Hand Sanitizer Safety | Muse Health

Health     Hand Sanitizer

You might not think that there are many safety issues to consider when it comes to hand sanitizer. After all, you just use it for cleaning your hands. But hand sanitizers are regulated by the FDA as over-the-counter drugs. The active ingredient in hand sanitizers is alcohol, and anyone who uses them needs to know how to use them safely. There's more to it than you might realize, especially if you want to protect both yourself and other people too.

This guide will give you a rundown of how to use hand sanitizer safely and effectively.

Hands holding hand sanitizers

Buy Only Safe Hand Sanitizer

Buying the right hand sanitizer is the first step to using it safely. Some sanitizers may be unsafe to use, and could be even more unsafe if ingested or used inappropriately. Hand sanitizer usually contains one of two types of alcohol - either ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or 2-propanol). However, a variety of hand sanitizers, particularly various products made in Mexico, have been found to contain other, more dangerous types of alcohol. Some products have tested positive for methanol or 1-propanol, both of which should not be in hand sanitizers.

If you want to ensure you don't buy a product containing dangerous ingredients, you should search the FDA list of hand sanitizers not to use. They have an updated list of products found to contain methanol or other unexpected ingredients, as well as products made in the same facilities. The biggest risk is from companies that don't ordinarily make hand sanitizer but have started doing so to capitalize on the higher demand due to the pandemic. If you do find that you have a product that has been recalled, it should be disposed of in a hazardous waste container if possible.

The FDA has also issued a warning about hand sanitizers packaged to look like food or beverages. These increase the risk of people mistaking them for something edible and accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer.

Another safety issue to consider is efficacy. You should look for a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content to ensure it's effective.

Glasses filled with chemicals

Don't Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

You can find recipes online for making your own hand sanitizer. However, the FDA recommends against doing this. If you make it incorrectly, it could be ineffective or even dangerous. Homemade hand sanitizer has led to problems such as burns to the skin in some cases. You should also avoid trying to add alcohol to non-alcohol sanitizers. It's not likely to create an effective product. If you can't find hand sanitizer, it's best to wait until your chosen store has it in stock and keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water in the meantime.

Woman reading bottle label

Read the Label  

It's always smart to read the label when you buy a product that's labeled as a health product. The label will tell you what's in it and provide instructions for how to use it too. It should also let you know other details, such as potential side effects and what you should do if you have an adverse reaction. You'll find relevant warnings, information about how it's made, and usually some contact details if you want to get in touch with the manufacturer too.

Puppy sitting on a blanket

Keep Out of Reach of Children and Animals

One of the dangers of hand sanitizer, like other products, is that it could be consumed by children or pets. To prevent this happening, it's essential to store your hand sanitizer somewhere out of reach of small hands and paws. Make sure that you keep it high up, and preferably shut away or, even better, locked away. Remember that small children and animals are both good at getting into places you wouldn't expect them to, so don't underestimate them. Keep in mind the advice about packaging that looks like food and drinks too. Kids might be attracted to hand sanitizer that looks like juice or candy.

Don't forget about any bottles of hand sanitizer that you might have in handbags, pockets, in the car, or other places. These can be easily reachable for curious fingers, and a bottle of hand sanitizer could be in your child's hands before you know it.

Woman and child using hand sanitizer

Supervise Children

Although you don't want to leave kids alone with hand sanitizer, they can use it to clean their hands. But you should be careful to supervise children when they're using it, especially with younger ones. Measure out enough hand sanitizer for them and help them to rub it in to ensure they get it over every part of their hands. Children might not use hand sanitizer effectively without supervision, so it helps to have an adult there to check that they're using it properly.

Candles on a table

Avoid Heat and Flames

Hand sanitizer needs to be stored properly, and not only if you have children or pets. It contains alcohol, which means that it's flammable. It should be stored away from heat or flames to prevent any accidents. Speaking of flames, when you use hand sanitizer, try not to go near any flames for about half an hour after. Using a lighter or getting too close to a candle could be dangerous. You should at least wait until your hands feel completely dry before going near flames, heat or sparks. If you spill any hand sanitizer, clean it up right away, especially if there's a risk of it coming into contact with any flames or heat sources.

Hand sanitizer on fingers

Use Hand Sanitizer Effectively

Part of hand sanitizer safety is also using your hand sanitizer effectively. If you don't use it in the way that it's intended to be used, it won't offer you the protection that you want. You need to use it properly or you could be giving yourself a false sense of security. So how do you use hand sanitizer in an effective way?

Start with checking that you're using enough hand sanitizer. You should have enough to cover both of your hands, front and back, without it immediately drying up. If you accidentally pour out too much, just keep rubbing your hands together until it's dry. Don't wipe it off because you could stop it from working properly. If you've spent the last few months singing "Happy Birthday" while washing your hands, make sure you do the same when using hand sanitizer.

You should rub it in for at least 15-20 seconds, getting it all over your hands. Distribute it over your palms, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and your fingertips. If you miss anywhere, you could leave germs still on your hands. Once you've spread hand sanitizer all over your hands, let it dry in the air. It should only take a few seconds to dry, so wait until then before touching anything.

Emergency Room

Know What to Do in an Emergency

If someone does accidentally ingest hand sanitizer or reacts badly to it, you need to know what to do. You should call 911 in the event of someone having difficulty breathing, collapsing or having a seizure. Your regional poison control center can also provide advice about hand sanitizers and what to do if someone ingests it. Call 1-800-222-1222 or visit WebPoisonControl to get in touch.

If it's a pet or another animal that you think has swallowed hand sanitizer, you should get in contact with your veterinarian or pet poison control center. They can offer advice on what to do next and any signs of illness that you should watch out for.

Keep Washing Your Hands

Hand sanitizer is very effective for killing a lot of germs, but it's not a complete replacement for washing your hands. It's important to use hand sanitizer to complement washing your hands with soap and water, not instead of it. You should wash your hands when you have access to soap and water, including when your hands are very dirty. Hand sanitizer can kill germs, but it won't wash off dirt. It's also important to remember that hand sanitizers don't kill all germs, so it's best to use together with hand washing.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after going to the toilet, coughing or sneezing on your hands, or blowing your nose. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great option if soap and water aren't available, but keep washing your hands when possible too.

Safe hand sanitizer use will help you to keep your hands clean. Whether you want to protect yourself during a pandemic or prevent the spread of other germs, alcohol-based hand sanitizers help by breaking down the cell structure of germs. As long as you use them correctly, they can deal with most germs and help you to stay healthy. One of the most important things to remember is that hand sanitizers should be stored safely. Don't allow children to have unsupervised access to hand sanitizer, and make sure that no one ever ingests it.

Hand sanitizer should be perfectly safe if you know how to use it properly and what precautions to take.