When it comes to public health, hand sanitizers are incredibly necessary tools. These cleaning agents help kill bacteria on our hands, which come into contact with hundreds of different surfaces and bacteria every day. But how do hand sanitizers work? We’re here to answer that question for you.
The vast majority of hand sanitizers are alcohol-based. Depending on the formula used, the active ingredient is usually about 70% alcohol. There are different types of alcohol that can be used in hand sanitizers, too. The most common are ethanol, isopropanol, and n-propanol. Ethanol is what you can find in most hard liquor, while isopropanol is found in rubbing alcohol. N-propanol is a chemical sibling to isopropanol, so they’re relatively similar in makeup.
The alcohol in hand sanitizers matters because it’s the primary agent used to kill bacteria. The alcohol dissolves the outer coating of bacteria and viruses, which essentially robs them of a physical form to house their DNA in. As such, the bacteria and viruses that hand sanitizers come into contact with die.
Using hand sanitizer on a regular basis is important, especially if you don’t have access to soap and water. That’s why it’s a good idea to carry some with you!