20 June 2020
PHASE 2 TIPS: Everything about sanitisers you were too shy to ask

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the Circuit Breaker. However, this also means the crowds are coming back and so will the risk of infection. A quality sanitiser can help. Read on to learn more.

You know that one friend who’s suddenly become a health expert/logistics specialist because of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s always, “Wow, you paid $8 for that face mask? Do you know I got it for $7.99 on Shopee?” or “Have you heard of X? It’s a rare herb from the Himalayas that boosts immunity!” And then came the day she heard you were shopping for sanitisers and it was all, “Why are you buying that? That’s not going to work on your car, you know. Don’t you know anything about choosing the best sanitisers and disinfectants?”

Well sorry, Karen. It’s not like everyone spends half their life knee-deep in health articles on Google.

But… she does have a point. Sanitisers and disinfectants have been in the spotlight since the increased emphasis on maintaining good hygiene due to the pandemic. But how much do you actually know about them? If you’ve been too embarrassed to ask know-it-all ‘friends’, or too tired to comb through the sea of articles on the interwebs, read on to find out more. We promise we won’t tell.

Is a sanitiser what I want, what I really, really want?

No one likes a hoarder.

Ah, perhaps the most important question of all! Before you check out your online shopping cart or wheel a physical one to the supermarket counter, make sure you’ve only stocked up on what you need. Are you looking for something to keep your hands clean, disinfect your living room, or get rid of that ketchup stain on your car seat? Just remember that the serious looking bottle of transparent liquid with a huge 90%-alcohol label stamped on the front won’t solve all your problems.

So let’s start. Sanitisers, disinfectants and cleaning products.

They’re all different – although some do boast a combination of the three. Cleaning sprays and products (the most common of the group) get rid of dirt, debris, and food residue but don’t remove or ‘kill’ any bacteria. They’re also mainly for use on surfaces as opposed to your hands and body.

Then there’s sanitisers and disinfectants. Sanitisers reduce contamination or bacteria to a safe level while disinfectants get rid of everything on a particular surface. Disinfectants are made up of many powerful chemicals as compared to sanitisers, which are thought to be gentler. This is likely why you’ve heard of hand sanitisers and surface sanitisers, but you’ve probably never heard of a hand disinfectant.

Disinfectants are also used for much bigger messes (which is why they’re frequently used in hospitals). In a way, they’re kinda like more powerful sanitisers. Because of their strong chemicals, you wouldn’t want to use disinfectants on surfaces that come in contact with food, toys for children, or other places where it could be ingested.   

On a scale of 1 to potent Russian vodka, how much alcohol should sanitisers have?

Okay, so you’ve decided that what you really need is the perfect bottle of sanitiser. If you’ve been browsing social media enough or paying attention to COVID-19 related news, you’ve probably heard that sanitisers made up of at least 60% alcohol are most effective in getting rid of coronaviruses.

It’s true.

Sanitisers come in alcohol-based and alcohol-free versions, with the alcohol-based ones ranging from 60-95% alcohol and often containing isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, or n-propanol. Sounds cheem, right?

Long story short, alcohol-based sanitisers are sought after because alcohol can attack and destroy the envelope of protein around certain viruses. Once destroyed, it makes it tougher for the virus to survive and multiply.

Alcohol-free sanitisers on the other hand contain (brace yourself) quarternary ammonium compounds like benzalkonium chloride. These help reduce microbes but are believed to not be as effective as alcohol when fighting viruses and bacteria.

Some sanitisers smell so good, and some smell so… sterile. Why don’t people just buy the nice smelling stuff?

These oils are essential when it comes to making sanitisers smell great.

If you’re a serial sniffer and can’t walk past a Bath and Body Works outlet without buying at least one thing, you’ve probably been dying to ask this question. As tempting as that Lavender Blossom Marshmallow with Coffee Beans Sanitiser might seem, hold your horses. Some sanitisers with fragrances may actually be harsher on your skin.

Companies don’t usually list the ingredients that make up their signature scents, so you probably won’t spot any red flags on the product label. As such, you’ll never know what chemicals go into heavily fragranced sanitisers. But that said, there are some brands that use essential oils which keep their sanitisers smelling great and you feeling refreshed.

Okay, but does matter matter?

There are three main types of sanitisers on the market – gel, foam and spray sanitisers. Should you really be fussed over the difference? Well, not really.

But if we were to nit-pick, foam sanitisers cling to your hands easier than gel ones. If you’re not careful, gel sanitisers can slide off onto the floor and leave unsightly marks on it – especially on waxed floors. #proauntytip Also, foam sanitisers are kinda fun in the same way bubble baths are.

On the other hand, because they help spread droplets better over wide areas, spray type sanitisers are best for use on surfaces or objects (though there are some you can find specifically for hands).     

So what’s up with ‘food-grade’ sanitisers then?

Food-grade sanitisers are best for surfaces that come in contact with food.

Food-grade sanitisers are sanitisers that can be used on surfaces that come in contact with food. As such, they’re normally used in restaurants or kitchens at home. Some food-grade sanitisers are also suited for children and their toys/belongings (seeing as little ones sometimes put anything in their mouths)! Food-grade sanitisers are generally alcohol-free, though there are some that contain food-grade alcohol such as ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.   

Will my skin stay as smooth as a baby’s bottom after using sanitiser?

If you’re likely to be using sanitiser on your hands frequently, then you’ll want one that won’t dry up your skin. Alcohol-based sanitisers, though effective in eliminating bacteria, can be harmful to your skin when overused. Alcohol deprives the skin of important proteins and lipids which lead to skin dryness and irritation. To prevent this, look out for sanitisers that have moisturising ingredients such as aloe vera or water. Afterall, no one wants prunes for hands!

There’s loads of sanitisers on online shopping platforms and in stores. If they’re bottled, look pretty decent and are priced reasonably, they’re probably safe… right?

Never judge a sanitiser by its cover. Instead, check out its product label.

Knowing where your sanitiser comes from and everything that goes into it will stop you from being a victim of scalpers. If it doesn’t have a product label, stay 1 metre away from it. If its product label lists potentially toxic chemicals including sulphates, EDTA or parabens, safe distancing rules also apply. Prolonged use of sanitisers with these ingredients could be harmful to the body. And remember, just because the price is high, it doesn’t make a sanitiser legit.

Instead, choose a sanitiser or disinfectant from this list of products effective against coronaviruses collated by the National Environment Agency of Singapore. Still confused? Why not just try making your own here?

So… are there any specific sanitisers or disinfectants that will keep viruses away from my car?

Don’t give coronaviruses a free ride.

There are a number of great sanitisers and disinfectants on the market but we love the Aeris Active hospital-grade disinfectant cleaner. Not only is it on the NEA-approved list, it works just as well in your car as it would in your home. Plus, tests have also shown that it can kill coronaviruses in under 60 seconds! It removes mould and mildew, and leaves behind an invisible film to prevent recolonisation on the surface. That way, it keeps germs away for longer after use. Most importantly, it’s compatible with a majority of surfaces so it won’t damage your car’s interior.

At the risk of sounding a wee bit lazy… is there someone I could call to sanitise my car?

We were hoping you’d ask! Come next month, AutoApp will be coming up with special packages that’ll help with cleaning, disinfecting and protecting your ride. Plus, early adopters of our app will have a special treat to look out for too. Follow us on Facebook to stay in the loop!

When all’s said and done, remember that sanitisers aren’t the solution to everything. Maintaining good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and keeping a safe distance from others will help protect you and your loved ones during these trying times. Stay safe!

Need tips on cleaning, disinfecting and protecting your vehicle? Check out some tips here or watch this video for special advice: