Gels or UV-C: Which is Best to Supplement Hand Washing?
The following is part two of a four-part question-and-answer with Dan Zubic, founder and chief executive officer of Handy Enterprises LLC. The company manufactures and markets HANDY Hand Sanitizing Solutions, a line of products that use Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) lighting to virtually eliminate highly contagious, illness-causing germs and bacteria, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Dan founded Handy Enterprises in 2017 after conducting several years of research and testing into the germicidal properties of UV-C lighting, leading to the creation of the patent-pending HANDY Hand Sanitizer product line.
DAN: First, nothing tops hand washing when it’s done properly and frequently. Hand sanitization, either via an alcohol gel or with the HANDY UV-C sanitizer, is a complement to proper hand washing. However, hand washing is part of the problem society faces—very few people wash their hands properly, most people don’t do it frequently, thoroughly, or long enough, and hand washing isn’t possible in many locations and circumstances.
Hence, the need for hand sanitizers. But gels fall short in many ways. As with washing, you must be diligent in ensuring you’re using enough of it to cover every part of your hand, and rubbing the solution in for the recommended 20 or so seconds. Most people fall short in doing this properly.
Secondly, germs are living organisms. In protecting themselves, they can mutate or develop a resistance to sanitizing gels over time, whereas UV-C lighting changes the DNA of surface-borne germs to effectively eliminate them—this is a huge advantage over gels. Lastly, long-term use of alcohol gels can dry skin out and are known to cause adverse skin reactions in some people.
Q: Are there other factors in the gel versus UV-C consideration?
DAN: Yes, maintenance and cost. Gels can be a maintenance nightmare. The containers must be monitored and refilled frequently. In many frequently-used locations, gels spill to the floor below and require ongoing cleaning, to the point that tile or carpeting needs repair or replacement.
As to cost, in high-traffic settings alcohol-based gel sanitizers can be a long-term significant operating expense. However, a HANDY Hand Sanitizer—which sanitizes hands in as little as three seconds—can offer approximately 8 to 10 years of usage based on the life span of the UV-C light system, with negligible upkeep costs. That equates to approximately less than 40 cents a day over the expected life of the lighting system!
Q: Given what you just described, why are gels so prevalent?
DAN: Because they are perceived as inexpensive and there is a comfort level with people using them—it is a familiar consumer item that has been in use for a long, long time. It's not a new technology or a strange concept to people. And they are generally viewed as effective, but as I mentioned earlier, that may not necessarily the case. Gels are effective on some germs and pathogens, and not so effective on others, and it is often applied improperly by people. But there is no question that, due to the pandemic, gels are seemingly everywhere.
Q: Over the past year, proper and frequent hand washing has been emphasized to the public. How does hand sanitization contrast with hand washing?
DAN: Sanitizing with an alcohol gel or UV-C light is not a substitute for hand washing. Washing with soap and water is the most effective way to clean hands, rid them of dirt and grime, and help reduce the presence of germs. Everyone should wash their hands as often as possible. That said, there are times when hand washing with running water and soap isn’t practical or available, and sanitization is a good substitute.
Importantly, research has shown that the vast majority of people in restaurants—more than 95 percent!—do not properly wash their hands. They either don’t use enough soap, or they don’t rub their hands long enough, or they miss portions of their hands and fingers, or all of the above. In these situations, a UV-C hand sanitizer is a perfect complement to hand washing—for example, sanitization units can be stationed outside of restrooms, in kitchens and at entrances.
There is really no substitute for properly washing hands with soap and water. Ideally, you would wash hands and then sanitize afterwards. However, if you are not able to wash your hands then at least sanitize, preferably with a HANDY UV-C sanitizer.
Note: Look for part three of this four-part series in the days ahead at www.handyuv.com.