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Alcohol is not the only solution Karen!

April 2, 2020

One day, back in 2018,  I sat at home and traced back the qualifications and life experience of the top 29 members of the Australian Federal parliament.  Out of those, 41% hadn’t really had a job outside of politics, 62% were qualified in economics, law and business administration, 21% were women, 1 was a teacher, 1 a farmer and the rest covered a few other professions but guess what?  There were no Scientists.


I’m tired.

I was tired before this pandemic because of bush fires. My lungs already hurt from breathing in the equivalent of 20-30 per day smokes over what should have been our relaxing summer break and before that I was tired because life is hard when its sandwiched between teens and oldies with dementia, bless them.  But never mind, that’s just that and this is just this.  However, the journey I’ve taken to get here, at this point in this pandemic is relevant when it comes to how I’m feeling about Karen.

I’m sure, by now you’ve all heard about Karen.  She’s a middle-aged-white-women, my age and demographic really, who knows everything, always wants to see the manager and has a soft spot for party plan and multi-level-marketing companies.  Maybe she’d enjoy ‘On Becoming A God In Central Florida’ such a great show…

But that’s not all Karen’s got going for her, she’s now also a top virologist,  whizz at reading and interpreting scientific papers and, to top it all off, is a dab hand at formulating and evaluating sanitiser sprays and antimicrobial hand cleaners.  You go girl friend!

Anyway, Karen has been making my life hell and I now want to kill her.  As an aside, there have been a few days when, thanks to my domestic situation at present, I’ve contemplated prison as an option. Not that I would actually kill anyone of course, I can barely speed through the mountains without feeling like I should be on Australia’s most wanted list, but more to just catch a relaxing break, maybe get on with my Masters and even a Doctorate and, let’s face it, I’d probably look good in Orange.  I digress again – keep forgetting to take my ADHD meds which, interestingly enough, don’t work nearly as well if you don’t sleep which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

So Karen, God bless her, has been adding to my general sense of un-zen-ness and dis-ease.


I am not inhumane and do not lack empathy and as such, I appreciate that the challenging times in which we find ourselves have pushed many a good person over the edge.  Like the rest of us Karen is just trying to find some solid and simple truth amongst the chaos, something she can take control of and utilise to keep her family safe.  Anything that challenges that, challenges her and taking on Karen is not something she takes lying down (and I mean nothing sexual by that BTW).

But I have to take Karen on because I’m a chemist and I’ve literally waited my whole life for a big science project, whoops, I mean global pandemic like this to get my teeth stuck into…

As anyone who has read my garbage before knows, I am a huge detail-obsessed nerd with a penchant for applied data and by applied I mean I actually have to live the data.  That doesn’t just mean reading something on a screen or in a book then regurgitating it verbatim or otherwise, it means feeling the chemistry run through my hands or a factory I’m involved in or connected to, walking through the environmental steps and experiencing the good, bad and ugly efficacy the product delivers.  I’m somewhat obsessed with bringing this stuff to life and building a very intimate, very human connection with it, whatever it happens to be. In this case it’s sanitisers.

So Karen has been busting my balls about sanitisers for a few weeks now.  Apparently in her world only 80% ethanol kills CORONA and everything else is just bullshit.  Again, I can understand why she is feeling like that.  Remember above when I mentioned about the Australian Government and the fact that none of them are highly science trained?  Well, they have decided to focus all of their sanitisation information and attention on alcohol-based products. The net result of that being that it makes sense for Karen to draw the conclusion that alcohol is the only solution.  Only those of us who do have a science and especially an industrial chemical, medical or food background know it isn’t.


This first screenshot shows you the list of actives approved for use in sanitisers for general cleaning during this time  in Singapore. I took that picture yesterday.


Below is a screenshot of a brochure published by the EU for cleaning in non-health settings.  The second screenshot highlights the actives that show efficacy against the COVID virus family or against a virus of similar intensity (remember that COVID 19 is very new so there isn’t that much data on how different cleaners kill that exact strain of Coronavirus).

This last section is a link to the USA’s Environmental Protection Agencies list.  On this website there  15 pages to date full of sanitiser products to choose from, covering a wide range of active ingredients for all types of microbe including a tick for those that are likely to be active against emerging viruses like COVID19. What’s particularly interesting about the way this data is presented is that it allows us to see the same active in different product settings. See how Citric Acid is shown just there with a ‘yes’ beside it for COVID19, well on the next couple of lines are products that contain citric that don’t meet that criteria.  This really does go to show that there is a huge danger in hanging so much  weight on what I call an ‘orphan’ active.  What I mean by that is when we detach an active from the detail of how, when and where it is to be applied, we form an incomplete and inaccurate picture of it. That said, it can be a useful place to start, a ball-park of sorts.

The remaining ‘yes’ to emerging viral pathogen claims list of actives includes: Chlorine Dioxide, Quaternium Ammonium, Citric Acid, Ethanol, Other Quats (Benzalkonium Chloride type), Hydrochloric Acid, Hydrogen Peroxide, Peracetic Acid, Silver, Hypochlorous Acid, Isopropyl Alcohol, Phenolic, Sodium Chloride,Sodium dichloro-S-triazinetrione, Sodium Hypochlorite, Thymol (yes, that’s the stuff that’s found in Clove Oil).


So Karen,  just as there are many, many different hairstyles you could select from, there are also many, many sanitiser formulations you could approve for keeping your mother ship clean, fresh and under control.

While alcohol continues to be a very good and very useful solution, it really is a bit silly to tell everyone it’s the only one there is.  That Karen,  is Fake News!

PS: Just in case you are sitting there thinking:  ‘well hang on, aren’t you a cosmetic chemist, not a REAL chemist.  No people, no.  I’m a ‘real’ chemist in the sense that I did a full chemistry degree, then worked in the chemical industry training in cosmetic and HI&I cleaning (household, industry and institutional which means hospital) and only then went on to only focus on cosmetics. Even now I still do my fair share of hard surface cleaning formulations and sanitising sprays so yes, I’m still within my lane albeit the slow one compared to some. 

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Karla Hooper ~ Earth Girl permalink
    April 2, 2020 7:32 am

    Gold! Karen is so bloody annoying!! 🙈

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 2, 2020 7:33 am

      I have a feeling that the worlds Karens are going to kill us all hahahahahahah

  2. April 2, 2020 8:13 am

    I LOVE reading all the stuff you write. You’re also a little weird, AND, weird is good!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 2, 2020 8:16 am

      Lol, you are so welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. April 2, 2020 10:27 am

    Could you please lend some insight into sulphuric acid cleaners?
    I’m in North America so don’t know if this chemical is even used in Australia cleaners or anything else.
    It’s a great substance for whitening cottons and it certainly will disperse oils in no time.
    Thanks for this blog.
    Stay healthy and best wishes.
    Tara

  4. April 2, 2020 12:20 pm

    Hi Amanda,
    Is it ok to share some of this content on my Progroom page i will give you credit for it
    Cheers Natalie

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 2, 2020 12:25 pm

      Hi Natalie, link back to this and use a quote if that helps 😊 just don’t cut and paste the whole article. Cheers

      • Natalie Ryan permalink
        April 2, 2020 2:26 pm

        Many Thanks

  5. July 11, 2020 1:40 am

    And by “Karen”, you really mean “Kate”.
    But good golly we can’t use the name “Kate”… due to it being (uhh) royal (Middleton)… god save the queen.

    People need to knock it off, my wife and I would appreciate it

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      August 19, 2020 12:10 pm

      It’s just the 2020 equivalent to the 80’s Sharon and Tracey (for those of us growing up in the UK). I am sure the Karen phase will soon pass.

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