Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. These alcohols work to kill bacteria and viruses.
This information comes from the
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer typically contains ethanol, which is a colorless, clear liquid that people may refer to as ethyl alcohol.
In this article, we explain what to look for when choosing a hand sanitizer, how much alcohol it needs to contain to be effective, and tips for using a hand sanitizer properly.
The CDC recommend people use a hand sanitizer containing a minimum concentration of
This is because hand sanitizers containing between
Hand sanitizers with less than 60% ethanol, or non-ethanol-based sanitizers, may not be as effective as killing a variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi, or microbes. They may also only limit microbes from growing, rather than killing them.
According to a
Ethanol concentrations of 80% and isopropyl concentrations of 75% are in the middle of the acceptable range, although levels between 60–95% are suitable.
The review also reports that a study on hand sanitizers containing 85% ethanol showed a significant increase in reducing bacteria compared to concentrations of 60–62% ethanol.
- ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, which may appear on a product label as alcohol
- isopropyl alcohol, which may appear listed as isopropanol or 2-propanol
The FDA does not allow methanol or 1-propanol in hand sanitizer, as these may be toxic ingredients.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
announcedrecalls of several hand sanitizers due to the potential presence of methanol. Methanolis a toxic alcohol that can have adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, or headache, when a significant amount is used on the skin. More serious effects, such as blindness, seizures, or damage to the nervous system, can occur if methanol is ingested. Drinking hand sanitizer containing methanol, either accidentally or purposely, can be fatal. See here for more information on how to spot safe hand sanitizers.
If you purchased any hand sanitizer containing methanol, you should stop using it immediately. Return it to the store where you purchased it, if possible. If you experienced any adverse effects from using it, you should call your healthcare provider. If your symptoms are life threatening, call emergency medical services immediately.
According to the
If soap and water are not easily available, ethanol hand sanitizer is still effective at killing some viruses and bacteria.
It can be a good option for certain settings, such as hospitals or when traveling on public transportation.
However, ethanol-based hand sanitizer is not effective at killing all types of microbes. It is also less effective if people do not let it dry properly on their hands. Additionally, people may also not use large enough quantities of hand sanitizer for it to be effective.
Hand sanitizers may be less effective for the following:
- removing grease and dirt
- removing pesticides
- removing other harmful chemicals, such as heavy metals
If people have come into contact with harmful chemicals, including heavy metals, they will need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Additionally, non-ethanol sanitizers may contain benzalkonium chloride. The
This is because people may not be able to make home-made hand sanitizers correctly, and they could be ineffective against killing microbes.
Can a person add alcohol to non-alcohol hand sanitizer?
According to the
If people alter an existing hand sanitizer by adding alcohol, it could lead to skin irritation or burns.
To choose an effective hand sanitizer, people can look for:
- alcohol concentration of
60% or higher
- ethanol, ethyl alcohol, isopropanol, or 2-propanol as an ingredient
- additional ingredients, such as aloe vera or glycerin, as these
may helpto prevent the skin from drying out
Skip any hand sanitizer containing methanol, 1-propanol, or any hand sanitizer product on the
People can use a hand sanitizer effectively with the following steps:
- Read the instructions on the sanitizer for the correct quantity to use.
- Apply the hand sanitizer into the palm of one hand.
- Rub both hands together, making sure to cover the backs of the hands and fingers.
- Rub the hands together until the gel dries, which will take about
Always supervise children when they are using hand sanitizer.
Avoid putting alcohol-based hand sanitizer near the eyes or mouth, and never swallow it, as this can cause alcohol poisoning.
Store hand sanitizers out of reach of young children, below temperatures of
Washing the hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. If hand washing is not an available option, people can use a hand sanitizer.
People should use a hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol or more, as these are more effective at killing a wider range of germs than hand sanitizers with lower concentrations of alcohol or no alcohol.
It is important to never swallow alcohol-based hand sanitizer, as this can cause alcohol poisoning.