Buyer's Guide to Hand & Surface Sanitisers

Read on to find out why alcohol-based based sanitiser products are considered superior - and to understand the difference between hand liquid rub, gel and surface sanitisers - Answers by TelLab©​

A 2020 review Hand Sanitisers amid CoViD 19, published by the International Journal of Pharmaceuticals3 concluded that alcohol content is the single most important factor that determines the biocidal effectiveness of a hand sanitiser.

Although hand sanitiser formulated with non-alcohol-based biocidal agents exist, their efficacy is considered inferior to alcohol. Not only that, but unlike alcohol, certain biocidal agents may also cause antibiotic resistance1. Therefore, alcohol free hand sanitisers are not recommended by public health organisations and should be avoifded1.

The World Health Organisation, Center for Disease Control and United States Food and Drug Administration all agree3 that ethanol concentrations of 60% to 95% (v/v) are deemed safe and effective for disinfection, including for use against SARS-CoV-2 – the virus responsible for CoViD-19

Furthermore, a second form of alcohol, isopropanol, can be used as an antiseptic alcohol at concentrations between 70 and 91.3% (v/v) 3.

In line with this guidance, TelLab’s hand sanitisers contain 78 per cent ethanol, while our surface sanitiser contains 70 % isopropyl alcohol.

Unlike other types of biocidal agents, these two alcohol-based biocides are not associated with antibiotic resistance. Moreover, they are biodegradable, non-bioaccumulating and have low ecotoxicity5.

According to the US FDA, methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. 

TelLab would like to assure customers that our hand and surface sanitisers DO NOT contain methanol.

TelLab bases its formulation of hand sanitiser liquid rub on the World Health Organization recommendations7. This formulation contains 78% ethanol (alcohol), glycerol and hydrogen peroxide.  As explained above, the ethanol (alcohol) content is the biocide active against Covid 19 and the glycerol is for hand moisturisation. Meanwhile, the hydrogen peroxide is used to inactivate any potentially contaminating bacterial spores in the solution.

Hand sanitising gels are formulated by the addition of thickening or gelling agents, which act to increase the viscosity of the liquid.3 The WHO doesn’t provide a recommended formulation for hand sanitising gels. But we base our gel on the same materials as our WHO formula liquid rub – with the addition of hypromellose, a cellulose-derived gelling agent, widely used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries – and approved for safe use in the food industry.3

In terms of biocidal efficacy, some very minor differences have been found in the performance of liquid rubs versus gels – some studies suggest gels are marginally better, while others favour liquid. However, the big picture conclusion is that liquid rub and gel formulations are both effective – provided the ethanol/alcohol content is within the 60–95% range.3

Where this is the case, the choice between liquid rub versus gel really comes down to personal preference. TelLab’s own informal (non-scientific) market research and customer interviews have indicated some people  feel reassured by the fact that the liquid rub is made precisely to the WHO formula – and they like the clean, non-sticky feel it leaves on the hands. It also tends to dry more quickly and can be applied with a spray or an atomiser, allowing for economic use.

Other people favour the gel as it is less likely to spill or drip when used on the move.  In the event of a spillage, however, gel will evaporate less quickly than liquid rub, meaning that more care is required from a fire safety perspective.

TelLab’s liquid rub and gel both contain glycerol for skin conditioning and moisturisation.

Most hand sanitisers contain a skin moisturising/conditioning ingredient to combat the potentially drying effect of alcohol. (TelLab liquid rubs and gels contain glycerol for this purpose.) Therefore, when hand sanitisers are applied to hard or fabric surfaces, they can leave steaks and make the material slippery or greasy.

That’s why we have formulated our surface sanitiser without moisturising glycerol. It is formulated with 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) – 70% IPA is the gold standard for biocidal surface sanitisation in the strictly regulated pharma and biotech industries. Moreover, it eliminates the risk of substance abuse associated with pure ethanol-water formulations.

SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through surfaces, as it can survive for a long period of time on various materials. For instance, the virus remains stable on plastic and stainless steel for 2–3 days, according to recent correspondence in the New England Journal of Medicine6.  This implies that anyone touching infected surfaces can potentially contact and spread the virus.

Want to know more?

Scroll to Top