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A vailable in gel, liquid, or foam, hand sanitizer is a convenient method for reducing bacteria and germs on the hands when soap and water is unavailable. Hand sanitizer has the ability to kill many types of pathogens that could cause illness.

Widely used in medical settings, schools, and offices, hand sanitizer has become increasingly in demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many companies are now shifting gears to produce this sanitizing agent. But what is it exactly? How does it work and how effective is it? Get answers to these questions and more in the following guide.

What is hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is also known as hand disinfectant or hand antiseptic. It is available over the counter in liquid, foam, or gel form. People use hand sanitizer as an alternative to hand washing because it is convenient.

Users simply squirt some of the product onto their hands and rub it along the surface of their skin. The sanitizer is designed to kill a wide range of germs and pathogens that could cause illness. The product is applied wet but dries quickly, making it a convenient option when soap and water is not readily available.

How does hand sanitizer work?

According to an FDA ruling of 2019, hand sanitizer must contain one of the following active ingredients: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride. These ingredients have been shown to be effective at killing germs.

How do I use hand sanitizer?

To use hand sanitizer, squirt a small amount onto one hand. Rub your hands together, ensuring that the product touches the palms of your hands and your fingers, especially the fingertips. Continue to rub your hands until the hand sanitizer has dried.

Do not wipe off the hand sanitizer when it is wet or you may render it ineffective. Also, avoid using too much of a product at one time or you may cause your skin to dry out. Use the product as directed by its instructions.

When was hand sanitizer invented?

Since ancient times, people have known that some ingredients had preservation or healing properties. For instance, the ancient Greeks knew that wine or vinegar could be used when dressing wounds.

Medieval healers also understood that alcohol contained some ‘cleaning’ properties. Modern hand sanitizer, however, was not invented until 1966. It was invented by student nurse Lupe Hernandez in Bakersfield, California.

What are the benefits of using hand sanitizer?

The chief benefit of hand sanitizer is that it can speedily reduce the number of microbes on the surface of a person’s skin. People’s hands come into contact with a wide range of pathogens ranging from the common cold to the COVID-19 virus.

The goal when using hand sanitizer is to kill potentially harmful germs before the user inadvertently touches their nose, eyes, or mouth where they could introduce the harmful agent to their body.

Hand sanitizer is also convenient to use when soap or water isn’t easily accessible. Another benefit of this product is that it’s available in small, easy-to-carry sizes and is inexpensive to purchase.

How effective is hand sanitizing?

Not all hand sanitizers are created equal and these products may not kill all germs a person comes into contact with. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hand sanitizers may not remove substances such as dirt, grease, pesticides, heavy metals, or various other chemicals.

To be deemed effective, hand sanitizers must contain a solution of between 60 and 95% alcohol.

Are hand sanitizers regulated by the FDA?

Yes, the Federal Food and Drug Administration does regulate the production and sale of hand sanitizers. The FDA regards these products as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Is hand sanitizer safe to use — and how often?

There is no evidence that hand sanitizers are unsafe when used as directed. Doctors recommend using hand sanitizer after touching surfaces in public that have likely been touched by others.

Is hand sanitizer safe for children?

Hand sanitizer is categorized as an over-the-counter drug. Young children should only use hand sanitizer under the supervision of an adult. Older children should be directed how to use this product. It is safe for children to use as directed. It should never be ingested or used on any part of the body except for its intended use–the hands.

What's the pH of hand sanitizer?

Most hand sanitizers are neutral. However, hand sanitizer can affect the pH of the user’s skin, making it less acidic and more alkaline. There is no medical evidence that this is unsafe or makes the individual more vulnerable to viruses.

Hand sanitizer vs hand washing

Hand sanitizer vs washing hands with soap and water

Hand washing is typically the most advisable method for reducing germs and keeping hands clean. However, hand sanitizer is effective, which is why it is used in hospitals and medical facilities.

The CDC states that it’s ideal to use hand sanitizer before and after visiting someone in a hospital or nursing home. It also recommends using hand sanitizer when it is inconvenient to use soap and water. The best method of cleaning hands is still soap and water. The CDC recommends hand washing after coming into contact with raw foods or garbage.

People should also use soap and water to wash their hands if they’re visibly dirty (hand sanitizer is less effective on dirty hands) or hands that have come into contact with chemicals.

How much alcohol does hand sanitizer contain?

To be approved by the FDA as a viable hand sanitizer, the produce should contain between 60 and 95% alcohol. The CDC recommends that people use hand sanitizers that either contain more than 60% ethyl alcohol or at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.

What are all the ingredients in hand sanitizer?

There are different formulations for hand sanitizers. First, it’s important to remember that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are used in hospital settings. These are the formulas recommended by the CDC, so long as they contain at least 60% alcohol.

Some hand sanitizers are made without alcohol, but these are regarded as less effective than alcohol-based formulas. Non-alcohol formulas for hand sanitizer may feature benzalkonium chloride or triclosan.

How Is alcohol-free hand sanitizer made?

Aside from alcohol, the active ingredient that most non-alcohol hand sanitizers feature is benzalkonium chloride. This ingredient does kill germs, but not as many or as effectively as alcohol, according to the CDC. In many cases, this agent stops germs from multiplying, but it does not necessarily eliminate them.

What are some other types of hand sanitizers?

There are many types of hand sanitizers available in the marketplace today. Remember, to effectively kill germs, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. That said, there are a wide range of formulations available today.

Many people complain that alcohol-based hand sanitizers dry out their skin. If you find that your skin is dryer after using hand sanitizer routinely, try a formula that contains a moisturizer. You can also apply your own moisturizer after using hand sanitizer.

There are also formulations that are made with organic ingredients. Some products contain essential oils that may have natural antiseptic properties or skin-nourishing properties. Consumers will also be able to find both scented and fragrance-free hand sanitizers. Some common fragrances used in hand sanitizers include lavender, vanilla, coconut, and citrus scents.

Why is my hand sanitizer sticky?

If your hands become sticky after using hand sanitizer, it’s usually a result of a certain ingredient or a bad formulation, as not all hand sanitizers are the same.

The most common cause for stickiness is Aloe Vera, which is commonly found in advanced gel formulas. Aloe Vera is typically added to hand sanitizer to help moisturize the skin, but too much of it can leave your hands feeling tacky.

Another leading cause is poor formulations, which is the result of supply chain disruption from the Coronavirus. As hand sanitizer is in mass demand, it is being produced at unprecedented levels, resulting in specific shortages of main ingredients like carbomer.

Carbomer is typically one of the main ingredients in hand sanitizer that turns it into a gel. Since there is currently a shortage of this ingredient, manufacturers are substituting carbomer for other ingredients like Hydroxyproplycellulose. These replacement ingredients, while work in there intended purpose, can cause yours hands to feel sticky once dried.

If your looking for a hand sanitizer that won’t leave yours hands feeling sticky, be sure to look at the ingredient list. Select one that doesn’t use aloe Vera and make sure it includes carbomer (or Carbopol™).

Does hand sanitizer expire?

Yes hand sanitizer does expire, the average shelf-life is 2-3 years. Although expired hand sanitizer is safe to use, it may not be effective. The rule of thumb is to use unexpired hand sanitizer or use it within three years of its manufacturer’s date.

Does hand sanitizer leave stains?

Yes, hand sanitizer can leave stains on clothing, wood, and potentially other surfaces, but it depends on its ingredients. On the other hand, hand sanitizers that contain alcohol may help remove some common stains. For instance, some people report that hand sanitizer has the power to remove ink stains.

Potential dangers of hand sanitizer

Potential dangers of hand sanitizers

Hand sanitizers can be dangerous if swallowed. Otherwise, people may only note some skin irritation, particularly if they overuse hand sanitizer. The alcohol can dry out the skin.

Some hand sanitizers may contain a certain ingredient that may cause some individuals skin irritation. If you find that your skin is irritated by a hand sanitizer, switch products. You may also want to choose a moisturizing hand sanitizer.

Is hand sanitizer toxic?

Hand sanitizer is classified as an over-the-counter drug, so it should be kept out of the reach of young children. It is considered poisonous. Although not more dangerous than other items that contain alcohol around the home, it can lead to health emergencies when ingested.

What happens if you drink or ingest hand sanitizer?

Children who drink hand sanitizer can experience a drop in the blood sugar. If left untreated, this may lead to seizures or even coma. Owing to its alcohol content, it can also lead to intoxication as well as a reduction in heart rate and breathing. If children ingest hand sanitizer, it’s essential to contact a poison control center.

What are hand sanitizer poisoning symptoms?

As mentioned, ingesting hand sanitizer can lead to symptoms of intoxication. These products may not just make an individual woozy; their high alcohol content can lead to reduced respiratory and heart function.

People who ingest this product may become dizzy or even suffer from seizures or fall into a coma. As with other cases of alcohol poisoning, death is possible if a person ingests too much.

What happens if you get hand sanitizer in your eye?

Getting any amount of hand sanitizer in your eye can cause irritation and inflammation. Not only can the alcohol in the formula irritate the eyes, but there may be additives in the ingredients list such as plant oils that can also cause eye irritation.

If you get hand sanitizer in your eye, flush your eyes for about 15 minutes with lukewarm water. If your eye remains irritated, it’s best to consult your doctor.

Is hand sanitizer flammable?

Yes, because most hand sanitizers are made with at least 60% alcohol, they are flammable. Liquid hand sanitizers burn hotter than gel varieties. Hand sanitizers can be ignited easily with matches or grill lighters. For this reason, it’s important not to use them when cooking near an open flame.

Can you put hand sanitizer on a cut or scrape?

Hand sanitizer is not designed to treat cuts and scrapes. It can cause irritation to the wound and may result in a burning and/or stinging sensation. On the other hand, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before treating a cut or scrape.

What does hand sanitizer kill?

Corona-virus Covid-19 Virus Close Up

Does hand sanitizer kill the flu?

Hand sanitizer can kill flu germs on the hands, but it is not regarded as a flu preventative. The healthcare community still recommends that people get the flu shot to reduce their risks of contracting the flu.

Does hand sanitizer kill viruses?

Yes, commercially designed hand sanitizer made with at least 60% alcohol has been shown to kill both viruses and bacteria on contact.

Does hand sanitizer kill germs?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective at killing an expansive array of germsbut not all of them.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.


Does hand sanitizer kill bacteria?

Hand sanitizer can kill a wide range of bacteria including staphylococcus (MRSA).

Does hand sanitizer kill fungus?

Many commercially available hand sanitizing products can kill fungus. Again, you can use hand sanitizer on your hands to reduce the spread of fungal spores but you should not regard hand sanitizer as a treatment for a fungal condition.

Does hand sanitizer kill the Norovirus?

Although hand sanitizer is effective for killing many types of viruses, it is not effective for killing the norovirus. This is because norovirus has a “capsid structure” that alcohol cannot penetrate. In fact, this virus is resistant to many types of disinfectants.

If you’re concerned about a norovirus outbreak in your area, be sure to increase washing your hands with soap and water as this method can wash the virus away.

Does hand sanitizer kill MRSA?

Yes, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol can prevent the spread of MRSA when used properly, according to the CDC.

Does hand sanitizer kill ringworm?

Commercially available hand sanitizers can kill ringworm. So, they are ideal for reducing the spread of this infection on your hands. You should not use hand sanitizer on a ringworm rash as it can irritate the skin further and prolongate the healing process.

Does hand sanitizer kill herpes?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. Hand sanitizer is not formulated to kill the virus that causes herpes. Currently, there is no cure for herpes. This is because it enters nerve cells where it remains latent. When dormant, antiviral drugs cannot attack and kill it. New research, however, is pointing to a possible cure.

Does hand sanitizer kill sperm?

Yes, hand sanitizer can slow or kill sperm, but it is not designed to be or replace spermicides, which are formulated to safely reduce the risk of pregnancy. Moreover, hand sanitizer should never be introduced to the vagina where it can harm the delicate tissue there. It can also harm the outer skin of the penis and should not be used anywhere on the body except for the hands.

Does hand sanitizer kill COVID-19?

Yes according to CIDRAP, in a recent study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, alcohol-based commercially produced hand sanitizers can kill the COVID-19 virus.

Can you make homemade / DIY hand sanitizer?

The internet abounds with DIY recipes for making hand sanitizer. Both the FDA and CDC do not recommend relying on homemade hand sanitizers to kill or reduce the spread of germs. DIY hand sanitizers are more likely to be unstable. They may not contain ingredient ratios that can combat germs.

Instead, use pharmacy-grade hand sanitizer that is FDA approved. Not only may the ingredients in DIY hand sanitizer be unsafe, but the method used to prepare the mixture may also be unsafe.


Where can you purchase hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is widely available today. Consumers will typically find it at hospital and commercial pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, and Target. Many other store chains sell hand sanitizer, including Bath and Body Works, Walmart, and Dollar General. Many online stores that sell personal care products like Valm feature hand sanitizers too. Shoppers can also purchase hand sanitizer on Amazon and a wide range of other stores that carry some personal care products like hand lotions and soaps.

Where can you purchase hand sanitizer in bulk?

Consumers, organizations, and businesses can purchase hand sanizer in bulk. These products may be purchased from medical suppliers as well as Amazon or stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club.

Valm also is offering hand sanitizer in bulk, which can be purchased wholesale by the case lot or by pallet.

Recommendations from Government Agencies


The FDA reports that hand sanitizers are a convenient alternative to hand washing. It recommends that consumers use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. Users should store their hand sanitizer out of reach of children and pets. The FDA also says people should refrain from making or using DIY hand sanitizers as they may be unstable and ineffective.


The World Health Organization reports that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a rapid and effective means for inactivating a wide range of potentially harmful microorganisms like viruses and bacteria on the hands. It also reports its recommended formulations for hand sanitizers on its website.


Centers for Disease Control recommends using hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl.

Can you bring hand sanitizer on a plane?

Yes, hand sanitizer is on the accepted list by the TSA and are allowable in carry-on bags. Currently, as a temporary measure, passengers are allowed to bring one container of up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer with them on a plane.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Hand Sanitizer

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major supply chain disruptions and product shortages all over the world. Hand sanitizer has been in increasing demand and is in short supply. Many stores continue to struggle to keep it in stock.

To cope with the shortage, some businesses like breweries have begun to make hand sanitizers in accordance with commercial formulations. Remember, it’s important to purchase FDA approved hand sanitizers.

Until there is a vaccine, expect hand sanitizer to remain in demand among shoppers. You may need to purchase this product from alternative vendors that now carry this in-demand product.

Should I carry hand sanitizer with me?

It is a wise idea to carry a travel-size container of hand sanitizer with you when you leave home. Use hand sanitizer after leaving a store or restaurant. You should also use it before visiting a friend and after you leave.

When in public and touching surfaces that other people are likely to have touched, you should use hand sanitizer if you are unable to quickly wash your hands with soap and water.

What if I can't find hand sanitizer in the stores?

If you cannot find hand sanitizer in your local store, shop online. In many cases, even online stores have these products on backorder and are waiting for manufacturers to fulfill orders. Consider shopping online at stores you normally wouldn’t purchase this product from. Many vendors are now carrying commercial hand sanitizers that are FDA approved.

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