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What is in disinfectant hand gel? and is it alright to handle aquariums after disinfecting with hand gel?

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What is in disinfectant hand gel? and is it alright to handle aquariums after disinfecting with hand gel?  Empty What is in disinfectant hand gel? and is it alright to handle aquariums after disinfecting with hand gel?

Post by alexmtl on Thu May 21, 2020 8:18 pm

What is in disinfectant hand gel? and is it alright to handle aquariums after disinfecting with hand gel?

As we go about our "new lives" virtually all of us will be driving around with the ubiquitous hand gel ("Purell") to protect ourselves and conscientiously follow public safety guidelines. These little bottles have become our security and our sanity safety blanket: if in doubt, use some hand gel, disinfect your hands, easy. These sanitizers have helped us through the dark days, where all we knew, was that germs are everywhere and we needed a liquid shield.

Hand sanitizers have made a huge impact on healthcare and improving sanitation, reducing the risk of contamination, the risk of infection and mitigating the spread of so many infections. I remember the hand gel dispensers being installed in the late nineties in Toronto hospitals, and in the early 2000 the first SARs, where these latent dispensers became well used again, when Toronto became an epicentre for SARS 1.

Hand sanitizers should contain at least 70% rubbing alcohol. The gel that keeps the alcohol in suspension is known a "-glycol". There are many forms of "glycol" and it is a cheap and easy formulation to retain the alcohol. Known as a "filler", carrier and bulking agent, various forms of glycol are also used in food, cosmetics, consumer topical lotions, and pharmaceuticals. Glycols are sold in various purity bulk and manufacturers used this excipient as a base, or carrier, to stabilize and retain desired ingredients, such as alcohol, in every drop or dab we squeeze out.

These disinfectant lotions are loosely regulated, and with the recent demand, it is hard to control and vouch for the exact quality of these lotions. What we know is that the main active ingredient that is used to disinfect, is alcohol (isopropyl form) however, many manufacturers will incorporate fragrances, aloe, softeners, perhaps detergents. There is no strict enforcement of certain ingredients below low levels within the recipe, they are just listed as "other", nor guidelines on a recipe.

While you are driving to the grocery store, you park your car. Before you put on your mask, you use hand gel, and put on the mask. As you may not know where your keys or your purse may have been, you use hand gel again. Getting out of the car, you reach for the shopping bags, and use hand gel once again. This repeated action is great for disinfecting and ensures that you reduce the chance of contamination. Touch, hand gel, repeat. Ahhh, safe.

As the gel evaporates, it leaves behind a residue. Each time you apply another dab of hand gel, another layer is added, as well as another of conscientious act of protection. This is a good habit to get into.

After getting in from shopping, you finally can get to a sink, and hand wash under soak and water. There is no substitute for washing your hands, with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. As you rub your palms together, you notice that the gel has actually accumulated. Circling around your thumbs, you probably notice that you need more soap to clear the slimy feeling of the evaporated glycol. As you reach the end of the "Happy Birthday song" (this is a good way to ensure that you wash for 20 seconds - if you can sing this, you have done the time), you may notice that the evaporated gel has actually re-hydrated and has become noticeable around your finger nails and finger tips. The longer the water begins to rehydrate, the more you realize that you have the coating and you mindlessly scrubs these off.

The point is that the gel still lingers and may have a residue that we do not want in, or near, out tanks. Glycol itself is inert, simply a carrier. The added fragrances, disinfectants, detergents and softeners may not be a good thing, that we inadvertently, and unknowingly add during a water change.

So, before you work on your aquariums, change water, or touch the glass, wash your hands well if you have used disinfectant gel. It is great blessing to have hand sanitizer, but we must remember it was never a substitute for washing hands, and even when used, was never meant to clean, just disinfect.
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