Cruise tip: You’ve been using hand sanitiser all wrong

by in News May 21, 2020

We all know that hard surfaces are particularly good at spreading germs and most of us wouldn’t think of going into a ship’s dining room without taking advantage of the hand sanitiser at the entrance.

Aware of all the nasties that could be lurking on hand rails, whenever I’m on a ship I squeeze those antiseptic gels into my hands whenever I have a chance, but it wasn’t until the end of my last cruise that I realised I’ve been doing it all wrong. And I’m not the only one.

It’s not really our fault. The instructions on some top selling hand sanitisers tell us to squeeze a small amount into our palm then “briskly rub hands together thoroughly until dry”.

Most of us will put the gel in our hand and rub our palms together, with a bit of an over the back of the hand action thrown in. Which is not even close to enough.

Bacteria loves to breed in warm moist places and on our hands that’s in between the V in our fingers so we really need to get the gel into those areas. Fingernails are the other hotspot we need to zero in on and make sure we get that gel all around fingertips and nails.

A five second rub won’t cut it. We need to keep rubbing for around 20 to 30 seconds or as long as it takes for the hand sanitiser to dry. And don’t even think about wiping any excess off and interfering with its germ busting work.

When used correctly hand sanitisers can kill up to 99.9 per cent of microorganisms but we need to give them a fighting chance on the whole “used correctly” part of the deal.

While it’s all too easy to know where we picked up a lurgy if someone coughs or sneezes all over us, a lot of the time we have no idea where it came from because the person left the scene long ago.

A hand sanitizer dispenser squirting liquid soap into a male caucasian hand.

On a hard surface flu germs can be infectious for up to 24 hours and cold germs for more than a day. Norovirus can survive for weeks if the conditions are right, and it’s believed the new coronavirus could remain active for more than a week.

I don’t want to go all Howard Hughes and see germs everywhere but I’ll admit I am conscious of the fact that even if I have done the right thing before coming into the dining room there’s no knowing what anyone else has done. Could a nasty have hitchhiked its way from a handrail to the serving utensils in the buffet? Should I go do my hands again before eating that piece of bread?

And how many times have I washed my hands properly, sat down to eat and then used my mobile phone? Unfortunately disinfecting wipes can corrode the protective oleophobic coating on the glass screen and in reality I’m unlikely to make and carry around my own alcohol and water solution in a spray bottle as suggested by some sites.

But I will start wiping my phone down with a microfibre cloth. And really getting in between those fingers and around those nails when I use hand gels from now on. It’s the simple things that can make a big difference on our travels.

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