How does hand sanitiser stack up against hand washing when it comes to COVID-19?

For the last few months, we’ve had politicians, doctors, scientists and celebrities telling us how to wash our hands. And for good reason.

After all, we can catch COVID-19 by breathing in droplets from an infected person. But we can also pick it up by touching unclean surfaces and then touching our faces, which we unfortunately tend to do every two to five minutes — even if we don’t realise it!

Clean hands are a must to tackle the virus’s spread. But with many public toilets still closed, and more people spending time outside the house, soap and water isn’t always available. In these instances, we need an alternative approach to hygiene: hand sanitiser.

Why is hand-washing so important right now?

As well as reducing our chances of catching COVID-19, regular and effective hand-washing protects us from a host of other viral and bacterial nasties.

COVID-19, like many viruses, is surrounded by a fatty layer. Soap — with its unique combination of oils, alkali and water — is able to cut through this fatty layer. Essentially, it causes the virus to fall apart and become inactive.

Soap also helps to separate the virus from the naturally occurring oil on our hands, meaning that any trace of the virus is easily rinsed away with a steady stream of water.

Clever and literally life-saving stuff.

Okay, so what does hand sanitiser do?

Alcohol is the most important ingredient in hand sanitiser. When applied to the skin, the alcohol in your little bottle of hand gel does pretty much the same job as soap.

It attacks the fatty protein enveloping viruses and bacteria and, in doing so, destroys them. This means they are no longer able to infect their host.

When applied correctly, hand sanitiser works on the vast majority of viruses and bacteria (including COVID-19) but hand-washing is still recommended for the few that slip through the net. 

Which hand sanitisers work best?

In order to eliminate germs like COVID-19, hand sanitiser needs to contain the right level of alcohol, which is anywhere between 60 and 95%.

Hand sanitisers with less alcohol than this, including alcohol-free varieties, aren’t recommended for antiviral use. They might be a little gentler on the skin, sure. But if it’s efficacy you’re after, reach for a gel with at least 60% on the label.

How to apply hand sanitiser so it really works against viruses and bacteria

So you’ve got your 60%+ hand sanitiser. Now you need to know how to apply it.

Hand sanitiser works best when we use the right amount and rub it into our hands properly. The label of any hand sanitiser usually gives info on how much of the product is needed. We should then apply hand sanitiser to one palm before rubbing our hands together.

The gel should be spread over all areas of the hands, fingers and fingernails until completely dry. Rubbing hand sanitiser a few inches above the wrist is good practice, too.

As with hand-washing, this process should take around 20 seconds to complete.

Used in this way, hand sanitiser does an excellent job of eliminating germs. However, if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitiser won’t be effective (regardless of its strength). On these occasions, only a good scrub with soap and water will do.

How businesses can use hand sanitiser to keep staff and customers safe

Businesses have a big role to play in reducing the spread of coronavirus, particularly as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

We now know that mixing in communal spaces like offices, schools and shops increases our risk of contracting COVID-19. But through a mix of social distancing and good hand hygiene, it’s possible to reduce the risk these places pose to staff, visitors and customers alike.

Where soap and water isn’t available, easy access to hand sanitiser not only helps to prevent the contamination of surfaces, but also provides welcome reassurance for those coming and going from your premises.

So what is the best approach for introducing hand sanitiser to your workplace?  

Get the right hand sanitiser

First things first, make sure the hand sanitiser you get is fit for purpose. As mentioned above, only choose varieties that contain between 60 and 95% alcohol, otherwise you’re wasting your money.


Place dispensers in activity hotspots

Where you put hand sanitising dispensers has a big effect on whether people actually use them.

Units need to be obvious and easily accessible, so staff and customers can stop to clean their hands while getting on with their usual activities.

Dispensers should also be placed in areas that pose the highest contamination risk. These are the places you’d consider high-traffic, with high-touch surfaces or where lots of interaction takes place.

Here are a number of key locations to consider:

  • Entrances and exits
  • Desks, tables and waiting areas
  • Meeting rooms
  • Break rooms
  • Tills, changing rooms and any other places where staff interact with customers

Encourage people to use them 

Using hand sanitiser while we shop, work or travel is far from second nature, so a little reminder wouldn’t go amiss.  

Sticking a staff greeter or a brightly coloured poster at the entrance to your business is a good call. That way employees and visitors are reminded that they should use hand sanitiser stations as soon as they walk through the door.

You could also post regular reminders about hygiene and the use of hand sanitiser on notice boards or through internal comms. That way staff are prompted to keep up the good work and do their best to reduce the spread.

Hand-sanitising is here to stay

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of hand hygiene to the forefront of our collective minds. And that’s unlikely to change for some time to come. 

Using both soapy water and hand sanitiser is a great habit to get into, and one that businesses the world over should be making easy to achieve.

CleanedUp’s high quality, free-standing hand sanitiser stations help to provide a safe and clean environment for everyone coming into contact with a commercial space.

Check out the store today.

Click for a checklist on what you need to know to re-open your UK business.

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