Hand Hygiene: Soap or Sanitiser?

As we all know by now, maintaining adequate hand hygiene is crucial to reducing the transmission and spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend washing hands with soap and water or cleansing using alcohol-based hand sanitisers to reduce cross-contamination and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

The key to the coronavirus’s survival is the fatty bilayer that envelopes its genetic material. Both chemicals present in soaps and the alcohol present in hand sanitisers are able to disrupt this fatty bilayer and in turn kill the virus.

However, the effectiveness of hand washing and hand sanitising depends on several factors.

Hand Washing with Soap and Water

Washing hands with soap and warm running water for a minimum of 20 seconds has been established as one of the most effective ways to eliminate Coronavirus from hands.

Hand washing can virtually remove all traces of virus the same way it removes dirt, grease and stains.

Soap contains molecules called surfactants which can kill the viruses by dissolving it’s outer envelope. The molecules also help to remove the virus from the skin by disrupting the way the skin and virus interact,

The effectiveness of hand washing depends on:

  • Duration
  • Quantity of soap used
  • Scrubbing method
  • Rinsing
  • Drying

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitisers

If soap and water are not readily available, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitisers that contain at least 60% alcohol.

Alcohol-based sanitisers are very effective at quickly destroying a variety of pathogens without the need for water, plumbing or drying facilities.

Ethanol is considered to be the most effective alcohol against viruses, whereas propanol appears to have a better bactericidal effect. The combination of the two alcohols may also have a synergistic effect.

The virucidal activity of alcohols is attributed to their ability to disrupt the lipid envelope and denature the remaining components.

The effectiveness of alcohol-based hand sanitisers depends on:

  • The type of alcohol
  • Percentage of alcohol
  • Quantity applied
  • Technique of application
  • Contact time
  • Amount of grease and dirt on hands

Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitisers

Alcohol free hand sanitisers are usually gel or foam based. They are less irritant to the skin but there is a lack of published evidence regarding their biocidal efficacy.

However, alcohol free products that are manufactured as conforming to British Standard BS EN 14476, contain added anti-viral ingredients which have been shown to be effective against viruses including Coronavirus.

The virucidal effectiveness of alcohol free hand sanitisers depends on:

  • Active chemical ingredient
  • Quantity applied
  • Technique of application
  • Contact time
  • Amount of grease and dirt on hands

Whichever method you decide is right for you, make sure to clean your hands regularly and ensure you are using the right products.

We at Orca Hygiene believe that as a company we have a responsibility to continue evolving our products to help create a more sustainable future. Get in touch now to find out how Orca Hygiene can help support your business’ sustainability goals.