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Does hand sanitizer kill viruses? Learn about its effects

With the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented surge in hand sanitizer sales was seen. However, despite continued recommendations from health experts, many people still wonder “does hand sanitizer kill viruses?” or does hand sanitizer work. Thus, in this article we will answer all your questions about its use and effectiveness.

What is hand sanitizer?

Before answering whether and how does hand sanitizer kill viruses, you need to be clear on exactly what hand sanitizer is. Hand sanitizer is primarily composed of alcohol, the levels of which vary depending on the specific product. However, for it to serve its purpose, the amount of alcohol must be at least 60%.

Likewise, its most common presentations are liquid, gel or foam. Generally used as a replacement for hand washing with soap and water, they are very useful in scenarios where water is not easily accessible, for example, in public places. Likewise, they are frequently used in places where health services are provided, since they allow quick and appropriate hand disinfection.

Its use in healthcare spaces can be traced back to 1966, but it’s real popularization came in the 1990s. In recent years, it has become a fixture in commercial premises and even in homes with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Does hand sanitizer kill viruses?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) answer to the question “Does hand sanitizer kill viruses?” is that hand sanitizers, if they have an alcohol level above 60%, can kill a large number of microbes and bacteria, however, they do not destroy 100% of bacteria.

So, regarding “does hand sanitizer work?” and “does hand sanitizer kill viruses?” you should know that hand sanitizer is not effective with certain types of very specific germs such as cryptosoridium, norovirus and clostridium. However, it is capable of killing the vast majority of microbes, including the COVID-19 culprits.

Similarly, on whether  does hand sanitizer works or not, the CDC also states that it is excellent for health care providers, but not as effective with individuals who have visibly dirty or greasy hands.

Finally, on whether “does hand sanitizer kill viruses?”, a good hand sanitizer can kill up to 95% of viruses and bacteria.

Is hand sanitizer safe?

With the increased use of hand sanitizer, many people asked two key questions, “Is hand sanitizer safe?” and “How much hand sanitizer is lethal?”  According to the Poison Control Center and the CDC, hand sanitizer when used topically, which is what it was designed for, is safe even for the very young.

However, and it is worth clarifying, when it comes to how much hand sanitizer is lethal, it is clear that any oral consumption of a product with such high levels of alcohol can be lethal. It is clear that any oral consumption of a product with such high levels of alcohol can be lethal. Thus, if you suspect that you or your children accidentally ingested hand sanitizer, you should immediately go to the emergency room for a stomach pump.

On the other hand, as far as how much hand sanitizer is lethal in topical use, it is very unlikely if not almost impossible to be poisoned by it.

Does the hand sanitizer expire?

Just as the question is often asked, “Does hand sanitizer kill viruses?” There is also the misconception that there can be no expired hand sanitizer. Thus, it should be clarified that yes, hand sanitizer does expire.

Expired hand sanitizer is not toxic or harmful, it simply loses most of its germ-killing properties. 

Thanks to the regulations imposed on hand sanitizers, most hand sanitizers include an expiration date on their packaging like any other product. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends choosing sanitizers that last at least two years.

In addition to checking the label on the container for the expiration date of a hand sanitizer, you may also notice that an expired hand sanitizer often loses consistency and the characteristic alcohol smell. This is because alcohol evaporates over time, so it also loses its effectiveness as a sanitizer.

In which areas is hand sanitizer useful?

Considering the above, and after having answered the question “does hand sanitizer kill viruses?”, this product has proven to be useful in multiple scenarios. Thus, below, we tell you where and how you should use hand sanitizer.  

In places where health services are provided, professionals generally use it before and after attending patients, however, this is only recommended if the procedures are not invasive. Therefore, surgeons wash their hands with soap and water, but a general practitioner performing a routine check-up may use hand sanitizer.

Also, it is common for visitors to patients to be asked to disinfect their hands with this gel. In addition, following the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have opted to offer hand sanitizing gel to their customers. This is excellent as it helps prevent cross-contamination between products.

On the other hand, if at any time there is no easy access to soap and water, disinfectant is a good replacement.

However, as already determined, if the hands are greasy or visibly dirty, the disinfectant will not be effective. Likewise, when going to the restroom, it is always best to wash your hands.

Finally, we hope this article has been helpful in answering the question “does hand sanitizer kill viruses?”. If you would like to purchase hand sanitizer with an alcohol level above 60% in the Canada/US area, we recommend Divocco Medical.