Companies across the country are now beginning to open back up. And with these re-openings come new rules and protocols to ensure the safety and health of our communities. One such guideline involves the increased use of hand sanitizer.
This blog post will help all those looking to better understand hand sanitizers and the options available to them as they seek to abide by these new requirements. We’ll also touch on:
- Understanding the types of hand sanitizers (alcohol-based vs. non-alcohol-based)
- How hand sanitizers are regulated
- How active ingredients are tested for efficacy
- Real world performance of alcohol-based products vs. non-alcohol-based
- Where to find hand sanitizer in an increasingly tight marketplace
Our goal with this post is to thoroughly cover the topic of hand sanitizers so that you’ll be confident in whatever product you choose for your employees and customers.
Business Re-Openings Bring New Hand Hygiene Rules
New Minimum Standard Health Protocols for safely reopening restaurants recently established in the State of Texas provide an excellent example of guidelines being introduced across the nation. These protocols include hand-sanitization regulations, which have been set for both customers and employees.
They read, in part:
For customers, restaurants must “Make a hand-sanitizing station available upon entry to the restaurant.”
For employees, restaurants must “Have employees wash or sanitize their hands upon entering the restaurant, and between interactions with customers.” [Source: Texas Restaurant Minimum Standard Health Protocols]
That’s a lot of hand sanitizer!
Consider just the employee protocol. While it’s clearly best practice for an employee to wash their hands with soap and water at the start of a shift, it is impractical to wash with soap and water between each customer interaction. This requirement will obviously be met with a hand-sanitizing product.
And it’s not just restaurants. Similar regulations and guidelines are being instituted across American industries—from restaurants, food processing and food service, to transportation, manufacturing facilities, schools and universities, personal service outlets, retail stores and (of course) healthcare settings.
So, understanding hand-sanitizing product options has now become an important factor in the day-to-day operations of many businesses who likely never really considered it before.
So, let’s dive in.
Understanding Hand-Sanitizing Product Options
On the market today there are essentially two types of leave-on hand-sanitizing products—alcohol-based and non-alcohol-based. Neither product type requires water for use or rinsing afterward. But both require that hands are clean (not visibly dirty, greasy, nor soiled) to work effectively.
Most everyone is familiar with alcohol-based gel products like Purell; fewer people are aware of sanitizers based on QUATS.
What are QUATS (or Benzalkonium Chloride)? How do They Work?
Some (non-alcohol-based) hand sanitizers are based on Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (called QUATS), which are made up of simple salts.
One such QUAT is Benzalkonium Chloride (often referred to as BZK or BAC). BZK/BAC is the active ingredient in many QUAT-based hand sanitizers, including WOW! Quick Kill BAC Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer.
Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK/BAC) works as an antiseptic by chemically reacting with a microbial. For example, it reacts with the DNA in bacteria. This reaction disrupts the structure of the DNA within the bacteria cell, which causes failure to thrive for the bacteria and results in the death of the bacteria cell.
Interestingly, this process follows the same principle as alcohol-based hand sanitizer. But that’s not all that alcohol-based solutions and BZK/BAC products have in common.
It’s also important to note that the FDA regulates both alcohol and BZK/BAC “for use in OTC (over-the-counter) consumer antiseptic rubs”—which is how the FDA refers to hand-sanitizer products. This is because both fall under the same FDA Monograph.
So, what exactly does that mean?
Understanding FDA Regulation of Hand Sanitizers
According to the FDA itself, “OTC drug monographs are a kind of “recipe book” covering acceptable ingredients, doses, formulations, and labeling…These monographs define the safety, effectiveness, and labeling of all marketing OTC active ingredients. New products that conform to a final monograph may be marketed without further FDA review.”
In other words, it is by FDA approval that Benzalkonium Chloride-based products can be labeled and sold as “Hand Sanitizers.” The same is true, of course, for products based on the active ingredient alcohol (and isopropyl alcohol).
It is also the FDA that confirms that the Time Kill Studies conducted on an active ingredient (such as BZK/BAC…or alcohol) meet and exceed their satisfaction. (See Time Kill Studies on BZK later in this blog.)
It is by FDA approval that
products with the active ingredient
Benzalkonium Chloride (aka BZK/BAC)
can be labeled, marketed, and sold as
To help you evaluate other products you might be considering, here is a list of active ingredients that the FDA has deemed ineligible for use in hand sanitizers. (Information found in Section C.2)
What About CDC Recommendations on Hand Sanitizers?
The CDC has become a participant in daily life these days, it seems. And while it is true that the CDC recommends, “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds…or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available,” it is important to remember a couple of things.
First, the CDC is not a regulatory body—that’s the FDA’s function. The CDC is an advisory body (it makes recommendations), primarily for healthcare. Furthermore, its limited recommendations are based on the fact that, up to this point, it has not tested non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
So, how has Benzalkonium Chloride demonstrated its efficacy?
Time Kill Studies Demonstrate Efficacy
Manufacturers of hand sanitizers submit a product’s active ingredient to a Time Kill Study to test and verify its efficacy. So, let’s define and outline the process.
According to Pacific BioLabs, a Time Kill Study (or Time Kill Test or Time Kill Analysis) is carried out to evaluate the efficacy of an antimicrobial test material, such as the active ingredient BZK/BAC. It assesses the in vitro reduction (which means performed in a test tube or culture dish) of a microbial population of test organisms after exposure to the test material, such as BZK/BAC.
Third-party laboratories perform these tests and the FDA confirms the results as part of the Monograph procedures. (Learn more about the FDA and OTC Drug Mongraphs above.)
The results from the independent lab that conducted the 15-Second Time Kill Study on our BZK/BAC hand sanitizer revealed that WOW! Quick Kill BAC Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer is actually more effective than alcohol-based products on four microbials. These include Clositridium Difficile, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella sonnei, and Staphylococcus Aureus. Indeed, WOW! Quick Kill BAC showed a 99.9999% kill rate, compared to the 99.999% rate for alcohol-based products.
Thus, WOW! Quick Kill BAC Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer has proven its efficacy as an antimicrobial and met the FDA’s criteria to be labeled, marketed, and sold as an OTC (over-the-counter) consumer antiseptic rub, FDA’s terminology for hand sanitizer.
But there are other factors to consider as well when choosing a hand sanitizer.
Real World Factors to Consider When Choosing a Hand Sanitizer
Efficacy against microbials is an essential factor to consider but it is not the only criteria.
Remember, busy people in the real world use hand sanitizer, not chemists in a controlled lab. So, how do BZK/BAC products compare to alcohol-based sanitizers in actuality?
Here are a few key considerations:
8 Real World Disadvantages of Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer
1. Very flammable, GHS classifies it as a Category III flammable liquid & vapor 2. Hazard identification mandates special shipping restrictions, storage requirements, & increased documentation 3. Strips hands of natural oils, causing drying, splitting, & cracking 4. May sting or burn when applied to dry or cracked skin 5. Cracks and splits, even when minute, diminishes skin’s ability to act as a barrier to microbials and pathogens 6. Compliance/usage may drop due to skin irritation 7. Can be lethal to children if ingested, even in small amounts 8. Some schools avoid it due its potential toxicity
8 Real World Advantages of BZK/BAC-based Hand Sanitizer
1. Non-flammable 2. No special shipping/storage requirements, no extra paperwork 3. Emollients in the formulation leave hands moisturized and feeling soft 4. Never stings or burns skin, even damaged skin 5. No irritation for improved compliance to hand hygiene protocols 6. Improved compliance/usage provides better protection against microbials 7. Not lethal to children if ingested in small amounts 8. Schools can use it worry free
Finally, BZK/BAC products stay on the skin longer than alcohol-based sanitizers, which evaporate quickly due to very high alcohol content. Since time kill studies are based on 15-seconds of contact with a microbial, the real-word performance (kill rate results) of BZK/BAC sanitizers is more likely to replicate lab results than will sanitizers based on alcohol because it evaporates so quickly.
Can Hand Sanitizers Replace Hand Washing?
No, hand sanitizers are never a replacement for hand washing. Rather they are a compliment to it. In fact, it’s important to understand that hand sanitizers do not work on visibly dirty, greasy, or soiled hands. Hands must be clean first. Then hand sanitizers can be used to sanitize and periodically re-sanitize as you go about your workday.
Note: Be sure to intermittently wash your hands with soap and water throughout the day as well. Don’t just use hand sanitizer as it can build up with repeat use. This recommendation applies to any type of hand-sanitizing product.
Help! Hand Sanitizer is in Short Supply
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, hand sanitizer seems to fall in the same category as toilet paper—extremely hard to find. State-by-state re-openings are expected to exacerbate this problem, especially in the short term, because virtually all re-opening businesses will now need to supply their employees (and customers, where applicable) with an over-the-counter consumer-grade hand rub.
Possibly making matters tougher for some companies is their lack of a pre-existing relationship with one of the big players in the hand sanitizer market.
With supplies as short as they are, some of the big companies are only allocating hand sanitizer to customers who have purchased it in the past.
This is precisely why we decided to introduce a hand sanitizer—to fill this need, help satisfy demand in the market, and play a supportive role in helping our country safely open back up.
To learn more about WOW! Quick Kill BAC Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer, visit our product page.
There you will find:
- Product information including Features and Benefits (PDF also available)
- Video demonstrating the use of our foaming hand sanitizer
- Product SDS
How To Become or Find a Distributor
WOW! Quick Kill BAC Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer and other WOW! Commercial Grade Cleaning Products are not available at retail outlets. To become or find a local distributor call us at 866-969-3279 or fill out our Contact Form and select “Become a Distributor” or “Looking for a Local Distributor” from the Contact Reason drop-down menu.