Why our sanitiser does not contain alcohol

Mrs. Martin’s Microbes and More teams with life. You will find no biocidal ingredients in our products. Indeed, we include spores of beneficial, South African microbes to help clean the area where it is used, and to help clean the waste water after it has been discarded.

Responsible, intelligent and safe soap.

We have three reasons for working with the microbes that are so abundant everywhere, instead of against them.

1. The majority of microbes, by far, are our friends.

The old friends hypothesis states that the immune system depends on certain microbes that evolved together with the human organism. Thus their absence may cause abnormal functionality of the immune system, such as increased incidence of allergies and asthma in developed countries. This means that while good hygiene and cleanliness in the home is paramount, killing all microbes is not in your best interest. (https://www.pnas.org/content/114/7/1433) 

2. Antibacterial products are not proven healthy or effective.

The American Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against long term use of antimicrobials for regular personal care because it might be detrimental to health and might not be effective in keeping people healthier than using normal soap and water. (https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/antibacterial-soap-you-can-skip-it-use-plain-soap-and-water). One exception here is possibly when you work in a healthcare setting.

3. We don’t want to help create superbugs.

Indiscriminate use of antimicrobials may lead to microbes developing antimicrobial resistance, much like misuse of antibiotics creates superbugs. Antibiotics fight germs (bacteria and fungi). But germs fight back and find new ways to survive. Their defense strategies are called resistance mechanisms. Bacteria develop resistance mechanisms by using instructions provided by their DNA. (https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about/how-resistance-happens.html)

But Covid-19…

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 much has been said about how you can protect yourself against the virus.

Proper washing of hands with soap and water is still advocated by all international bodies as your best line of defense.

Wash at least 20 seconds under running water

Dr Raj Lalloo, our Chief Technoloy Officer and a bioprocess engineer, sums it up like this:

One of the most effective methods for the prevention of disease transmission still remains hand washing, which the WHO recently advised as the primary method for prevention of spread of COVID19. Some current opinions indicate that at the virus particle level, this is more effective than sanitization. Key practical advantages include affordability and accessibility of these products, but one should be careful to ensure that these do not contain the FDA cautionary antimicrobial compounds (commonly traded as antibacterial handwashes). It is best to choose a biodegradable product with no toxic ingredients or negative dermatological effects. A downside to handwashing is that it is not always effective due to human habit (the reluctance to make the effort to wash hands frequently) and practical accessibility to hand washing facilities in public places, schools, malls, areas with limited accessibility to clean water, etc. Another disadvantage is that handwashes cannot be practically used to quickly clean items that we frequently touch, such as keyboards, cell phones, food prep areas, etc.

Dr Raj Lalloo, 2020

Enters the hand sanitiser

Hand sanitizers and surface sanitizers have become a practical product choice. The convenience of being able to clean and sanitize hands and surfaces anywhere at anytime is most appealing and a valuable method of preventing disease transmission. For this reason, sanitizers should be viewed as a complementary option to hand washing, that addresses some of the constraints, when hand washing is not easily possible. Sanitizing products are mainly alcohol based (generally above 60%) and some do contain environmentally damaging ingredients and the FDA cautionary ingredients, so it is wise to check the ingredients regarding the product you purchase. Alcohol sanitizers are mostly effective but also have some disadvantages in that they can dehydrate the skin, cause skin irritation, can enter the bloodstream with frequent use, can be dangerous to the eyes, risky in the hands of children and are not acceptable to certain cultural groups (e.g. Muslims). Alcohol can also damage some types of surfaces, when used as a surface sanitizer. Other limitations include the high VOC (volatile organic carbon), which means they are environmentally damaging and on the prohibited list of ingredients for green certified products.

Dr Raj Lalloo, 2020

So when we developed a hand and surface sanitiser, mostly for use in public places, we decided to use essential oils instead of alcohol.

We chose to not use alcohol to protect the health of our clients and the environment.

This is our first product that does not contain microbes. We used essential oils at concentrations that are most probably biocidal. Preliminary studies have shown that microbes possibly do not develop resistance to essential oils because it does not work on the DNA level. The result is an earth friendly hand and surface sanitiser with tea tree oil, peppermint oil and lemongrass oil. It leaves hands protected but not dried out.