Technique, Tools

Instant Hand Sanitizers (Update)

When this article was written in 2003, hand sanitizers were used in kitchens and hospitals and nowhere else.  And not very often then or there. I’ve used the stuff for years. A weird habit for a non-hypochrondriac.

Ah, but now scroll forward to 2009, the flu season and H1N1.  Bottles of hand sanitizers are to be found on every counter from supermarkets to flower stores.  Sales of the stuff are through the roof.

We have, of late, spent a lot of time at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington DC. At the door frame of every room there is a racked bottle of hand sanitizer. At other clinics, the stuff is ever more present than a couple of years ago.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.  Food inspectors spend a lot of time assessing the effectiveness of kitchen staff hand hygiene practices because data show that a very high percentage of foodborne illnesses are hand transmitted.  They also know that properly washed hands are as germ free as any other ‘tools’ in the kitchen.

But keeping hands clean is difficult.  Cooks know to wash their hands before leaving the bathroom and also are trained to wash-up between tasks.  Easier said than enforced, however.  How many times have you worked with food in the kitchen, then went off to change the channel on the TV, do something for the baby or go down to the pantry to get a box of Japanese bread crumbs, then return to the task at hand in the kitchen
without washing up again?  The problem is time and availability.

There is another hand wash media out there that you should consider adding to your daily routine. Instant hand sanitizers.  They are nothing more complicated than ethyl alcohol in a squeeze bottle—a big one on the counter, a little one in your pocket, chef’s toolbox, car glove compartment, purse, backpack, wherever.  It solves the time and availability problem with flying colors since it’s ready-at-hand and takes five seconds to use.  This stuff is available in all drugstores and supermarkets.  Purell is market leader with some soap manufacturers offering products as well. We now favor 3M’s Avagard D which NIH uses by the truck load.  Maybe that’s why we can’t find it the drug stores.  Google or Amazon it and buy it online. It’s pricey.

Here is how it works:  Hand sanitizer fluid is 62% ethyl alcohol and added moisturizers.  You squirt a quarter size dollop in the palm of the hand and wash thoroughly with it.  Purell claims that, before it completely evaporates, the stuff kills 99.9% of the germs that may cause illness.  It kills good ones too, but so does soap and water.  (A fringe of the wellness-hypochondriacs has a problem with that.  But scientists state that their concern is misdirected in that ethyl alcohol is not among the anti-bacterial products that remain on the hands with theoretical adverse affect.)  Ethyl alcohol had been used for a 100 years.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been around in one form or another for 15 years.  I’m never without it.

Let’s hope that, with the passing of the flu season, folks will continue to use hand sanitizers.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Its refreshing too.

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