Why hand sanitiser is an effective tool in killing viruses (including COVID-19)

Using hand sanitiser is recommended in the fight against coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Find out how it works.

Hand sanitiser is one of the tools people turned to in the battle against COVID-19. In the early stages of the pandemic sales rose 255% as government and NHS guidance recommended the use of sanitiser for occasions where handwashing was not possible.

As we enter a new chapter of the pandemic with restrictions lifting, hand sanitiser will remain a key tool for fighting bacteria, and offering protection, as people return to socialising and increased contact. Using a sanitiser can minimise the spread of COVID-19 in public settings, such as workplaces, indoor venues and outdoor spaces, and prevent future outbreaks.

Delivery driver wearing Orbel hand sanitiser

Beyond coronavirus, using sanitiser as part of a robust hand hygiene approach can decrease the risk of several types of infections, including flu, common cold, e. coli and any other viruses that may present themselves.

Although many of us will know that sanitiser is recommended to ward off infection, some may not know why. In this guide, we have explained how hand sanitiser works to fight coronavirus and other diseases and the benefits that can be reaped by using it.

How hand sanitiser works

Viruses like COVID-19 and influenza are known as ‘enveloped’. This refers to a fragile outer ‘wrapping’ around the virus, usually comprising a fatty or lipid membrane. It seeks to protect the genetic material within the ‘envelope’ as it passes from host cells.

An effective hand sanitiser should contain an active ingredient that works to disinfect your hands. Most will do this through an alcohol-based gel, though there may be other types on the market too. The active ingredient in the product helps to dissolve the outer layer of viruses. So, if we come into contact with virus cells during our day, sanitiser can break down the ‘envelope’ part of the cell and prevent it from attaching itself to our healthy cells.

Hand washing has similar effects on viruses, which is why public health organisations often recommend frequent hand washing in conjunction with sanitiser use when washing facilities are not available or adequate. This helps to create good hand hygiene practice, reducing the chances of contracting an illness through contact with other people or surfaces. Sanitiser also has the benefit of killing germs within a short timeframe, with some products able to kill nearly all germs within 15 seconds.

As with hand washing, hand sanitiser only works if used properly. When sanitising, you should remove any rings or anything else you may be wearing on your hands, ensure hands are dry before application and take care to spread the product over the entire hand surface. This will enable you to cover the whole hand rather than leaving germs remaining in untouched areas.

You should also aim to wash or sanitise your hands frequently throughout the day. We encounter as many as 60,000 germs a day as we come into contact with various sources of potential contamination – so by cleaning your hands regularly, you can continually eliminate germs and protect your health.

The many benefits of hand sanitiser

While hand sanitiser replicates similar effects to standard handwashing with soap and water, many other benefits make it a valuable tool against infection.

The most apparent benefit is that most sanitisers can be used anywhere at any time. While handwashing requires access to soap and a tap supplying warm water, most sanitiser products on the market can be used in any setting. This makes it an excellent solution for scenarios where hand washing facilities aren’t available.

Another benefit of sanitiser, as we’ve already mentioned, is that it works fast. Due to this, it can be more effective than hand washing in times where your hands aren’t visibly soiled. This is why many healthcare settings use a combination of handwashing and hand sanitisation with an alcohol-based gel to provide an optimal level of hand hygiene and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).

Doctor high five-ing a young child

With the portability, speed and efficiency of hand sanitisers, they are also a solution for those with limited time for hand hygiene. This generally applies to healthcare settings, where workers must move quickly between patients, but can also apply to busy workplaces where staff have limited time to use handwashing facilities or don’t have any access at all (such as delivery drivers or those working from a vehicle). By carrying a sanitiser on your person, you can instantly access disinfection for your hands, even on the move.

Sanitiser may also help in ensuring compliance with good hygiene practice, drastically cutting the time and effort required to clean hands and giving individuals less of an excuse to fall out of habit. With non-compliance as high as 38.4% in some healthcare settings, increasing our hand hygiene can have a tangible impact on reducing HCAIs and making places safer. Some sanitisers may even help form habits, keeping individuals more motivated to regularly disinfect their hands.

The impact

Using hand sanitiser to strengthen hand hygiene culture can unlock many benefits to our personal health and protect those around us.

Around 80% of infection is a direct result of skin contact, including contact between our hands and other people or surfaces. The risk of bacteria is higher in communal spaces, such as workplaces and public venues, where multiple people may touch the same surfaces, leading to cross-contamination of germs. By employing good hand hygiene, using hand sanitiser to disinfect on the go, we can minimise the risk of bacteria spreading from our hands into our bodies and other people. This will allow more of us to stay healthy and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks when many of us are looking to move past the pandemic.

Hand sanitiser is highly effective against a spectrum of bacteria across settings. This means it can protect us against a range of illnesses that we encounter during our daily lives.

By reducing the risk of infection and therefore the chances of becoming unwell, we can enjoy increased health as a population. This means fewer deaths for those vulnerable to disease, limitation of viral outbreaks and happier lifestyles that aren’t disrupted by illness. It also means reduced staff sick leave for businesses, which can have detrimental effects on productivity, morale and finances (for employer and employee).

In summary

The coronavirus pandemic has driven a new emphasis on our health and what we can do every day to reduce the risk of catching viruses. Although much of the public may now be hopeful that we are at the pandemic’s closing stages, coronavirus and other infections will always be present. There will also be future pandemics that we need to take control of.

Throughout the last year, hand sanitiser has proven a vital tool in protecting people from coronavirus. With the increased focus on health and hygiene, it makes sense that we should continue to use it to fight COVID-19 and other viruses to create a healthier and happier population with better wellbeing, productive workplaces and risk-free contact with one another.

For this to become a reality, we must continue to implement a culture of hand hygiene in workplaces, public spaces and our personal lives. Hand sanitiser forms a vital part of this, offering protection when hand washing is not feasible and reducing the barriers to clean hands.

If you are looking for an effective hand sanitiser for your workplace, Orbel should be the solution for you. With the power to kill 99.99% of bacteria within 15 seconds, wearable innovation and habit-forming technology, Orbel can provide disinfection in every setting and help you to unleash the rewards of excellent hand hygiene.

Get in touch today to find out more.