Understanding Blood borne Pathogens

These pathogens are primarily spread through direct contact with infected blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), such as semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, and any fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood.

Accidental exposure can happen through needle sticks, cuts from sharp objects, or contact between broken skin and infected blood. Thus, the need to clean and sanitize exposed areas becomes imperative.

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Bloodborne Pathogens?

While hand sanitizers, especially those with an alcohol base, have become increasingly popular due to their convenience, their efficacy against bloodborne pathogens is a topic of discussion.

In general, hand sanitizers can eliminate many types of germs on your hands, but they might not be as effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But does hand sanitizer kill bloodborne pathogens specifically?

Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content can, in fact, inactivate many types of microbes effectively when used correctly. But for bloodborne pathogens, especially viruses like hepatitis B and C and HIV, the efficacy can be variable.

The safest approach after coming into contact with blood or OPIM is to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Following it up with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can add an extra layer of protection.

Essential materials you should have for cleaning bloodborne pathogen spills.

Image alt text: does hand sanitizer clean up bloodborne pathogen?

Author credit: By Spc. James Wilton – https://www.dvidshub.net/image/971473, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40651618

Cleaning up bloodborne pathogen spills requires a comprehensive approach to ensure safety and effective cleanup. Here’s a list of essential materials one should have on hand:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
    • Disposable Gloves: Preferably nitrile or latex. Ensure you have multiple sizes available and that they are not punctured or compromised.
    • Face Shield and Goggles: To protect from splashes to the face and eyes.
    • Disposable Gowns or Aprons: To prevent any blood or potentially infectious materials (OPIM) from contaminating your clothing.
    • Shoe Covers: To protect footwear from contamination.
    • Respiratory Protection (if needed): In cases where there might be aerosolization of contaminated materials.
  2. Absorbent Materials:
    • Disposable Towels or Paper Towels: To soak up the bulk of the spill.
    • Absorbent Granular Powder: This can be sprinkled onto liquid spills to solidify them, making cleanup easier.
  3. Disinfectants:
    • Hospital-grade Disinfectant: These are specifically formulated to kill a broad spectrum of pathogens.
    • Bleach Solution: A 1:10 ratio of bleach to water is recommended for disinfecting surfaces contaminated with bloodborne pathogens. Make sure it’s freshly prepared.
  4. Cleanup Tools:
    • Biohazard Scoop or Scraper: For removing larger amounts of contaminants or for the solidified granules after using absorbent powder.
    • Tongs or Forceps: Useful for picking up sharps or broken glass.
  5. Waste Disposal:
    • Biohazard Bags: For contaminated materials such as used towels and gloves.
    • Sharps Container: For any contaminated sharps, like needles or broken glass.
  6. Hand Hygiene Supplies:
    • Antimicrobial Soap: For washing hands thoroughly after the cleanup.
    • Hand Sanitizer: As a supplemental measure after handwashing.
  7. Spill Kits: Commercially available spill kits often contain many of the above items in a compact package, making it convenient for quick response.
  8. Eyewash Station: Located nearby in case of accidental splashes to the eyes.

Always refer to the guidelines set by regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States, for the most current standards and best practices related to bloodborne pathogen cleanup.

Cleaning Up Blood and Potentially Infectious Materials

When cleaning up blood or OPIM, the focus shouldn’t just be on your hands. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Use Protective Gear: Always wear disposable gloves. For larger spills, consider using a face shield or goggles and an apron.
  2. Wipe Away: Use disposable towels to wipe away the bulk of the blood or fluid.
  3. Disinfect: Use a proper disinfectant. A bleach solution (1:10 ratio of bleach to water) is a recommended option.
  4. Dispose of Properly: Place towels, gloves, and any other contaminated materials in a biohazard bag.
  5. Hand Hygiene: Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if gloves were used. As mentioned, does hand sanitizer kill bloodborne pathogens? It can to some extent, so it’s a good follow-up, but it shouldn’t replace handwashing.

Commonly Asked Questions

  1. Can I use any hand sanitizer for bloodborne pathogens? – It’s recommended to use sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content. However, washing with soap and water remains the gold standard.
  2. How long should I wash my hands after exposure? – At least 20 seconds, making sure to scrub all surfaces of your hands.
  3. Are all bloodborne pathogens visible in fluids? – No, they might be present even if not visible, so always handle with caution.
  4. Can hand sanitizer replace handwashing in all scenarios? – No, handwashing is superior, especially when hands are visibly soiled.
  5. Does hand sanitizer kill bloodborne pathogens completely? – Its efficacy can vary, so it’s recommended to use it as a secondary measure after handwashing.


Navigating the world of bloodborne pathogens requires knowledge and caution. Cleaning and sanitizing your hands and surfaces play a pivotal role in preventing their spread.

While hand sanitizers offer convenience and an added layer of protection, the age-old practice of thorough handwashing remains paramount.

So, does hand sanitizer kill bloodborne pathogens? It can assist in the fight against them, but should not be solely relied upon. Always prioritize proper hygiene practices to ensure maximum safety.