So even if you've used a sanitizing product, and your hands are clean and germ-free, you can still catch or spread the virus. A hand sanitizer may actually be a more potent preventive mechanism for gastrointestinal diseases, rather than infections such as the cold or flu.
Another myth is that they are not as effective as conventional hand washing with soap and water, in eliminating germs from hands. This is not necessarily true. Washing with soap and water works betters if your hands are visibly soiled, that is, if you have dirt in your hands. However, if your hands look clean but are actually ridden with germs, then an alcohol based hand sanitizer is a better option because the alcohol is more effective in killing the germs.
Another myth is that hand sanitizers lead to dry hands. These products contain emollients, which are chemicals that reduce irritation by protecting and soothing the skin. As counterintuitive as it may seem, an alcohol based hand sanitizer is actually less harsh on the skin than soap and water. A study conducted by Brown University researchers found that washing your hands with soap and water leads to skin that may look and feel quite dry. A hand sanitizer on the other hand may keep hands moisturized.
You can make a somewhat effective sanitizer at home. While homemade variants may be cheaper, most don't contain the recommended 60 percent alcohol content, which experts agree is the optimum concentration to eliminate germs. Understandably, the best results are seen with brand names, such as Purell or Germ X.
However, as long as the product contains 60 percent alcohol, a generic brand will work just as fine as a premium store brand. You don't have to pay the higher price for a brand name product.
Compiling all the hand sanitizer facts, we can safely say that an alcohol based sanitizer is the most effective means to kill germs in our hands, but only as long as the product is used sparingly and responsibly.
An alcohol based hand sanitizer is not only able to eliminate more germs than soap and water, but it is also gentler on skin if used in moderate amounts. And when supervised by an adult, this product can be safe for kids as well.
While alcohol based sanitizers have faced criticism of late, mainly due to the high alcohol concentration, experts say that some of these fears are unfounded. Alcohol is not absorbed into the skin to any degree to warrant these fears. Even with excessive usage, the level of alcohol absorption is harmless at best. Alcohol may contribute to some sanitizer dangers, but not to any great extent.
The argument against alcohol content only holds up if the products are used in a way that they were not intended to be used in. For example, an alcohol based hand sanitizer is not meant to be ingested, but there have been several cases where children as well as adults have consumed the liquid and fallen very ill.
Some manufacturers have attempted to address the public's concern over alcohol content and started making alcohol free variants as a safer alternative. These products rely on plant oils to neutralize germs, but so far have not been as effective as alcohol based hand sanitizers. If used properly, an alcohol based hand sanitizer is no more dangerous than an alcohol free variant.