Our response to the Sky News article on hand sanitiser

Our response to the Sky News article on hand sanitiser

This morning Sky News published a scathing article about the government's guidance on alcohol-free hand sanitiser.

While we welcome them bringing alcohol-free hand sanitiser to the public's attention they have sadly chosen a narrative of "government advice puts children at risk" while neglecting to include any scientific evidence; no studies were cited and the wording they used was designed to be vague and scary. Even the original title (which has since been changed) used the term "watered down" when referring to the advice because "watered down" and "hand sanitiser" will catch more eyes and therefore clicks (and in the world of online news more clicks equals more cash).

So I'd like to highlight and comment on some of the inaccuracies in the article but before we do, let's put our cards on the table in the interest of full disclosure:

We sell alcohol-free hand sanitiser in spray, gel and foam formats, we also sell a lot of 70% alcohol hand sanitiser so it's really no skin off our noses if our customers choose to switch from our alcohol-free product to our alcohol product. What bothers us is the reasons for doing so - there are a very large number of situations where alcohol-free is the far superior product for reasons of safety, effectiveness and quality.

I've written before on both the benefits of alcohol-free and alcohol hand sanitiser in the following articles:

Alcohol-free in schools and specialist settings.

Why our 70% Alcohol Hand sanitiser is the nicest we've used.


It is of utmost importance to us that our customers are able to make an informed decision!

Let's start with the first paragraph of the article which correctly quotes the WHO (World Health Organization) as recommending 60% or higher alcohol hand sanitiser - I've talked about this publicly before; the WHO have a difficult job to do, they have to recommend a product without endorsing a commercial entity and a product that is available worldwide - it makes sense that they recommend the lowest common denominator, which is 60% Alcohol. It would be very confusing for the public to have to navigate the minefield of choosing a product based on the percentage of dilution of a number of different quaternary ammonium compounds that make up alcohol-free hand sanitiser - I've gone cross eyed just typing that phrase.

The first paragraph ends with the claim that the WHO has published tests claiming that it takes 20 to 30 seconds to kill "the virus" on hands. They haven't quoted such tests and I can't seem to find any so I think what they are likely to be referring to is BSEN 1276 which is about killing bacteria, not viruses, and has ratings for contact time - Alcohol hand sanitiser has a contact rating of 30 seconds but this is the same for alcohol-free hand sanitiser which can also be BSEN 1276 certified to kill 99.9% of bacteria in 30 seconds. Which is a nice certification to have, but nothing to do with the virus!

The article then goes on to explain, correctly, that alcohol-free hand sanitisers are tested to BSEN 14476 and give some attempt to discount this test as unworthy because it's conducted in lab environments - but once again this is the exact same test that covers the effectiveness of alcohol hand sanitiser against viruses such as Coronavirus. The mention of it not being tested on anyone's hands shows just how little the author of the article understands about the subject matter he is writing about - the "test tubes" he refers to are actually tissue culture plates which come in hundreds of different formats to act as analogies to various environments such as human skin. With regards to the "two minutes" that is one of the test intervals of BSEN 14476, and not the only certified kill time - there are also test intervals at 0 minutes, 15 minutes and 30 minutes during which readings are taken to gather the effectiveness of the product being tested over time.

Then there are some quotes from some specialists who upon googling seem eminently more qualified to comment than myself but those quotes don't sit right with me - they feel like they have been cherry picked to suit Sky's chosen narrative , for example why would someone with over 30 years experience in hand hygiene and who was once a member of the British Standards Institute (who put the BS in BSEN) committee on Antiseptics and Disinfectants confuse the contact testing time of 2 minutes with "standing outside a supermarket for 2 minutes waiting for it to work" - that's simply not how this product is used!

The article finishes with quotes from the British Standards Institute and West Lothian Council which are offered without commentary and the tone of which are for the reader to decide having been influenced by the previous tone of the article.

In short - this article is what is known in modern online parlance as "click bait", vacuous nonsense designed to "bait" people into clicking on the article and become outraged at a non-issue.

We continue to stand by our alcohol-free products and we hope that our customers will join us in doing so, our team is available for any customers, new, old or potential, to answer any questions you have about alcohol-free products and their suitability in whatever environment you may require them.

We can be reached on 0330 043 1029 or info@serenityhygiene.com