How to Properly Use Hand Sanitizer

With the growing concern about viruses and bacteria, strains resistant to antibiotics, and new mutations without treatment, many people are rightfully concerned about protecting themselves daily and during routine and short interactions. The common wisdom is maintaining a safe distance from others, avoiding touching your face when in public, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water. While all offer excellent ways to protect yourself against attacks on the microscopic level, sometimes distance and handwashing are impossible.

In these circumstances, government agencies urge wearing a face mask and suggest using hand sanitizer as a temporary alternative to washing your hands. The first part of this suggestion — wearing a mask — should be easy, but not everyone is as familiar with hand sanitizer, especially how to use it effectively. The rest of this blog will help define the appropriate times to use hand sanitizer while also describing some general instructions.

When To Use Hand Sanitizer

There are many occasions when hand washing is not a viable option, primarily when there is no easy access to a sink or restroom. While these instances can occur frequently, there is no reason that you cannot do your part to minimize the risks of infection to yourself and others using hand sanitizer. There are at least eight times when using hand sanitizer is an appropriate alternative to handwashing.

  1. After coughing or sneezing
  2. After using the gym or exercise equipment
  3. Before entering a building, and after exiting
  4. Before and after eating
  5. Before and after touching a surface, like door knobs or handles
  6. Before and after shaking hands
  7. Before and after cooking
  8. Before and after attending group occasions
  9. Before taking your mask off (if you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water)

While this is a small list of the times hand sanitizer might be appropriate, remember that handwashing is superior. However, for handwashing to be effective, you must use the proper timing and technique.

How Much Is "Too Much" Hand Sanitizer

You do not need a lot of hand sanitizer for it to be effective, like a little squirt or dime-sized drop is enough to kill the 99.9% bacteria that most brands promise. While it does not take much to cover your hands and achieve results, you can use “too much” sanitizer. Sanitizer is not meant as a permanent cleanser, and if used too often, it can lead to dry skin and an inadequate hand microbiome. Not all bacteria is bad or harmful; some of them help your skin and body maintain their health and resilience. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer does not differentiate between good and bad bacteria, killing the majority of both. Therefore, it is vital to use sanitizer only when necessary, primarily when soap and water are not an option.

How To Properly Apply Hand Sanitizer: Step-By-Step

While it might seem unusual to explain the steps of applying hand sanitizer, there is a right way that provides the best results. The process consists of eight steps:

  1. Apply a dime-sized amount of hand sanitizer into your palm
  2. Rub your palms together to spread the sanitizer
  3. Alternate between rubbing the back of the hands with each palm
  4. Continue rubbing palm-to-palm while intertwining fingers
  5. Rub the backs of the fingers in each palm
  6. Cover each finger by wrapping and twisting each hand around each digit
  7. Go over every inch of your hand again
  8. Keep rubbing until the sanitizer is dry

When to Not Use Hand Sanitizer

While hand sanitizer is extremely beneficial, there are some situations where hand sanitizer is a no-no! Especially when it is alcohol-based. For example, avoid lighting a match, candle, or any fire related. Hand sanitizer is extremely flammable and can cause serious burns. Also, if you have pets or small children in the house, make sure you are storing your hand sanitizer in a safe place that is out of reach. If swallowed, alcohol poisoning can occur, so it’s best to avoid that at all costs!

It seems that there is more need than ever to ensure good hand hygiene. While soap and water are the ultimate tools against bacteria and viruses, hand sanitizer is an effective alternative in a pinch. 

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