Recently, awareness of the importance of hygiene in general, and hand hygiene in particular, has grown tremendously. In this article, I will give a brief overview of possible options for maintaining hand hygiene, their advantages and disadvantages, and most importantly their effectiveness .
Soaps for washing hands
The name soap implies several different products, and it is important to know that not all of them are equally effective, so I will say a little more about each type. Chemically speaking, soaps are salts of higher fatty acids and are a much wider group of compounds than what we usually call soap. However, by trade names, a much larger number of products are called soap, while chemically they are not soaps or contain soap in smaller concentrations.
Soaps by trade name that do not belong to "real" (for lack of a better word) soaps are mainly various liquid gels for washing hands and showers, then glycerin soaps, melt&pour soaps and similar soaps that contain soap in a lower concentration, etc.
"Real" soaps include sodium and potassium salts of higher fatty acids. Sapunoteka, for example, produces real soaps that are sodium salts and fatty acids of olive and coconut oil .
"Real" soaps can be recognized by their composition, so their composition must first contain saponified oils and fats. Some manufacturers list the oils and fats that they use to obtain soap, and write the lye separately, and then the oils and fats will be listed first, and the lye later. Both ways are valid.
In solid soaps you will find, for example, "Sodium Olivate" (sodium salt of higher fatty acids of olive oil) or "Saponified Olive Oil" (saponified olive oil) or "Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil" and then lower in the composition of "Sodium Hydroxide" , if the manufacturer has chosen this way of writing the composition. In all three cases it is the same ingredient. For liquid soaps, instead of "Sodium" it will say "Potassium", i.e. potassium, because liquid soaps are made with potassium lye.
"Real" soaps are effective in the fight against microorganisms because, due to their high pH, they prevent their survival and growth. Do not be afraid to use soap that another person uses, because microorganisms cannot survive on them. A real greater danger is the use of "soap" (that is, various washing gels) that have a dispenser that you have to touch because microorganisms can remain on it.
Sapunoteka soaps are made with a high proportion of olive oil for the best possible hand care , and they also contain naturally occurring glycerin that helps keep the skin moist in order to reduce drying of the skin as much as possible, especially when using soap frequently.
Disinfectants for hands
They can come in various forms such as gels, sprays, and extremely rarely in a solid state.
Their effectiveness depends on the composition, and the most commonly used ingredients are ethanol (ethyl alcohol, or just alcohol) and isopropyl alcohol . Denatured alcohol is often used for disinfection, and if you've ever wondered what denatured alcohol is , don't be afraid, it's just ethanol to which substances have been added that give it a bitter or unpleasant taste so that it can't be used for drinking, but they are completely safe for use. Ethanol is most often denatured by adding isopropyl alcohol, which also acts as a disinfectant.
In addition to the composition, the effectiveness of disinfectants depends on the concentration of these ingredients. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using at least 60% ethanol by volume. Higher concentrations are also more effective, but after 70% of ethanol, the effectiveness starts to decrease. Therefore, Sapunoteka hand disinfection gel contains 70% ethanol . In the case of products with a higher ethanol content, the product evaporates too quickly, which causes the effect of "frying" the outer layer of microorganisms, while the alcohol does not even manage to penetrate to those in the lower layers before it evaporates.
In addition to ethanol, the composition contains propylene glycol, which acts similar to glycerin in the way that it helps to retain the moisture of the skin, but does not leave a sticky feeling on the hands. Also, according to the recommendation of the World Health Organization, Sapunoteka hand sanitizer gel also contains hydrogen peroxide, whose role, in addition to disinfecting, is to kill any spores that may be present that can survive in alcohol.
When buying disinfectants, you should also pay attention to the composition, so in the first place they must be "Alcohol denatured" or "Alcohol" or "Isopropyl Alcohol" . If "Aqua" or "Water" is in the first place, that disinfectant is not effective and do not waste your money. In that case, you can use much cheaper vodka or brandy, because they also contain water first, and only then alcohol - although they are not efficient enough, at least you won't overpay for them.
Due to the huge demand for disinfectants, various products have appeared on the market that are not soaps or alcohol-based disinfectants, and which manufacturers claim to be effective, or at least customers hope they are.
One of the frequent examples are various mixtures of essential oils . Trust us, we would be very happy if that were true, but unfortunately these means don't work. Essential oils have a certain effect, but none have the effectiveness of a wide spectrum of action.
Then, various products with ionic silver and colloidal silver . As a person who wrote a final paper on the topic of obtaining colloidal silver, I can tell you with certainty that you should not waste your money buying these products , because they are not effective for this purpose. Ionic silver contains silver ions that are very reactive, and if they come across a microorganism they could destroy it, but they will react with the sweat present on your skin and create AgCl salt much sooner than kill a microorganism. Furthermore, colloidal silver has some effectiveness against some BACTERIA, not VIRUSES, and only if the silver particles are 3 to 8 nm in size. In one test of commercially available colloidal silver, only 1 out of 10 had particles of these sizes, and the rest had particles several thousand times larger, which are completely ineffective . Third, it takes hours , not seconds or minutes, for colloidal silver to work, and this has its place for further research and use for medical purposes and water purification, but not for quick and effective hand disinfection.
When to use which product
Whenever possible, use soap because it dries your hands less, and only when it is not possible to use soap because you do not have access to running water, use gel or spray hand sanitizers.
When washing and disinfecting your hands frequently, your hands may dry out, so it is necessary to care for your hands properly . We recommend Sapunoteka hand creams , rich in cold-pressed oils and nourishing ingredients.
For the end
Avoid shaking hands, touching doorknobs and handrails, wash your hands regularly, avoid physical contact and stay safe! We wish you all the best of luck and health, and that this crisis passes as quickly and painlessly as possible. Let's take care of each other.
About the author: The author is Marija Plavčić, co-founder of Sapunoteka, with ten years of experience in the production of hygiene and skin care products, a chemical engineer by profession.