5 mistakes you’re probably making with hand sanitizer

As flu season begins amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, it’s perhaps more important than ever to maintain good hygiene.

One way to do that is to keep hand sanitizer on hand, but using it and using it properly are two different things.

K.C. Rondello, an epidemiologist and clinical associate professor at Adelphi University’s College of Nursing and Public Health told HuffPost that having hand sanitizer “is not a ‘cure all,’” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that in most situations, hand washing is the best way to remove germs.

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When you can’t get access to soap and water, though, hand sanitizer, which does not get rid of all kinds of germs, can work. Still, you should make sure you’re not making any mistakes when you use it. Below are five flubs HuffPost reported you may be making as you use the products this season:

Mistake 1: You’re using the wrong kind of hand sanitizer

All hand sanitizers are not created equally. The CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol. Studies have shown sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60% and 95% are more effective at destroying germs than ones with an alcohol concentration under 60% or those that are not alcohol-based. Read the product label to learn whether or not the recommended level of alcohol is included in the sanitizer.

Mistake 2: You’re not rubbing the hand sanitizer in all the way

When you apply hand sanitizer, you should make sure that the product is absorbed into the hands; there shouldn’t be any lingering wetness.

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“One common mistake people make when using hand sanitizer is that they fail to rub it in all the way,” Dr. Stephen Loyd, chief medical director at health care company JourneyPure told Eat This, Not That. “It’s important to continue to rub it into your skin until it dries.”

Mistake 3: You’re applying too little hand sanitizer

Despite instructions on some hand sanitizers to apply a dime-sized amount, research indicates that is insufficient. A 2016 study demonstrated that in order to sufficiently cover the front and back of both hands, people need to use more than half a teaspoon of hand sanitizer. The World Health Organization also recommends applying a palmful of sanitizer into a cupped hand.

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Mistake 4: You’re not storing it properly

To maintain the effectiveness of hand sanitizer, Karen Dobos, Ph.D., a professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and pathology at Colorado State University, recommended to Health.com, that it’s stored at a temperature of 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. While there have been concerns about keeping the product in a hot car, Health.com reported it should be fine to keep a small bottle in the center console or glove box as long as it’s not there all day when it’s warm outside.

Mistake 5: You’re using it on visibly dirty hands

Hand sanitizer can work in a pinch, but if you notice grease and grime on your fingers, you need to wash your hands.

The CDC says hand sanitizer may not be as effective if hands are noticeably filthy. In these cases, it’s recommended to wash hands with soap and water.

“The act of scrubbing with soap and water physically removes germs from the surface of the skin,” Rondello told HuffPost. “Additionally, the friction created when drying your hands with a paper towel also helps by physically removing pathogens on the surface — an advantage lost when using hand sanitizer.”