Antibacterial gel is most often used as a hand sanitizer when it is not possible or convenient to wash with soap and water. Just a quick squirt into the palm of a dime-sized amount is all that’s required. The gel is rubbed into the skin the same way hand lotion would be used, and quickly evaporates due to its alcohol content. Antibacterial gel kills most germs on contact and commonly contains ingredients to soften and lubricate the skin, such as aloe vera gel or other emollients.
Antibacterial gel can be purchased in squeeze bottles or in small foil packets that contain just one use. The foil packets are great for tossing into a purse or glove compartment. You can even slip one or two into a wallet. It's a good bet that throughout the day, or certainly the week there will be at least one or more occasions where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Antibacterial gel has become so popular you might see a bottle of it sitting just about anywhere, from your bank teller’s window to the cashier’s stand at your favorite department store.
Some people might want to consider brands that do not contain alcohol. The Wall Street Journal reported on 12 August 2006 that a nurse tested positive for alcohol in her system after using a popular hand sanitizer. The victim ended up with a suspended nursing license and was forced to go to court. The highly sensitive test used in her case is based on a particular marker in alcohol that lingers in the blood for several days after consuming a drink. The marker was present after cleansing the hands with antibacterial gel containing alcohol, but other products containing alcohol can also throw the test, including mouthwash, vanilla extract and certain cold medicines.
Hand sanitizer is promoted as being safe to use on babies hands, but follow directions and any cautionary warnings on the product. The gel should be completely evaporated before babies are allowed to put their hands near their mouths and non-alcohol based formulas are preferable. Eco-friendly antibacterial gels like Clean Well™ do not contain alcohol or harsh chemicals and purport to kill germs just as well.
Hand sanitizer should not be used as a replacement for soap and water, but a stop-gap measure when soap and water is not available. It can be helpful in classrooms, medical facilities, day care centers, gyms and any public places where germs are spread.