How Effective are Hand Sanitizers?

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Published: August 2nd, 2019

After working a long shift at the hospital, high-fiving strangers at a basketball game, or braving the port-o-potty at a rock concert, you’re going to want as many germs off your hands as possible. You need to know whether or not you can rely on your sanitizer.

Germs

How well do hand sanitizers work? Are they only good for so long? Let’s look at the science behind those gels, sprays, and wipes!

Sometimes soap and running water are not available. In that case, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.

– Melissa Abramovitz, 12 Ways to Prevent Disease

Does Hand Sanitizer Actually Work?

While you should still use soap and water, hand sanitizer is actually extremely effective at removing germs. It can remove an average of 97.72% of bacteria when used correctly, with the alcohol-based versions working particularly well.

This data comes from the microbiologists at Vivo Clinical Testing, a specialized lab in Texas that tests the antiseptics used by hospitals and medical facilities throughout the country. In 2017, Vivo tested five sanitizers from Quality Logo Products® to see how well they killed a bacteria called S. aureus. This bacterium, if left untreated, can lead to serious bloodstream or respiratory infections down the road.

Here are the results of Vivo Clinical Testing’s 2017 study:

Time Evaluated
Results

Cozy Clip Hand Sanitizer

Cozy Clip Hand Sanitizer

10
seconds

94.36%
reduction

Sani Mist Antibacterial Pocket Sprayer

Sani Mist Antibacterial Pocket Sprayer

10
seconds

99.994%
reduction

Antibacterial Wet Wipes

Antibacterial Wet Wipes

30
seconds

96.40%
reduction

Alcohol-free Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Gel

Alcohol-free Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Gel

15
seconds

99.70%
reduction

Alcohol-free Sprayer

Alcohol-free Sprayer

15
seconds

98.14%
reduction

*Data courtesy of Vivo Clinical Testing, 2017.
Full study conducted for use by Quality Logo Products®.

The sanitizers that were tested eliminated most of the S. aureus bacteria, with the alcohol-based versions being particularly effective. It took only about 16 seconds for all the sanitizers to work their magic, with an average reduction in germs of 97.72%.

Overall, Vivo’s study shows that hand sanitizer can remove a large majority of the bacteria on your hands. This is a great alternative if soap and water aren’t available

Dr. Oz put hand sanitizers to the test on his show. Check out the results!

Handwashing Vs. Hand Sanitizer

There’s a healthy amount of debate on the effectiveness of hand sanitizer compared to washing your hands. It all boils down to the occasion and how much time you have for the process. Either way, you can rely on both methods to effectively eliminate germs.

This chart gives you a full breakdown on handwashing vs. hand sanitizer.

Handwashing
Hand Sanitizer

Handwashing

Eliminate Germs

Eliminates all germs, dirt, debris, and grime.

Washing Hands

Requires soap and warm to be most effective.


60 Seconds

Properly washing takes up to 60 seconds.


Kills Germs

Completely kills germs.


Thumbs Up

Always a good option.

Hand Sanitizer

Grime Dirt

Eliminates most of the germs, but not the dirt, debris, or grime.


Alcohol Content

Requires at least 60% alcohol content to be most effective.


30 Seconds

Properly sanitizing takes up to 30 seconds.


Reduce Germs

Reduces the number of germs present.


Check Mark

Good substitute when soap & water aren’t available.

The most important thing is that you’re keeping your hands clean, whether you go all out and sing the ABC’s while washing in a sink or just use a quick squirt of sanitizer. This is especially true before eating, after using the restroom, and while traveling on public transportation.

Did you know?

Washing your hands will reduce your chances of getting a cold by 20%.

How to Use Hand Sanitizer Properly

Sanitizing Hands

It might seem fairly obvious, but you could be using your hand sanitizer completely wrong. If you want to apply it properly, be sure to:

  • Read the label.
  • Make sure your hands aren’t greasy or dirty.
  • Apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub for at least 10 seconds around both hands and in between the fingers.
  • Let dry for 15 to 30 seconds.

These tips are recommended by not only scientists, but also the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Follow their advice to ensure your hands are as germ-free as possible!

Sanitizing Hands

Does Hand Sanitizer Lose Effectiveness?

Expiration Date

Your hand sanitizer may lose effectiveness after it’s expired, or roughly 2 to 3 years after it was purchased. Be sure to dispose of it properly at that time or it may not fight those pesky germs.

The growth of new bacteria may also affect how well your sanitizer works. For example, in 2018 CNN released a report about a rampant germ in hospitals that couldn’t be killed with sanitizer. They found that while sanitizer is usually a good option, it wouldn’t remove this particular bacterium.

Expiration Date

No doubt about it, hand sanitizer is extremely useful. It even makes for a great giveaway at trade shows or fundraisers. At the end of the day, though, nothing compares to warm water and soap. Get to the sink whenever you can to give your hands a good scrub!

Stats for Success

$500,000 in sanitizer was thrown away in Toronto because it wasn’t used before the expiration date.

The estimated value for hand sanitizer sales in the United States is about $195 million.

1 in 5 households in the U.S. currently purchase at least one hand sanitizer product per year.

The Bottom Line

You can remove a lot of bacteria with an alcohol-based sanitizer, but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid washing your hands forever. Sanitizer is only so powerful, and with so many germs out there, you want to be sure to have the best defenses possible.

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world’s first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC’s logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

Bush, L. (2019). Staphylococcus Aureus Infections. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from
https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/bacterial-infections-gram-positive-bacteria/staphylococcus-aureus-infections

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Show Me the Science – Situations Where Hand Sanitizers 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

Kee, C. (2017, October 9). Let’s Settle the Hand Sanitizer Vs. Hand Washing Debate, Once and For All. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/carolinekee/lets-settle-the-hand-sanitizer-versus-hand-washing-debate

Wolfram, T. (2017, February 23). Which is Best: Hand Sanitizer or Soap and Water? Retrieved April 1, 2019, from
https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/which-is-best-hand-sanitizer-or-soap-and-water

Scutti, S. (2018, August 2). Hand Sanitizers Are Losing Kill Power Against This Germ in Hospitals, Study Finds. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from
https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/02/health/hand-sanitizer-bacteria-resistance-study/index.html

Mathieu, E. (2013, April 22). City Tosses Half a Million Dollars Worth of Expired Hand Sanitizer. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/04/22/city_tosses_half_a_million_dollars_worth_of_expired_hand_sanitizer.html

Gaille, B. (2018, May 6). 15 Hand Sanitizer Industry Statistics, Trends, & Analysis. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from
https://brandongaille.com/15-hand-sanitizer-industry-statistics-trends-analysis/

Abramovitz, M. (2017). 12 Ways to Prevent Disease. Page 16-17, Petersen Publishing Company: North Mankato, MN.