The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water frequently to reduce contamination from germs and chemicals.
However, people move constantly and are not always close to a sink. Therefore, you should always carry hand sanitizer with you. Here we discuss the merits and demerits of alcohol free hand sanitizer, how to choose one, and how to use it.
The Pros and Cons of alcohol-free hand sanitizers
Easy on the hands
Many non-alcohol hand sanitizers are made of 0.1% of Benzalkonium concentrate, water, skin conditioner, and vitamins. These components protect against germs, such as bacteria. They also have a more soothing effect with no burning sensation because they have no alcohol.
Some modern and innovative hand creams containing activated silver particulate which is designed to stay on the skin surface and defend it against viruses, microbial and germ action also work as hand sanitizers.
These solutions have Vitamin E, which carries a group of fat-soluble elements and antioxidants with moisturizing properties.
Products like hand creams containing antiviral properties along with a good mix of biometric plant lipids and moisturising elements like shea butter, argan oil, etc are highly recommended.
Safe to use
Given that these hand sanitizers have no alcoholic elements, they are non-flammable. Therefore, users are less susceptible to fire hazards, burns, and skin damages.
Alcohol-free hand sanitizers are scentless because they are water-based foams. They are, therefore, suitable to users with allergic reactions to fragrances.
They have no drying effect
This solution does not dry out hands. Instead, it creates little foams once rubbed on the skin. Additionally, this effect offers extended protection against germs because of prolonged stay on hands. Therefore, alcohol-free sanitizers can kill bacteria for longer before visibly drying out.
The foaming hand sanitizers are more affordable than alcohol-based solutions. They have more applications per gallon because buyers get about 2,000 to 3,000 more applications from the former. Users realize this benefit when they apply the product as the dispensing mechanism adds air to the foam, making it last longer.
Healthcare researchers have indicated that, unlike alcohol-based hand sanitizer, alcohol-free hand sanitizer may not disinfect your hands from all types of bacteria, germs, and viruses. Instead of alcohol, they have the benzalkonium chloride-compound for reducing microbes, but with a lesser effect.
Need for a costly foaming dispenser
Since alcohol-free hand sanitizers are mostly in the form of a foam, making them requires the use of a special foaming dispenser. The process of acquiring this machine can be costly, leading to a high market price for the product.
Why use an alcohol-free hand sanitizer – does it work?
Sanitizers are not as effective as hand washing with soap, but they can prevent the transfer of bacteria and viruses among people. They are even much more convenient when you are outdoors. However, for better results, the CDC recommends the correct use of these solutions.
Alcohol based sanitizers have long raised concerns in the media and community although they are sometimes considered more effective in treating germs. Main concerns include potential toxicity hazards if it is ingested. As almost all dispensing mechanisms are easy to open and located in accessible areas, there is a high risk that it is ingested by children. The high levels of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Another side effect is that alcohol-based hand sanitisers often end up causing hand dryness and rashes after prolonged use. This happens because alcohol will strip away the oils that help to retain moisture in your skin. The absence of these oils can cause skin irritations and in worst-case scenarios, cause dermatitis.
Alcohol can also cause stains and damage to floors, walls and tabletops if the dispenser is leaking.
As such, many people are now seriously considering to go with alcohol-free hand sanitisers. If you do choose to use a non-alcohol sanitiser, try to choose a product that sanitizes along with moisturisation.
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Is alcohol-free hand sanitizer effective?
Alcohol-free hand sanitizers usually contain benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohols such as ethanol or isopropanol. They kill bacteria and virus by disrupting the outer membrane of the germs. This outer membrane is essential to the survival and multiplication of bacteria and viruses. Essentially, alcohol-free hand sanitizers work the same way as alcohol-based sanitizer and are just as effective as their counterpart.
Does benzalkonium chloride kill coronavirus?
A study by Bringham Young University found that alcohol-free hand sanitizers works just as well at disinfecting surfaces from the coronavirus as alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Samples of the COVID-19 virus were treated with active ingredients found in alcohol-free hand sanitizers. Several other ammonium compounds that are often used in disinfectants were also used. It was found that 99.9% of the virus was wiped out within 15 seconds in most of the samples.
This indicates that non-alcohol hand sanitizers work just as well as their alcohol counterparts when it comes to the coronavirus. Thus, both types of hand sanitizers are equally effective when it comes to fighting COVID-19.
How to use alcohol-free hand sanitizer
- Read the label to understand the right amount to apply.
- Smear and spread the liquid to the palm of one hand.
- Rub the product on and around the surface of both hands until the wetness disappears. The CDC recommends that users of these solutions cover all the surfaces of their hands for effective disinfection.
- Do not wash or wipe your hands after applying the sanitizer.
The don’ts of using alcohol-free hand sanitizer
- Don’t swallow any form of sanitizer. Most alcohol-free sanitizer contains Benzalkonium, which can cause poisoning. Reports by the U.S. centers for poison control show that between 2011 and 2015, they received close to 85,000 cases related to hand sanitizer exposures among children. Store alcohol-free hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and supervise their use to avoid abuse.
- Don’t undermine the importance of hand washing. There is no proof that hand sanitizers can inactivate or eradicate many forms of harmful chemicals. Reports by the CDC show that pesticides can remain on hands even after using hand sanitizers. Therefore, wash hands with soap and water whenever you touch harmful chemicals.
- Don’t use it if you have been exposed to chemicals. Instead, use more effective remedies that are based out of natural ingredients like plant products.
- Avoid using on heavily soiled or greasy hands as the alcohol-free hand sanitizer may not work at all.
Washing hands with soap and water is still the best way to get rid of germs and to prevent their spread to others. If you do not have access to soap and a sink, then use an alcohol-free sanitizer, whose protection lasts longer than the alcohol-based counterpart.
Considering the long term safety of your hands, it is however recommended to opt for a product that sanitizes while it moisturises your skin.