Since the coronavirus pandemic began roughly ten months ago, most Americans have been led to believe that a hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol for it to be effective against the virus.
But a new study published by a team of Brigham Young University researchers in the Journal of Hospital Infection is shedding new light on what really works against the contagion.
According to the research, what the team discovered was that alcohol-free hand sanitizers are just as effective in disinfecting as alcohol-based products.
“Our results indicate that alcohol-free hand sanitizer works just as well, so we could, maybe even should, be using it to control COVID,” the study’s lead author Benjamin Ogilvie said in a news release.
He added that alcohol-free hand sanitizers, which also have been shown to be effective against common cold and flu viruses, have a number of advantages over their alcohol-based counterparts.
“Benzalkonium chloride can be used in much lower concentrations and does not cause the familiar ‘burn’ feeling you might know from using alcohol hand sanitizer,” Ogilvie said.
“It can make life easier for people who have to sanitize hands a lot, like health-care workers, and maybe even increase compliance with sanitizing guidelines.”
In concluding their findings, the researchers first mixed the novel coronavirus in with the various cleaning agents one at a time. Then fifteen to thirty seconds later, they introduced the virus particles to living cells.
Each solution was shown to be effective in neutralizing the virus, as it failed to invade and kill the cells. This held true even after the researchers added mucus and blood proteins into the solution mix, which can sometimes cause cleaning agents to be less effective.
“People were already using (alcohol-free hand sanitizers) before 2020,” the study’s co-author Brad Berges said in a release.
“It just seems like during this pandemic, the non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been thrown by the wayside because the government was saying, ‘We don’t know that these work,’ due to the novelty of the virus and the unique lab conditions required to run tests on it.”
Ogilvie hoped that reintroducing alcohol-free hand sanitizers into the market could help ameliorate shortages and reduce the chance of consumers encountering potentially dangerous products that harbor harmful ingredients.
“Hand sanitizer can play an especially important role in controlling COVID,” he said. “This is information that could affect millions of people.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.