Most hand sanitizers, whether you get them at the mall or at your local drugstore, will contain some kind of alcohol. This is ultimately what gets those pesky germs off your hands.

Why is alcohol in your hand sanitizer? Are there natural options instead? Let’s dive into all the details about hand sanitizers!

How Effective Are Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers?

Experts agree that the more alcohol in a hand sanitizer, the more effective it will be at reducing germs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you use a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.

This isn’t any new advice. Alcohol has been used as a disinfectant for centuries, starting in ancient Egypt and going all the way to the modern world of medicine.

Overall, alcohol is extremely effective at removing the germs that would otherwise cause you to get a cold or the flu. It’s important to always know which ingredients are in your sanitizer!

How Does Alcohol Kill Bacteria?

Alcohol fights off bacteria through a process called denaturation, which is a fancy way of saying the bacterium is altered from its original state. Say you have a germ on your hand that could cause the flu. The alcohol in your sanitizer will change that germ’s chemical makeup before it can do any real damage.

This is why it’s important to be picky with which sanitizer you choose. You want to go with something that contains alcohol or at least has a natural substitute that works just as well. Even if your sanitizer smells like a delicious vanilla cupcake, it’s not going to fight off those pesky germs unless it contains the right ingredients.

Can Hand Sanitizer Stop the Spread of Diseases?

Handwashing should always be your #1 choice, but a good sanitizer can also stop the spread of diseases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s important to keep a bottle that contains at least 60% alcohol in any public area, such as offices, schools, and grocery stores.

The world’s attention has shifted to ways to prevent illness. This is in large part due to widespread viruses like the coronavirus (COVID-19), Ebola, and influenza.

While sanitizer is by no means a cure, it is one way you can reduce the risk. Alcohol is an important ingredient as it’s effective at killing many bacterium or viruses that may be on your hands. If you work in or manage a public place, be sure to pick up a few bottles and have them around for everyone to use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol when handwashing isn’t available.

How Much Alcohol Should Sanitizer Contain?

A good sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol, with isopropyl alcohol being the most popular choice. Whether you want to order custom hand sanitizers for your next fundraiser or just want something to keep around the office, it’s important to know the ingredients in every bottle.

What Are the Most Popular Hand Sanitizer Brands?

Image Source: www.mfasco.com

You’ll see many different sanitizers on the shelves at your local pharmacy or grocery store. The most popular hand sanitizer brands include:

  • Purell
  • Germ-X
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Cleanwell
  • Dial
  • Babyganics
  • Ecolab
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Ulta
  • Equate
  • McKesson
Image Source: www.mfasco.com
Image Source: www.mfasco.com

Each brand of sanitizer is made differently, which means it will contain its own specified amount of alcohol. To determine how much is in your bottle, consult the label on the back that lists the ingredients.

You can also cross-compare and find the right brand for you with this handy chart*!

Image Source: www.mfasco.com

Brand

Typical Alcohol Content

Purell

62%

Germ-X

70%

Bath & Body Works

68%

Cleanwell

0%

Dial

72%

Babyganics

0%

Ecolab

62%

Burt’s Bees

62%

Ulta

68%

Equate

65%

McKesson

70%


*These numbers are based on individual products from each brand and may vary. They are typically what you see with these bottles on average, but the amount isn’t exact for every bottle. Be sure to always check the label on every bottle of sanitizer for an accurate alcohol content amount.

Every sanitizer brand has its pros and cons, including pricing, fragrances, ingredients, and availability. Do your research before you fill up your shopping cart and make sure you ask yourself: “What should be the proportion of alcohol in hand sanitizer? As long at it’s at least 60%, you’re good to go!

Do Organic Hand Sanitizers Work?

Image Source: www.amazon.com

If you don’t want a sanitizer that’s made with alcohol, organic options work just as well. Look for a brand that contains either Aloe Vera or witch hazel. These plants have healing properties that fight all kinds of bacteria.

Cleanwell or Babyganics are a couple of good natural choices. They are as effective as alcohol-based sanitizers when used correctly and can be found at most drugstores.

Image Source: www.amazon.com

Hand Sanitizers at Quality Logo Products®

A great way to advertise your business is with hand sanitizer giveaways or any other custom promotional products. If you do go with sanitizer, you’ll want to be sure they work. The good news is many promotional sanitizers contain about 62% alcohol.

Try any of these popular options!

*Disclaimer: The alcohol levels for these hand sanitizers are based on 2019 data and are subject to change. Ask your sales rep for more details.

Is Hand Sanitizer Toxic?

While alcohol-based sanitizers come highly recommended, they do pose some risks and could be toxic if certain ingredients are used in the formula. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic the FDA warned that methanol is an unsafe toxic ingredient that could cause nausea, headaches, blurred vision, and in extreme cases, permanent damage to the nervous system.

Other potential risks of using certain hand sanitizers include:

  • Swallowing can cause alcohol poisoning
  • Not always safe for children
  • Harmful if ingested by pets
  • Skin may be itchy or red after use
  • May cause irritation if it gets in your eyes
  • Increases your sensitivity to ultra violet rays
  • Extremely flammable

You should also never flush your hand sanitizer or pour it down the drain as that could be harmful to our water. If you’re worried about any of these side effects, it may be best to go with a sanitizer that’s made with organic ingredients instead. There are plenty of options out there, so be sure to check the labels and pick the one that works best for you!

Why is Drinking Hand Sanitizer Dangerous?

It’s extremely dangerous to consume any hand sanitizer, but especially the ones that contain alcohol. Not only can this lead to alcohol poisoning, but ingesting it, whether purposefully or by accident, can also lead to death in some cases.

Alarmingly enough, however, minors in the United States are swigging sanitizer like it’s water. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 19,000 incidents in 2014 alone, and it looks like this trend is still a problem to this day.

Remember, there’s a reason you can’t order “sanitizer” from a drink menu. Use it responsibly and keep it only on your hands!

Stats for Success

Alcohol-based sanitizers will reduce an average of 97.72% of the germs on your hands.

There are an estimated 1,500 germs on each square centimeter of skin on our hands.

The average adult will have 2 to 4 colds every year.

The Bottom Line

It’s an extremely germy world out there, and you have a choice as to which sanitizer you use. Whether you go with one that contains alcohol or something more natural, make sure you use it only when handwashing isn’t available!

References

Song, X. (2017, November 11). Why Hand Washing is Preferable to Hand Sanitizing. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from
https://riseandshine.childrensnational.org/why-hand-washing-is-preferable-to-hand-sanitizing/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Show Me the Science – Situations Where Hand Sanitizer Can Be Effective & How to Use it in Community Settings. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from
https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html

Flournoy, B. (2018, April 25). How Does Alcohol Kill Bacteria? Retrieved April 8, 2019, from
https://sciencing.com/alcohol-kill-bacteria-5462404.html

Borreli, L. (2014, November 14). What is Witch Hazel? Plus 5 Health Reasons to Use it in Your Skin Care. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from
https://www.medicaldaily.com/what-witch-hazel-plus-5-health-reasons-use-it-your-skin-care-310666

Bonner, L. (May 2017). CDC Report Calls Attention to Hand Sanitizer Risk in Children. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
www.pharmacytoday.org

Nilsen, R. (2019). Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Side Effects. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
https://healthfully.com/antibacterial-hand-sanitizer-side-effects-4130958.html

Wag Walking. (2019). Hand Sanitizer (Ethanol) Poisoning in Dogs. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
https://wagwalking.com/condition/hand-sanitizer-ethanol-poisoning

Moore, S. (2017, July 18). The Disadvantages of Hand Sanitizers. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
https://healthfully.com/antibacterial-hand-sanitizer-side-effects-4130958.html

Davidson Washroom. (2019). How Many Germs Are Your Hands Harbouring? Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
https://www.davidsonwashroom.com.au/how-many-germs-hands-harbouring/

WebMD. (2019). How Often Do Adults Get the Most Common Cold and Who is Most at Risk? Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/qa/how-often-do-adults-get-the-common-cold-and-who-is-most-at-risk

Robin, R. (2016, October 24). Don’t Drink the Hand Sanitizer. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/24/well/live/dont-drink-the-hand-sanitizer.html

Capritto, A. (2020, March 3). Hand Sanitizer: How It Can Prevent You From Getting Sick and When to Use It. Retrieved from,
https://www.cnet.com/news/hand-sanitizer-how-it-can-protect-you-from-getting-sick-and-when-to-use-it/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 14). Interim Guidance for Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Homes and Residential Communities. Retrieved from,
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html

Gibson, K. (2020, June 3). 9 Brands of Hand Sanitizer May Be Toxic, FDA Warns. Retrieved from, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fda-toxic-hand-sanitizers-warning/

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.