Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasitic worms are types of germs that can spread infection and disease.
The immune system may protect us from these germs most of the time, but we can also take preventive measures to kill germs and reduce the spread of disease.
Alcohol has been used as a hand sanitizer since 1888, and the cleansing properties of ethanol and isopropanol are well proven.
While it is always best to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good alternative, if used correctly.
Alcohol kills germs
A 2020 review of alcohol-based hand sanitizers found that hand sanitizers containing 60 to 95% alcohol kill germs more effectively, provided that at least 2.4ml of hand sanitizer is used for 25 to 30 seconds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that alcohol-based hand sanitizers must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective. Alcohol kills germs by breaking down cell walls. Depending on the brand, hand sanitizers may also contain additives such as aloe vera to make them more moisturizing, or carbomer to change the texture.
Most hand disinfectants and isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol are used. For example, ethanol is an effective virus killer, against infections such as herpes and influenza, and isopropyl alcohol is more effective against bacteria.
“Ethyl alcohol kills viruses, fungi and bacteria, but it does not kill bacterial germs. Depending on the type of alcohol used, it can kill or render a variety of germs inactive,” says Johannes Wesole, Medical Director of the Meskawan Health Group.
How to use alcohol to kill germs
Most cleaning products, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizers contain enough alcohol to kill germs.
“For disinfection, alcohol solutions should contain at least 70% alcohol, plus the most common EPA-registered household disinfectants that are effective,” says Wesole.
To kill germs, the CDC recommends cleaning regularly touched items, such as light switches, knobs and faucets, in the home and workplace.
“In general, keep surfaces clean with a household disinfectant, specifically, frequently touched areas such as doorknobs, phones, and computer keyboards,” says Manish Trivedi, Director of Infectious Diseases at AtlantiCare.
In fact, your phone is likely to carry more germs than a toilet seat, and it is often overlooked when cleaning.
And Apple recently updated its instructions for cleaning the phone, recommending “wiping it with a disinfectant containing 70% isopropyl alcohol or Clorox disinfectant wipes” to disinfect the exterior of the phone and avoid moisture in the openings.
And when sterilizing these devices and surfaces with products that contain alcohol, the CDC suggests following these steps, along with reading the instructions on the label:
Ensure that the product contains at least 70% alcohol.
Ensure that the area is well ventilated.
Use gloves, preferably disposable.
Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves.
And while rubbing surfaces with cleansers that contain alcohol may help kill germs, hand washing is still the best defense against viruses and bacteria.
Source: Business Insider