What are the official UK government and WHO guidelines on hand sanitising?

Sanitising your hands is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s easy at home, when you’ve got access to soap and water. But as businesses across the UK begin to reopen throughout June and the rest of the year, customers, employees and guests will need a way to keep clean.

And that’s where hand sanitiser comes in.

Hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol (either isopropanol or ethanol) has been shown to destroy COVID-19, and is the best way to stop transmission when you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water.

The UK government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have set out comprehensive guidelines for businesses at this time — what they have to provide in terms of hand sanitisation, when, where and why. But from procedures and protocols, to hand sanitiser installation, there’s a lot of information to digest.

Here’s what you need to know...

Both the UK government and WHO recommend hand sanitiser be used in commercial spaces

  • Objective: To help everyone keep good hygiene throughout the day (customers & staff)
  • Necessary action for businesses: Provide hand sanitiser in multiple locations, in addition to washrooms.

Health and safety guidelines are designed to ensure the wellbeing of anyone who enters your workplace, before, during or after trading hours.

Providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations (as well as in bathrooms) is a great place to start — that’s why it’s recommended by both WHO and the UK government. And it should be easy for customers to keep their hands properly sanitised before and after handling anything, whether its food, clothes or a shopping basket.

In retail spaces, strategically placed sanitiser dispensers — by doors and tills, for example — act as a timely reminder for customers (while also showing that your business takes health and safety seriously).

Similarly, staff need quick and easy access to hand gel. This is particularly important in customer-facing roles, where staff restock shelves, and come into close contact with many people throughout the day.

Businesses are responsible for encouraging optimal levels of hygiene — and hand sanitising is part of this

  • Objective: Making commercial spaces as safe for everyone as they can be
  • Step: Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing techniques, the need to increase hand washing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.

Raising awareness is a huge part of preventing transmission. Some things might seem simple, or common sense, but we are in unprecedented times and the necessary changes don’t come easily to everyone.

Businesses need to make sure that they have the proper protocols and procedures in place for their staff, particularly when it comes to increasing hand sanitising and washing. Businesses should give their staff clear instructions about when and how often they need to sanitise their hands, and make sure they know to increase the frequency when in contact with customers.

It’s one thing to install more hand-washing or hand sanitising stations, but customers and staff need to know they are there! Stations should be clearly marked, with clear instructions on how to use them.

But don’t worry, it’s not up to you to decide on proper use. Whatever hand sanitiser dispenser you invest in should come with clear, easy-to-follow instructions — print these out and mount them on a wall nearby, if you think staff and customers need a helping hand.

Better still, diagrams showing good technique are a great way to get the message across clearly and effectively. People might have a tendency to use more than they need, so let them know that a small amount goes a long way! The WHO has a great bank of printable resources, covering how to hand-wash, how to hand-rub, and 5 moments for hand hygiene.

Hand sanitiser FAQs

Are hand sanitisers safe?

The short answer is yes.

But there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. You should warn customers and staff that smoking immediately after using hand sanitiser is absolutely forbidden — as you might imagine, getting 70% alcohol near open flames is a bad idea. Similarly, make sure hand sanitiser stations aren’t near any open flames or high heat.

Finally, it is worth indicating that swallowing hand sanitiser can cause alcohol poisoning, particularly if your business caters to younger children.

Do you need to wash your hands after using hand sanitiser? 

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser has no harmful effects, and you don’t need to wash your hands after using it. There is a common misconception that people should wash their hands with soap and water after using sanitiser four or five times, but this is not the case. 

Can you get resistant to sanitiser with overuse? 

No. Unlike antiseptics or antibiotics, you can’t build up a resistance to alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Can sanitiser dry out your hands or sting? 

In the past, hand sanitisers had a tendency to dry your skin out, which could be unpleasant or even harmful. However modern hand sanitisers all contain emollients, which are skin softeners specifically designed to avoid this.

Nowadays, if used correctly, hand sanitiser should never dry out your skin. If you have any cuts or broken skin then the gel can sting (just like getting citrus juice in a cut), so this should be avoided if possible, but it won’t cause long-term harm.

Are there any health risks from inhalation?

No. There is currently no evidence that alcohol-based hand sanitiser can cause any harm from inhalation, when used for hand hygiene.

Your sanitiser partner is right at hand

At CleanedUp, we’ve provided hand sanitising stations to supermarkets, shops and hospitals, we’ve also installed them right across the London Underground network. 

To find out more about our work, and how we might be able to support your business as things open up, check out our website and get in touch.

CleanedUp Hand Sanitising Stations

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