Charlotte Latvala: Admitting you are addicted to hand sanitizer the first step

Charlotte Latvala
Charlotte Latvala

My daughter got in the car.

“Hand sanitizer?” I held up the pump bottle I keep stashed in the driver’s side door pocket.

“Mom, I just sanitized in Costco,” she said. “But, sure.” She held out her hand and accepted a generous squirt.

I rubbed the cold liquid over my hands and felt the familiar sting as it soaked into the cracks and crevices of my rough winter skin. Ouch! I said to myself, and wondered (not for the first time): Why am I still doing this?

After two years, why do I even have a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car? In my purse? On my desk?

It’s a rhetorical question: I’m addicted. I’m a hand-sanitizing junkie in need of a good 12-step program. I’ve got a monkey on my back, and its name is 60% alcohol, with an occasional dash of lavender scent mixed in.

Do you remember the Olden Days of the pandemic? (I know, ancient history — but stick with me here.) We were told to keep our distance. We were told to wash our hands pretty much all day long and belt the alphabet song while doing so. (Which, as measures of time go, never seemed as reliable as, say, “20 seconds” – but hey, I’m no expert.)

Is it coming back to you now? Wipe things down. Sanitize surfaces. I have friends who literally disinfected every can and box from the grocery store, or who left items knocking around their SUVs for days, when any chance of random infection had theoretically passed.

Well. Now we know better. The bug doesn’t cluster on cans of French cut green beans. It doesn’t gravitate to cartons of chicken stock. Wiping down your groceries and Amazon packages and water bottles is as pointless as shouting at the virus. (Or singing the alphabet song while washing your hands, come to think of it.)

But still. It made us feel safer. So did hand sanitizer. Like manna in the desert, it appeared everywhere we went. Getting takeout from your favorite Chinese restaurant? Grab some hand sanitizer? Oil change? Don’t forget to squirt! Every restroom, every entryway, every vaguely public place suddenly offered a sanitizing station.

I began to get anxious when we ran low. When there was a shortage (remember?) I paid a premium price for tiny bottles of the stuff. I googled ways to make my own.

And somewhere along the line, I began to crave it, to feel like I couldn’t get through an hour of the day without it. It seemed so beneficial, in a this-is-going-to-hurt-but-it’s-good-for-you way, that I accepted it.

Truth be told, I don’t like the smell, or the sting. I don’t like the way my skin tightens as the stuff dries. Or the slightly gummy feeling the thicker potions leave behind.

And yet, I can’t stop. But I’d like to.

I need it. But I hate it.

I’m torn.

Admitting you have a problem in the first step, right?

Charlotte is a columnist for The Times. You can reach her at

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Latvala: Admitting you are addicted to hand sanitizer the first step