Take a look at the last hand sanitizer you purchased. Does it contain alcohol as the active ingredient? Our guess is, it probably does because you know alcohol works; you know alcohol kills germs on contact so you accept that it smells harsh, dries out your skin, and will require purchasing hand cream to avoid cracked and irritated hands. Well, what if we told you that you do not have to put up with harsh smells and dry hands just to keep them clean?
Our recommendation – reach for something better.
What is Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK)?
Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK) is a mixture of compounds known for its “broad spectrum antimicrobial properties against bacteria, fungi, and viruses” (1). It is nonirritating, nonflammable, non-sticky, scent-free, and has been used as an antimicrobial for over ninety years. You can find it in a variety of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter products such as contact lens solution, cosmetics, and ENEVRA hand sanitizer (1)(4).
BZK is a popular and effective antiseptic ingredient that offers all the germ-killing qualities you want in a hand sanitizer, without all the harsh downsides. In this short read, you’ll learn five major reasons why you should start reaching for alcohol-free, BZK-based hand sanitizer.
1) Safe on Sensitive Skin
Unlike alcohol-based sanitizers, BZK is not drying or irritating on sensitive skin. It is trusted in hospitals as an antiseptic and as a preservative in ear drops, contact lense cleaner, cosmetics, and as a disinfectant in the food industry (4).
Being that BZK is relatively nontoxic in properly regulated quantities (e.g. 0.13% in ENEVRA hand sanitizer), you can feel comfortable using a gentle BZK-based hand sanitizer on kids (4).
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the lowest published oral toxic dose of BZK for a human is 266 mg/Kg. For a 10 Kg child to ingest this amount would require drinking about 2.25 L of [a product with 0.12% BZK]. In contrast, alcohol hand sanitizers may be quite toxic to children in very small amounts. For the first 4 months of 2019 there were 5,829 exposure cases regarding hand sanitizers in children 12 years and younger managed by American poison control centers. Tiny amounts of alcohol hand sanitizer, such as licking a hand immediately after application of the sanitizer, would be unlikely to cause any illness but a child ingesting any amount more than just a taste would be at risk for alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning may cause confusion, vomiting, drowsiness, respiratory depression, and in severe cases death. As little as 30 mL may be fatal in a small child.[4,7,8]
In addition to BZK’s gentle and non-toxic nature, it can also be used in a lower concentration than alcohol in order to be just as, if not more effective (2). In fact, the “CDC recommends using [alcohol-based hand rub] with 60-95% alcohol in healthcare settings” (3). Whereas ENEVRA hand sanitizer is authorized by Health Canada and uses just 0.13% BZK
Furthermore, after experiencing a global pandemic which has led to worldwide outbreaks of COVID-19, the population is more conscious of their hand hygiene; this conscientiousness has led to repeated, daily use of hand sanitizer. As a result, even those with more resilient skin types have become sensitive to or irritated by alcohol-based sanitizers.
Since using hand sanitizer has become both common-place and widely encouraged, using a product that soothes and conditions the hands like a BZK-based sanitizer does, will encourage compliance with new cleanliness and hygiene rules. As a result, we can protect the population from infection and build a healthier future.
If you suffer from eczema, dry patches, or other skin sensitivities, opting for an alcohol-free, BZK-based hand sanitizer will get your hands clean without pain or burning.
2) The Persistence Effect
As discussed previously, alcohol-based hand sanitizer works; when you use the appropriate amount on your hands, it will immediately kill germs. However, the downside is, after using alcohol sanitizer, your clean hands become a blank slate for more germs to contact and potentially infect you. Contrary to alcohol’s immediate germ-killing effect, multiple publications show that BZK continues to fight-off germs after just a single use (4)(5).
In a 2020 peer-reviewed publication by Bondurant and colleagues, researchers compared 0.12% BZK with 70% ethanol-based hand sanitizer and contamination with Staphylococcus aureus (4). They obtained cultures from 40 healthcare workers (HCWs) over the course of two weeks. HCWs washed their hands with soap containing 0.6% chloroxylenol for both weeks. During the first week of the study, HCWs used 70% alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day. In the second week of the study, HCWs used 0.12% BZK-based hand sanitizer throughout the day. The results of the study “showed a significant reduction in transient Staphylococcus aureus on the fingertips of HCWs in the BZK hand sanitizer use week as compared with the 70% ethanol hand sanitizer use week” (4). Based on these results, researchers say BZK may have a persistence effect against germs (i.e. it continues fighting germs even after the initial application), whereas alcohol only has an immediate germ-killing effect. The particular BZK-based hand sanitizer used in the study showed that BZK maintains its killing effect “for at least 4 hours, but the time the killing effect begins to wane is unknown” (4). Additionally, the gentle and soothing effect of a BZK hand sanitizer could have increased compliance and improved overall hand hygiene.
How many times have you used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, only to have the harsh chemical smell overwhelm your senses? Some companies may attempt to mask this harsh smell by adding strong and irritating fragrances to their sanitizers. Unlike alcohol, BZK is practically odourless; using a BZK-based sanitizer with no additional fragrances will leave you smelling nothing but “clean”. Here at Globara, we believe BZK and our BZK-based hand sanitizer is what clean should smell like – light, fresh, and barely there.
And, because all you smell is “clean” after using BZK-based hand sanitizer, there’s no need to add fragrances. Our focus is on using simple, pure, quality ingredients that do not need to be masked by fragrances. Although there are people who may enjoy fragrances, there are also many who do not. ENEVRA alcohol-free hand sanitizer is made for those who prefer a scent-free, fragrance-free product.
4) Doesn’t Stain or Corrode
BZK used in appropriate quantities (such as in ENEVRA alcohol-free hand sanitizer) is relatively nontoxic and non-damaging to surfaces (4). If you spill any of your clothes, it will not stain or discolour them. If you use BZK-based disinfectants, it will not damage or corrode surfaces, not will it pit your instruments.
Feel more comfortable using an alcohol-free, BZK-based hand sanitizer.
5) Stable and Long-Lasting Formula
Travel-size hand sanitizers are meant to be convenient. But when they are alcohol-based, much of the convenience dwindles. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer must not be left in your car or in your bag during a hot summer’s day; if alcohol is left in the heat, the chemical will lose some of its germ-killing effectiveness. A possibly more dangerous outcome is that the bottle could burst due to alcohol being flammable.
On another and more positive note, alcohol-free BZK-based hand sanitizer is stable even in hot summer temperatures. You can purchase the ENEVRA travel-size hand sanitizer, leave it in your car or your bag during a hot summer’s day and it will not lose effectiveness. In fact, ENEVRA hand sanitizer is stress-tested up to 80°C.
You can even mistakenly freeze a BZK-based hand sanitizer freeze on a cold winter day; it will remain just as effective after the product thaws.
Finally, compared to alcohol-based hand sanitizer, BZK-based hand sanitizer can be more easily formulated into a foam. Because the product foams, it will last about 2 ½ times longer than liquid or gel sanitizer. This stable and long-lasting formula makes BZK-based hand sanitizer a convenient and cost effective option.
Whether you need hand sanitizer for your clinic, shared workspace, or to keep on-hand, alcohol-free benzalkonium chloride-based hand sanitizer proves to be a safe, convenient, and cost-effective germ-killing solution.