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Does Alcohol Hand Gel Expire? Plus 7 Things You Need to Know

Does Alcohol Hand Gel Expire? Plus 7 Things You Need to Know

Hand sanitiser gel and liquids are common place now in all venues, from commercial buildings and schools, to private homes. Here are 7 useful snippets of information about using and sourcing alcohol hand sanitising products. This post and infographic give you what you need to know.

The above infographic is free to use as long as the original source is referenced via a link to this post.

Does it matter what % Alcohol is in the gel?

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention – CDC (1) and WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends an alcohol content of 60-95% to kill viruses and harmful pathogens. But does it matter whether its 60 or 95%?

According to one study (2) by Günter Kampf of the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine in Germany, ethanol is highly effective at 80% concentration. At this level the alcohol will inactivate an enveloped virus, like Covid-19 within 30 seconds. At lower levels the kill time will be longer. Imagine this scenario in a supermarket. You apply a 60% alcohol gel and it takes up to a minute to inactivate the virus, within that minute you have already touched some fruit and veg and decided to select a different item, this has consequences. So be aware that alcohol gels may not be instant. The higher concentrated products may be harsher on the skin which is why most gels are around 70-75% .

Liquid sanitiser is more effective than gel!

The same study found that the delivery method of liquid sanitiser is more effective than gel as such is more appropriate for clinical settings and immediately prior to touch points, like entrance ways. The most popular choice are gels, due to convenience and reduced chance of spillage, however maybe it’s worth thinking about.

Is it better to use soap and water or hand sanitiser?

The WHO and NHS recommend washing hands with soap and water regularly as the primary way of avoiding spreading infections and alcohol gels and hand rubs are a secondary option where there is no available running water and drying equipment. Alcohol hand rubs therefore provide a versatile means of observing good hand hygiene practices but should not be a substitute for soap and water. Soap and water physically remove pathogens where as an alcohol hand gel inactivates them. This is not always as effective when there is dirt or grease on the hands. A scientific paper comparing the two methods can be accessed from reference 3 below.

Do alcohol gels expire?

Alcohol hand gels are typically fine for 2-3 years (4) but it all depends on storage. If you leave in a car on a hot day the temperatures could get high enough (170 degrees) to evaporate, this is highly unlikely in the UK I imagine. The main issue would be leaving it exposed to air. Alcohol is volatile and if you leave the cap open or its not contained within a sealed dispenser , the alcohol will begin to evaporate and loose effectiveness.

Do alcohol hand rubs
damage jewellery?

Jewellery made of genuine gold, silver, platinum, titanium or any other precious metal can be cleaned with alcohol-based products so will not be damaged by alcohol hand rubs.(5) The same is true of most gem stones, however there are some exceptions with semi-precious stones like pearls so it is worth looking into the exact composition of your jewellery.

Can children use alcohol hand sanitisers?

Yes, as long as under adult supervision. It’s advisable NOT to use sweet smelling versions as children may be tempted to lick their hands. As with adults, its better they use a moisturising hand soap regularly to keep their hands protected. Children loath dry, cracking skin and it discourages them from continuing to wash regularly, so making alcohol-based products the secondary option to soap and choosing a skin friendly aloe vera will be helpful.





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