Your Covid-19 questions answered

Is it safe to use a communal hand sanitiser?

15 October 2021 - 07:00
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it's safe to use a communal hand sanitiser.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it's safe to use a communal hand sanitiser.
Image: 123RF/ dolgachov

If you feel uneasy about touching a bottle of communal hand sanitiser in a public place like a shopping mall because you think it might be unsafe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is nothing to worry about.

“Once you have sanitised your hands you have disinfected them from any germs that may have been on the bottle. If everyone uses sanitiser in a public place, such as a supermarket entrance, the risk of germs on communal items will be lower and keep everyone safe,” says the organisation.

Hand sanitisers have become popular globally since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to disinfect hands and surfaces was one of the first recommendations by the organisation. A minimum of 70% alcohol content is required if alcohol like ethanol, isopropanol or n-propanol is the main ingredient. Otherwise, 60% alcohol content is allowed if there are other active ingredients.

The Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recommends using hand sanitisers when in public spaces to prevent getting sick and spreading germs.

It also advises knowing the difference between using hand sanitiser and handwashing with soap and water, as the methods offer different amounts of protection. 

“Soap and water work to remove all types of germs from hands, while sanitiser acts by killing certain germs on the skin.

“Although alcohol-based hand sanitisers can quickly reduce the number of germs in many situations, they should be used in the right situations ... Hand sanitisers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead,” says the CDC.