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November 2020

Open letter to Retailers. Please stop spraying me with window cleaner!

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Health and Safety

Not all sanitisers are created equal, and there has been a definite rise in sanitiser-related skin issues such as eczema since the start of the pandemic. Read our open letter to retailers regarding their choice of hand sanitisers.

Dear South African Retailers

I used to love shopping before the pandemic. Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or just window shopping - it didn’t really matter which - all gave me a chance for a bit of mental downtime. But now shopping has become something I endure because we have to eat and I can’t get a slot on my local retailer's delivery schedule. 

And it’s not for the reasons you may think. I’m not scared of catching COVID-19 from a contaminated  escalator handrail that someone touched after sneezing, or from the person in front of me in the really long queue. I wear a well-fitting mask, practice social distancing, sanitise my hands regularly with my own high-quality sanitiser, and feel confident that these measures are enough to keep me safe in a large, reasonably well-ventilated space like the grocery store.

So what’s the problem, I hear you ask? Well, it’s your sanitisers.

Please don't misunderstand me - I'm certainly not suggesting that you stop having shoppers sanitise their hands on entry. But what I am asking you - very nicely - is to please stop spraying my hands with window cleaner! 

Ok, I know it’s not really window cleaner, but it may as well be when it’s wielded by a security guard in an unmarked 1 litre spray bottle. And it smells like window cleaner (or toilet cleaner - I’m not sure which is worse). Apart from the smell, which is horrible, some of these unlabeled sprays burn like crazy, leaving my hands a sore, red, flaky mess, possibly because they don't contain glycerol. And if it smells like window cleaner and feels like window cleaner, in my world - it's window cleaner!

The WHO recommendation for hand sanitiser production is that a 60% isopropanol alcohol  based sanitiser should contain 1.45% glycerol as a moisturising agent, to protect the skin from excessive drying. Studies have shown that even lower amounts than 1.45% may be effective, but with sanitiser production in South Africa being unregulated, there's a good chance that the large numbers of new suppliers in the market are using low-quality ingredients that may trigger skin allergies and damage the skin.

Many of these new suppliers claim to have complied with the WHO formula guidelines and to have SABS approval, but these claims are not substantiated and very few have the required accreditation's. The majority do not have NRCS registration numbers required by South African law for detergent and detergent disinfectants, nor do they comply with basic labelling requirements.

I know margins are tight, and that the additional cost of hundreds of litres of hand sanitiser was unlikely to have been in the original budget for 2020, but all I'm asking is that when you buy hand sanitiser, you look for the following information on every bottle: 

  • an alcohol content of at least 60%;

  • a list of the active and inactive ingredients and the adverse effects they may cause;

  • instructions for use and mandatory warnings;

  • the batch code and expiry date; and

  • the full address of the manufacturer. 

Any reputable supplier would be able to provide you with this information, and it would go a long way to ensuring that you are using products that are safe for your shoppers.

I for one would be inclined to spend more time in-store (and there's plenty of research that links increased dwell time with increased spend) if I didn't have to run the gamut of burny, smelly 'window-cleaner' hand spray at every entrance. 

Contact Initial if you need more information about our range of hand sanitisers for high traffic retail environments, as well as our trolley sanitising booth. Or subscribe to our blog for more hygiene tips. 

Subscribe to our blogKind regards, 

Nathalie Leblond
Marketing Communications Manager 
Rentokil Initial 

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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