Recently, my husband came home and causally announced “Oh, by the way, I got us some new travel sized hand sanitizer today.” He really thought he was helping out the family. Why he bought that, I have no idea. It was not on the list. It was not something we discussed. In fact, I really wish he hadn’t bought it – it was in direct opposition to my hand sanitizer plan. Did my fingers just type those words? “Hand sanitizer plan?” First of all, we almost never use hand sanitizer. I do carry some around in my purse for when I get that hebijevi feeling then plan on eating something, but really, I usually forget about it. I’m more likely to subscribe to the philosophy that exposure to germs is good for the immune system, so normal every day exposure isn’t a problem. I intentionally NEVER touch anything on the metro, just sit if there’s a seat available, or find something to lean on. Heck, I’ll balance surfboard style in the middle of the aisle before I touch one of those poles. Hence, no real need for hand sanitizer. In fact, the only reason its in my purse in the first place is because my husband suggested that we bring it on our 2014 vacation to Bali, where it did make sense to use it as the hand washing options weren’t strong and the risk of getting sick was higher. I’ve kept it in there since then because once in a while, pure laziness before a meal makes it easier to fake wash our hands with hand sanitizer.
Back to the “hand sanitizer plan.” The “plan” resulted from making the best of a bad purchase. My parents were visiting for a few weeks just after my son’s birth and pitching in immensely by running errands, going to the grocery store and offering the support new parents need. I asked my dad to buy a jumbo sized bottle of liquid hand soap so that we could refill our current bottles. I thought it might be less wasteful than constantly buying smaller bottles that got used up quickly (and once we went to the store and actually bought the right thing, at least the “Hand soap plan” worked.) My Dad is wonderful and eager to please, but not the type to pay a lot of attention to detail, so instead of buying liquid soap, came home with a JUMBO sized hand sanitizer. Normally, I would have sent it back right away, but we were changing so many diapers, it was somewhat useful to have it by the changing area. My son is just about 10 months old now, and we have worked our way through about 2 inches of the bottle. Usage has plateaued. There is no more decreasing that supply. The bottle is so big, that a little squirt here and there does nothing to lower the meniscus. I just prefer washing to sanitizing.
My resulting genius and waste free plan was to keep the bottle there, but use it to refill the little travel sized bottle in my purse. This would pretty much ensure that our family would not have to buy hand sanitizer for YEARS to come. Our son will likely have facial hair before we finished off that bottle. The issue with the plan is that since buying that bottle 10 months ago, I have refilled my purse bottle ZERO times. Then my well-intentioned husband impulsively bought an additional mini bottle. So unless I can creatively find someone to take an open jumbo bottle of hand-sanitizer off my hands, and let go of the “what if I do happen to need the remaining 28 oz of hand sanitizer” anxiety, I remain burdened with the responsibility of using it up, along with an extra travel sized bottle. .
What’s the psychology behind this seemingly trivial life dilemma? My husband clearly didn’t understand the “hand sanitizer plan” and views his “grievous mistake” of no consequence. At least financially, he was correct because as he pointed out, it was a 99 cent bottle of hand sanitizer. We could just throw out the new travel bottle; which as I’m going back to edit this, still sits unused on my husband’s piano as we already have enough to last until the zombie apocalypse. In fact, if it was only about the money, we could even throw out the JUMBO bottle, how much could it possibly cost? While, I could happily let him return it, I simply can’t let him throw it out. It just seems too wasteful. It was produced, transported, purchased and now I’m environmentally responsible for it. I can’t in good consciousness throw it out.
Another ten months has passed since I have written the text above and I will now continue the story. Intended as a humorous look at the inconvenience of not wasting and also the ridiculousness of a 32 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, I couldn’t conclude the piece as I has not yet found a solution to the dilemma. I was unable to make the bold move of disposing of the extra hand sanitizer so I made the decision of doing nothing, a decision in itself. The JUMBO bottle lingered on the changing area, and little by little we continued to use it. I had anticipated that we could get some use of it, and might as well try since it was already there.
As I had expected, hand sanitizer use proportionately increases with child age and mobility. Our son has learned the words for “shoes” and “run” and so I try to take him to the park when I can. He can also feed himself now, meaning for days on the go, I’d like to feel that his hands are somewhat clean. I don’t go too overboard, but I have become one of “those Mom’s” who like to douse their child’s fingers in alcoholic immunity.
Today, the bottle is just about half full. I think I refilled my 2 oz travel sized bottle twice. One time was prior to our vacation, where we used it quite a bit. For the record, I think my husband may have remembered to take his travel sized bottle, but it never made it outside of his backpack. Each and every use of hand sanitizer on the trip was preceded with “Hon, do you the hand sanitizer in your purse?” Of course I did!
So about 20 months and 16 ounces of hand sanitizer later, my decision is to continue using the bottle. Interestingly, that JUMBO bottle came with an expiration date which coincides with the time of this post. I did some quick research into the question, “Does hand sanitizer expire?” Technically, the answer is yes because the effectiveness may decrease over time. However, according to my own critical reasoning (and sources found on Google), one can safely continue usage beyond the stated expiration data. The active ingredient in hand sanitizer is ethyl alcohol and over time, the alcohol can evaporate leaving the user with a less potent formula. However, most hand sanitizers are in sealed containers, so how much could they really evaporate? Even when used beyond the expiration date, I firmly believe that a good amount of germs will still be zapped.
Despite the annoyance of glancing at the eyesore of a hand sanitizer bottle on the walk past the changing table, it did turn out to be something we used – and for any future purchases I can estimate our rate of hand sanitizer consumption. We would probably have survived fine without it if I had discarded it long ago and benefited from a few square inches of additional counter space. However, it still remains hard for me to throw out things that may eventually be used, but in this case a use was found!
P.S. A quick Google of the term “wasted hand sanitizer”, led to a very different line of thinking. Apparently, teenagers drink hand sanitizer to get wasted and its very dangerous. So if you are worried about experimental teens and germs at the same time, internet sources advise buying the foam kind rather than the gel kind because it is harder to extract alcohol from the foam kind. I say: JUST… STICK …..TO…. SOAP….
Originally Written: October 24, 2016
Concluded and Edited: September 2, 2017