You Haven't Been Rubbing in Your Hand Sanitizer Correctly, CDC Says

Turns out, you need to rub it in for a lot longer than you think.

If you rely on hand sanitizer to keep you safe from coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an extremely important message for you to hear. The organization published a new study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which concludes that most people aren't using sanitizers properly: more specifically, we don't rub the solution in for nearly enough time.

Just as many of us have had to relearn how to wash our hands properly when the pandemic hit (the rule of thumb is 20 seconds of scrubbing, or enough time to sing "happy birthday" twice, from start to finish), it turns out that sanitizer requires similar attention. The CDC study revealed that rubbing for exactly 30 seconds was proven to kill coronavirus, but doing less could leave traces of active virus, making you vulnerable to infection. As the study explains, this amount of time is "recommended but not routinely performed in practice," meaning many of us have been at risk of transmission without knowing it.

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The good news is that when it's used properly, sanitizer is very effective in fighting COVID. "We found that SARS-CoV-2 was efficiently inactivated by WHO-recommended formulations, supporting their use in healthcare systems and viral outbreaks," explained the researchers. It should be noted that these "WHO-recommended formulations" only include sanitizers with an alcohol content of 70 percent or more.

So, the next time you use hand sanitizer, make sure it's doing its job by rubbing it in for a full 30 seconds. Apply a generous amount all over your hands (including between the fingers, and on the backs of your hands), and don't forget to sing "happy birthday" three times before stopping. And to make sure your sanitizing routine is up to code, The No. 1 Thing To Know About Hand Sanitizer.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more