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Subject: Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer

From: Prue McKay <prue.mckay<-at->
Date: Sunday, December 15, 2013
Isobel Griffin <i.griffin<-at->nls<.>uk> writes

>The book-handlers in our library have asked whether it is acceptable
>to apply antibacterial hand gels and then handle books.  I'm
>inclined to think that it is probably not a good idea, as the gels
>could contain traces of materials that might stain the books, but I
>wondered if anyone else has a view on this?

If the reason for applying the sanitiser is to "clean" hands, this
is pointless as their aim is to kill germs, not remove dirt.

I carried out some research in 2008 that included the use of hand
sanitisers in archives. I used Purell Instant Hand Sanitiser in my
experiments.  It is 62% w/v ethanol, and also includes water,
isopropyl alcohol, glycerine, propylene glycol and fragrances.  Its
pH was 6.9. The gel was applied and left to air dry for several
minutes. Handled papers were artificially aged for the equivalent of
50 years.

I found that unwashed hands that had had sanitiser applied caused
the pH of handled paper to fall very slightly (0.1 - 0.2 pH points)
and there was also a visible colour change in handled papers where
they were touched. Skin deposits were measured using the ninhydrin
test and were found to be equally present in paper handled with
unwashed hands both with and without the gel applied.

The research was published in the 2008 AICCM Book, Paper and
Photographic Materials Symposium Proceedings, and is available for
download from


Prue McKay
Supervising Conservator
Projects and Exhibitions Preservation and
Digitisation Collection Management
National Archives of Australia
Cnr. Sandford Street and Flemington Road
Mitchell ACT 2911
PO Box 7425
Canberra Business Centre
ACT 2610
+61 2 6212 6220
Fax: +61 2 6212 3469

                  Conservation DistList Instance 27:26
                 Distributed: Monday, December 16, 2013
                       Message Id: cdl-27-26-002
Received on Sunday, 15 December, 2013

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