Why you need to worry about hand sanitizer

You’ve heard the advice since you were young—wash your hands to avoid getting sick. And now hand sanitizer has swooped in as a way to keep our hands clean, even when we’re on the go. It comes in appealing scents, fun squeeze bottles, and it’s often marketed toward kids. But is hand sanitizer safe to use? Here’s what you need to know. But first, make sure to wash your hands immediately after you touch these 10 things.

Are all hand sanitizers the same?

Many people might not know that not all hand sanitizers are created equal. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s important to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. This type of sanitizer not only is more effective at killing germs, but non-alcohol based sanitizers can actually be harmful and can cause germs to develop resistance to sanitizing. Find out about 14 diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

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Unusual uses for hand sanitizer
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Unusual uses for hand sanitizer

Silver polish

Hand sanitizer cuts right through tarnish on silver, according to Taste of Home. “Squirt a few drops on a soft cloth and rub away the tarnish,” they advise. Here are 20 genius uses for cornstarch.

Clean your eyeglasses 

You could spend close to $20 to buy special herb-infused “eyeglass cleaner” fluid. But if you have hand sanitizer lying in your reach, use that instead—it helps eliminate fingerprintsand even hairspray from your eyeglasses.

Use it in place of deodorant

The reason armpits start to smell is bacteria. Which is why it makes perfect sense that rubbing hand sanitizer in your armpits will keep you smelling fresh when you forget to roll on your roll-on.

Quick acne relief 

The inflammation you get with a pimple is caused in part by bacteria on your skin, so dab a bit of hand sanitizer on that spot, and feel immediate relief. Try it on bug bites, too! In fact, here’s how to treat basically every kind of bug bite.

As a dry shampoo

With the advent of dry shampoos, you can spray a little on to make your hair look fresh-washed when you don’t have time for washing and blow-drying. But if you’re out of dry shampoo, try some hand sanitizer: Simply squeeze a bit out onto your fingertips and massage lightly into your roots, and your hair will look just as good.

Clean your flat iron 

If you haven’t cleaned the surface of your flat iron in a while, grab your hand sanitizer and get to work. The iron can be coated not only with hair products but bacteria. After the iron cools down, smear on some hand sanitizer, wait a few minutes, and then wipe it clean.

Clean hairspray off your mirror

When you’re spritzing with hairspray, it’s easy for the mirror to get caught in the crossfire. Getting it off your mirror can take a little effort—but it’s easier with some hand sanitizer. Simply place some on a microfiber cloth or paper towel, wipe, and your mirror will sparkle again. Also, make sure to check out these household uses for vinegar you never knew, either.

Spruce up your makeup brushes

Who cleans their makeup brushes? We all should because there are at least 10 gross things that can happen when you don’t wash your makeup tools. Get your makeup brushesextra clean by rubbing them with hand sanitizer after you wash them; then, allow them to air dry fully.

Remove permanent marker from a whiteboard

If your kids—or you—accidentally wrote on your whiteboard with a Sharpie or other permanent marker, here’s an easy remedy: First write over the permanent marker with a dry erase pen, and then wipe it all off using hand sanitizer. You may need to do this a few times to remove all traces.

Get permanent marker off clothing 

Yep, you can use hand sanitizer to get permanent ink off clothing too. Just be sure to dab at the stain, rather than rub, and place a piece of newspaper between layers so that the ink doesn’t bleed from one layer to the other. And if the cleaning label says “dry clean only,” check out what that really means.

Pre-treat stains before laundering

Even the makers of Tide detergent acknowledge that a bit of hand sanitizer can effectively pre-treat stains on clothing. Rub some in, let it sit for one to three minutes, blot it away and apply Tide, and then wash as directed on the garment’s label.

Remove a sticky label 

Just like hairspray, adhesive residue is tough to remove with just soap and water. Whether you’re removing adhesive residue from your skin, furniture, wall, new dishes, or a handbag, hand sanitizer will make the job easier.

Take the ouch of removing a bandaid

Instead of ripping off an adhesive bandage, rub some hand sanitizer over the sticky ends to release the adhesive. Wait a minute, and then painlessly remove the strip.

Clean your keyboard

Did you realize that your keyboard can be just as dirty as a toilet seat? To address the keyboard problem, keep your hands clean, and wipe your keyboard with hand sanitizer on a cloth—preferably microfiber. Be sure to unplug it or turn it off first.

Clean your mouse

Thanks to its location and similar use, your computer mouse is every bit as grimy as your keyboard, according to CNET. Again, give it a little wipe down with a microfiber cloth and hand sanitizer. If you use a touchpad, give it the same treatment—just always remember to shut everything down first.

Clean your touchscreen 

The fact that it’s called a “touchscreen” indicates that it needs cleaning from time to time. The best way, according to PC Tablet, is to squirt some hand sanitizer on that microfiber cloth you’ve been using and wipe gently.

Wipe down a public toilet seat

Before you sit down on a public toilet seat, squirt some hand sanitizer on a wad of toilet paper and wipe down the surface. This may help you overcome any squeamishness you have about sharing the seat with strangers.

Remove nail polish 

Don’t have nail polish remover on hand? Clean up your nails with hand sanitizer, advises Bustle. Apply some and let it sit for one minute. Using a cotton pad or tissue, wipe away and then repeat until your nail’s clean. When you do have nail polish remover on hand, consider using it in one of these 12 extraordinary ways.

Eliminate fingerprints on stainless steel

Fingerprints can ruin the look of your stainless steel appliances, but you don’t need to buy special stainless steel cleaner if you have hand sanitizer. On a cloth, the gel will remove fingerprints, spattered oil, and other grease marks.

Clean your diamond ring

While not all gemstones are candidates for cleaning by hand sanitizer, diamonds can withstand the process and the results will be sparkling. Avoid using sanitizer if the setting is gold- or silver-plated, though, as the cleaner can disturb the plating. Next, check out more extraordinary uses for household staples you already own.

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It’s especially important to avoid hand sanitizers that contain triclosan, a synthetic ingredient added to many antibacterial products. The FDA warns that “high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones [and may contribute to] making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.” Be cautious and make sure you don’t make these five mistakes when cleaning with bleach.

Does hand sanitizer prevent illness?

Hand sanitizer can’t rid your hands of bacteria if you’re not using it correctly. Remember to use the proper amount of sanitizer, to rub it over all surfaces of your hands, and to let the product dry. Also, don’t wipe your hands or rinse them after applying. When used correctly, alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill at least 99.9 percent of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. So after you touch that public stair railing or shopping cart handle, using hand sanitizer can help you avoid a cold or flu virus. But keep in mind, people often pick up a virus after inhaling droplets in the air, and unfortunately, hand sanitizer can’t help you with that. Here are 7 things that can happen if you don’t wash your hands.

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18 things in your home that are covered with germs
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18 things in your home that are covered with germs

Sink: It’s where all your kitchen dirt goes (we hope). In fact, it’s home to as many as 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Spray it down often, clean out your food trap, and scrub with scouring powder like Bon Ami at least once a week.

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Cutting boards: Whether you’re chopping meat, veggies or fruit, your cutting board could be Ground Zero for foodborne illness. Prevent cross-contamination by dedicating one board to meats and another to produce. And always wash your board ASAP after using it—especially if you were working with raw meat. Researchers at UC Davis also recommend plastic cutting boards over wood, because they’re easiest to sanitize—they can go in the dishwasher. Clean a wooden cutting board with soap and warm water, dry it quickly, and seal it with butcher-block oil whenever you notice the wood is drying out.

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Countertops: All the action—chopping, mixing, drink-pouring—happens here, so of course they’re covered with little particles of everything. First off, cut the clutter to give crumbs and germs fewer places to hide. Then wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth after every meal.

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Fridge shelves and drawers: Your refrigerator is home to both raw and cooked foods, and if it’s disorganized, they probably come in contact now and then. Store raw meat in a plastic bag to serve as an extra barrier, and stop spoiled food from turning into science experiments by throwing it away as soon as you notice it. Another cool trick we use at our house: Empty and wipe down the shelves and drawers whenever you do a big grocery shop.

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Sponges: They’ve been banned from commercial kitchens—ban them from yours, too. But if you must use a sponge, rinse it with hot water after every swipe. At the end of every day, get it wet and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. Toss it after a few weeks (one week if you’re missing the daily sanitizing routine).

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Dish towels: If you rush through washing your hands, some germs may still be hanging out on them and you’ll transfer those germs to the dish towel. Change dish towels a few times a week, and wash them with hot water when you do the laundry.

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Makeup brushes: They touch your face every day, coming in contact with oils, bacteria and dead skin cells. Wash them with mild soap whenever you notice makeup buildup.

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Towels: Like dish towels, they pick up any germs left after a shower. Plus, if your bathroom has poor air circulation, towels may get musty if they stay damp too long. Wash them in hot water at least once a week.

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Tub: The equivalent of the kitchen sink for your bod, the tub takes in a lot of grime. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth every day and get rid of mold spots with baking soda or vinegar. (Find dozens more ways to clean with baking soda here.)

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​​​Floor around the toilet: It gets splashed, plain and simple. For starters, make sure to put the lid down every time you flush. Clean up noticeable spots right away and scrub with bathroom cleaner at least once a week.

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Faucet handles: You touch these before your hands are clean. ‘Nuff said. Wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth.

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Toothbrush holder: It’s all about gravity: Many of the germs on your toothbrush drip into the holder. Rinse it out daily—do double-duty while you’re brushing your teeth with the other hand. Then sanitize your toothbrush holder in the dishwasher (if it can take it) or give it a good scrub with soap and water.

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Electronics: Smartphones, keyboards, mice, the remote control (OK, let’s be real: 17 remote controls)—germy fingers come in contact with them all the time. In fact, the National Institutes of Health recently found that cellphones are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats. Wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth as often as possible. Don’t forget to remove any cases so you can clean underneath.

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Doorknobs, handles and light switches: Even if your hand only touches these items for a fraction of a second, that’s enough time to transfer bacteria. Once again, a quick wipe-down with a damp microfiber cloth will do.

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Shoe rack: Footwear is a huge culprit for bringing germs into your home, so it’s no surprise that their storage unit is a bacterial breeding ground. Put some elbow grease into cleaning this one and wipe it with bathroom cleaner—you never know what somebody stepped in.

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Carpets and rugs: Even if you’re using the no-shoes rule, carpets suck up every crumb, dead skin cell and germ that hits them. Vacuum weekly and spritz high-traffic areas with a carpet sanitizer. If you can toss rugs into the laundry, do it.

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Bags: Your purse holds money (super dirty!) and your kid’s lunch bag holds food (raise your hand if you ever forget to clean it out over the weekend). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning these to keep them in the best shape.

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Toys: No matter whose toys they are—your kid’s or the dog’s—they probably spend a lot of time in somebody’s mouth. Consider what they’re made of, then clean accordingly, tossing them in the laundry, dishwasher, or wiping with a cloth.

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Interested in a more DIY approach to cleanliness? Here’s how you can make your own soap with just a few ingredients.

Which is more effective—a hand sanitizer or soap and water?

Although that tingling feeling of a hand sanitizer may feel like the best and most effective way to cleanse your hands, the reality is, nothing beats plain old soap and water. The CDC says the best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is to regularly wash your hands, whenever possible. Try to only use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not accessible, like when you’re in the car, when you’re shopping or at a movie or concert. Also remember that hand sanitizers should not be used after handling chemicals or when hands are visibly dirty, in those cases use soap and water. Or try this simple DIY hand scrub.

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11 Sneaky Places Germs are Hiding in Your Kitchen
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11 Sneaky Places Germs are Hiding in Your Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the germiest places in the average home.

Refrigerator Drawers

The produce drawer in your refrigerator can be contaminated with salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold. To clean it, remove the drawer from the fridge and wash it in warm, soapy water.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Kitchen Sink

It’s no secret; lots of germs are washed down the kitchen sink. Make sure the pathogens don’t linger by disinfecting it daily with a solution of bleach and water.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Can Opener

The best way to ensure that salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold aren’t growing on your can opener is to wash it in the dishwasher after each use. If you don’t have a dishwasher, hand-wash after each use but be sure to pay extra attention to the area around the blade.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Rubber Spatula

Check to see if your spatula can be disassembled. If so, remove the handle and wash both pieces in the dishwasher or by hand to remove any E.coli, yeast or mold that may be present. If the spatula cannot be disassembled, be sure to pay special attention to the area where the two pieces join when washing.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Salt and Pepper Shakers

Because they’re handled so frequently, salt and pepper shakers harbor a tremendous amount of germs. The best way to ensure that your salt and pepper shakers are clean is to periodically wipe them down with disinfecting wipes.

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Knife Block

Periodically clean your knife block to prevent yeast and mold from thriving. Remove the knives, turn the knife block over to remove any loose debris, and then clean the knife block in hot soapy water using a small brush in each of the slots.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Rubber-Seal Containers

Reusable containers with a rubber seal can harbor salmonella, yeast, and mold. If the rubber seal is removable, remove it before machine or hand washing. If it’s not, be sure to pay special attention to the area around the seal when hand washing.

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Coffee Reservoir

Mold, mildew and bacteria can all be hiding in the reservoir of your coffee maker. Clean your coffee maker according to the manufacturers’ instructions frequently; many also recommend using vinegar.

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Blender

The blender is another kitchen gadget that needs to be fully disassembled before washing. Be sure to remove the blade and seal from the jar and base before washing to prevent salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold from thriving. Be sure to dry each piece thoroughly before reassembling.

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Sponges, Rags, and Towels

Your dish sponge, rag and towels all create an ideal environment for pathogens. Be sure to wash and change your rags and towels frequently and microwave your dish sponge for a few seconds after each use to help disinfect and dry it.

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Rubber Seal on Your Refrigerator Door

Much like the rubber seal on food storage containers, the seal around the door of your refrigerator or freezer can harbor harmful bacteria. Remember to clean it periodically with soapy water and then dry it thoroughly with a clean towel.

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Always running out of soap? Here’s how to make a mega-size soap dispenser. Then find out the ways you’re washing your hands wrong.

The post Why You Need to Worry About Hand Sanitizer appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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