Hand sanitiser can kill coronavirus, but its overall effectiveness very much depends on the type you use.
Homes, businesses and schools across the UK are potentially using hand sanitisers that can take up to two minutes to kill the virus, as opposed to the standard 20-30 seconds – and could be less effective, too, a Sky News investigation found.
There are two key types of hand sanitisers: those with alcohol in them, and those without. And experts agree you want to be opting for the former, as alcohol has historically been pretty effective at killing coronaviruses.
The coronavirus has a lipid envelope which protects its structure. When you use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, the alcohol affects this structure and, in doing so, deactivates the virus. When a person rubs it into their hands, it’s essentially reducing the virus to a safe level so you won’t be spreading it around elsewhere.
Alcohol-free hand gels, on the other hand, are thought to be less effective at reducing the germs on your hands – and they can take some time to kick in.
Professor Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explains these hand gels are considered effective providing you’ve had them on your skin for two minutes. In contrast, alcohol hand rubs have been found to work in 20-30 seconds.
“You do not want to have to stand outside the supermarket for two minutes [while it kicks in],” she tells HuffPost UK. The testing process of such hand gels has also been called into question. “Maybe these sanitisers which are non-alcoholic are effective, but at the moment we have not been given sufficient data to make that judgement,” she continues.
“If somebody asked me to recommend a hand sanitiser, I would say: you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser which contains at least 60% or more of ethyl alcohol.”