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Hand sanitizer is in global shortage

T3 logo T3 3/4/2020 Ruth Hamilton
a hand holding an object in his hand: Hand sanitizer © Provided by T3 Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is big news right now and that is because many people want to buy hand sanitizer or sanitiser, and there is not much to buy. Concerned shoppers across the US and UK have been panic-buying in bulk as a response to the Coronavirus

or Covid-19 outbreak, which means we're now facing a huge shortage. 

If you're not able to find any hand sanitizer, that does not necessarily mean you should worry. Official advice from the CDC says washing your hands properly with soap and water is preferable to using hand sanitizer anyway – and that stands whether you're worried about coronavirus or just trying to stay hygienic in general. Read on for more on that, plus a guide to how to wash your hands properly.

Also bear in mind that while hand sanitizer gels seem like the foolproof way to get your hands as clean as possible, they're not the magic solution you might assume. First up, for the hand sanitizer gel to effectively kill germs, it needs to be at least 60% alcohol – to be safe, look for a 60-95% alcohol concentration, and avoid alcohol-free options. That being said, sure, you can buy alcohol and make your own 'hand sanitiser' at home, but there is a reason that most people don't like pouring vodka on their hands.

• Buy alcohol at Amazon UK

• Buy alcohol at Amazon USA

There are also other things that can make the alcohol gel, or vodka, less effective than you'd hope. The CDC warns that if your hands are very dirty or greasy, this can stop hand sanitizers from working properly. You also need to make sure you're using enough gel, and that you're not wiping off the gel before it's properly dry. Seriously, washing your hands is easier. 

Where to buy hand sanitizer

Almost everywhere is sold out of hand sanitizer at the moment. Below are some retailers to try – although you might not be in luck right now, many promise that products will be restocked soon, so it's worth checking back.

Again, remember that while hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands, they don't eliminate all types of germs. For certain types of germ – including norovirus – soap and water is more effective, according to the CDC. 

Does hand sanitizer protect against coronavirus?

Because coronavirus is a new illness, the official medical line on this isn't clear-cut. The NHS website says, "we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person" and that "similar viruses are spread in cough droplets".

The NHS advises using hand sanitizer gel only if soap and water are unavailable. Other recommendations include using your sleeve or a tissue to cover your mouth when sneezing, putting used tissues straight into a bin and washing your hands afterwards.

How to clean your hands properly

So you haven't been able to get hold of any hand sanitizer. Don't worry. It's time to turn to good old-fashioned soap and water. To help guard against catching or spreading coronavirus, the NHS recommends washing your hands with soap and water regularly, including when you get home or arrive at work. 

You can pick up hand soap at your local supermarket, but if that's not possible you can also order online – buy in bulk at Amazon UK or US, or head to Waitrose, Boots, Superdrug, Walmart, or any number of other online stores.

Once you've got your soap, it's time to brush up on your hand-washing technique. It's recommended you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Above is the official NHS video showing you how to wash your hands properly.

What if you end up unable to leave home?

If, though hopefully not, you end up self isolating or just find yourself unable or not wanting to go out, and you need entertainment, consider your options. Thankfully in today's connected world, movies and TV as well as big sporting events that go ahead can come to you, from all over the world.

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