. “And you never know where they’ve been.”
Another good area is where money, mail or packages are handled. Also, anywhere employees congregate, including break rooms, coffee stations and water fountains. Shared work stations where multiple people use the same desk, phone or computer are other prime locations where sanitizer should be used.
In healthcare facilities, sanitizer should be placed inside each patient room and at the front desk. In schools, cafeterias are ideal locations.
Having janitors clip their own bottle of sanitizer to their belt can be a good precaution so employees can always sanitize hands, especially after handling unsanitary tasks.
Distributors may also want to consider bundling hand sanitizer with customers’ soap and paper purchases.
Thomas R. Fuszard is a business writer from New Berlin, Wis.
Proper Hand Washing Is Key
Even though they offer hand sanitizers, experts agree that proper hand washing is critical.
“The first line of defense against bacteria is washing your hands,” says Pat Carey of Miller Marketing Associates, Anaheim, Calif. “Everyone, including the Centers for Disease Control, teaches that if we washed our hands properly, we may not need sanitizers at all.”
Carey recommends washing your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. He also reminds users that sanitizers are not designed to remove dirt and debris from your hands.
“Sanitizing does not replace washing your hands,” he says. “It supplements washing your hands.”
But washing your hands frequently, especially if you’re using a stronger soap (such as an antimicrobial type) can dry out the skin as well. Carey recommends washing with a mild soap, followed by a hand sanitizer that contains emollients to moisturize the skin.
Stan Halpern of Healthy Clean Buildings, Melville, N.Y., agrees that hand sanitizers should only supplement proper hand washing.
“If you’re using them as a replacement of soap and water, then you’re abusing the use of hand sanitizers, and somewhere along the line your body is going to pay for it,” he says.
In this age of quick fixes, hand sanitizers seem to be the panacea for everyone’s concerns, Halpern says. Instead of washing thoroughly, too often people simply reach for the hand sanitizer.
“The real cure-all is standard and conventional hand washing with soap and water,” Halpern says.