Put Down The Hand Sanitiser: Here's How To Wash Your Hands Instead
Hand sanitiser is considered the Holy Grail of portable hygiene, but new research has found it may not be as effective as people think.
A study by Japanese researchers found germs carrying the flu virus can withstand the alcohol in hand sanitisers for a startlingly long time.
The 10 participants were infected with influenza A on their fingertips and then has an ethanol-based hand sanitiser applied on top. Researchers then measured how long until the ethanol killed the flu virus.
It took a full four minutes of the hand sanitiser sitting on the bacteria for the virus to be fully deactivated.
The study found that as long as wet mucus -- for instance, from sneezing -- is still on your hands, the virus is infectious.
Simply slapping on hand sanitiser is not going to kill the germs on your hand, according to GP, Dr Zac Turner.
"The way that hand sanitiser actually kills off the germs is that it evaporates, and it is the evaporation that kills a lot of the germs," he told 10 daily.
"People don't allow that to happen, they don't rub it in at all and then they go ahead and touch everything"
Hand sanitiser is effective in killing off a very thin layer of germs, but not if your hands are dirty -- particularly from sneezing.
"If you've got snot and saliva on your hands, and there's a coating on the hands, the research found that hand sanitiser did next to nothing," Turner said.
"You actually have to rinse those things off first."
The study only measured the effectiveness of hand sanitiser if it is left to sit on the skin, and not if it were rubbed in. By rubbing your hands together, mucus is spread into a thinner layer, meaning the hand sanitiser can penetrate the mucus and kill germs faster.
Can Hand Sanitiser Be Used Too Frequently?
As most hand sanitisers are alcohol-based, frequent use of them can dry out the skin, as alcohol can be corrosive.
"Dry skin then leaves you open to more bugs," Turner said.
There is also the risk that the overuse of hand sanitiser can allow more powerful bugs the chance to grow, as weaker ones are continually killed off.
"In hospitals, after every six to eight times you use hand sanitiser, you then have to go and have a proper wash," Turner said.
"You are not replacing hand washing entirely, but it's good to use in between."
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Parents should also relax with the hand sanitiser pump, and not worry if their kids get dirty.
"Let them build up their immune systems," Turner said.
"It's about being healthy, but not being a bubble boy and hiding away," Turner said.
How Can You Protect Yourself Without Using Hand Sanitiser?
Wash your hands like a surgeon, said Turner.
"People don't wash their hands well," he said.
"People at home just put water on their hands, often don't use soap, and then dry them on dirty cloths."
Surgeons, when they wash their hands, are "meticulous" -- spending up to three minutes washing their hands.
"Go around, between your fingers, do your nails, really get in there," Turner said.
Always remember to give your knuckles and finger tips a good scrub as well; and when turning off the tap, use the back of your hand, so you don't instantly put germs back on your fingers.
Watch below to see how Dr Zac Turner washes his hands.