I feel like they’re everywhere: on people’s key chains, the front desk at my dentist’s office, and department store entrances. Can you guess what I’m talking about? That’s right, you got it, hand sanitizer. Is it just me or have they become increasingly popular over the years? But, considering how much I use hand sanitizer daily, I realized I don’t actually know a lot about how it works. So, I wanted to learn if hand sanitizer really helps us stay healthy. I got an opportunity to ask scientist Jim Arbogast, from Gojo Industries, the makers of Purell, about hand sanitizer. Here’s what I learned.
Q. I hear you’re a pretty big deal at Gojo. Can you tell me more about what you do?
A. I am currently the Vice President of Hygiene Sciences and Public Health Advancements at Gojo. I work directly in the formulation and national launch of products in the laundry, air freshening, hair care, skin care, and hand hygiene markets. I’m also involved in running field outcome studies with hand hygiene products to see the impact on skin condition and infection related rates.
Q. When should you sanitize your hands?
A. I frequently remind people that hand hygiene is one of the most important preventive measures we can all take to help us stay healthy and well. Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes either hand washing or using a well-formulated alcohol-based hand sanitizer, at key moments, is important in keeping you and your family healthy.
Those key moments are:
Before and after preparing food
Before and after caring for someone that is sick or being around someone who is ill
After using the bathroom
After sneezing or coughing
After touching anything thatis in a high traffic area that may have been touched by many different hands, such as the grocery cart handle, an elevator button or a handrail
Q. How should you sanitize your hands?
A. The entire hand sanitizing process should take approximately 15 seconds. Apply a dime-sized amount of hand sanitizer, enough to cover all surfaces of your hands, rub the sanitizer into the palms of your hands, fingers, back and front of hands and thumbs. Continuing rubbing hands together until hands are dry.
Q. Are all hand sanitizers created equal?
A. No. Alcohol-based and non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not the same; in fact, they are very different. The truth is that formulation matters. The active ingredient is important, but the total formulation affects the antimicrobial efficacy of the sanitizer. The product must deliver good skin care performance – improving or maintaining skin condition. And the third important point is that it provides a good sensory experience; it’s likable to use.
Q. Can we use hand sanitizer safely multiple times a day?
A. Yes. Numerous studies support the safety of long-term, repeated use of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer. It is critical to practice good hand hygiene at key moments, such as before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching objects that are frequently touched by others – which happens multiple times a day.
Q. Do hand sanitizers expire?
A. Yes. Skin care products that make antibacterial claims are regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the US FDA, which requires that the manufacturers determine their shelf life. Typically, our PURELL® Hand Sanitizer products expire 36 months after manufacture. The expiry on our products is based off laboratory stability testing data at a wide range of temperatures and humidity. This is accurate regardless of when the package went into use.
Q. I understand there is a new study that found a comprehensive hand hygiene program can significantly reduce hand hygiene preventable healthcare claims. What were the specific findings?
A. In a peer-reviewed outcome study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine , researchers analyzed insurance claims, attendance data and employee surveys to quantify the impact of a comprehensive hand hygiene program. The effects of this hand hygiene intervention were studied over a 13-month period. During the study period, researchers found employees in the intervention group filed 24% fewer healthcare claims related to hand hygiene-preventable illnesses compared to employees in the control group. Additionally, employee absenteeism rates within the intervention group were reduced by more than 13% compared to the year prior to the study. The intervention was pretty simple – PURELL® hand sanitizer (1 bottle and 1 canister of wipes) on employee desks and available in common areas (e.g. cafeteria, meeting rooms, break coffee areas) and some hand hygiene education. We found the PURELL® hand sanitizer was used on average just a few times per day and that the employees really liked and valued the program.
So, what did I learn from this interview? Hand hygiene is very important because it reduces illness-causing germs that can make you sick. Also, having hand sanitizers and dispensers handy throughout the workplace and facilities can positively impact productivity and business performance. Woohoo! We have to grapple with the flu season annually and germs ALL THE TIME. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you have hand sanitizer “handy” (get it?). Hand sanitizers have one job and they do it well! Now that you know more about hand sanitizer, hopefully you can trust it to help you stay at peak performance this flu season. I know I will!
Crafting, designing, and the internet are Sally’s outlets and she’s always looking for new opportunities to transform her way of thinking. When she’s not working, she can probably be found stuffing her face with food or rewatching Grey’s Anatomy over and over again.