Which Hand Sanitizer is the Best?

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our lives in a short amount of time. One of which being how frequently we wash our hands and use hand sanitizer. What used to be a passive thought, like remembering to sanitize your hands before you eat, or after you leave the doctor’s office, has now become a compulsion for most of us. We carry it in our pockets, purses, and cars, and use it all day long.

Hand sanitizers usually contain ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to kill bacteria and viruses. It does this by denaturing (undoing) the protective outer layer of microbes, dissolving their membranes, and effectively eliminating them.

We assume that after applying hand sanitizer, our hands are clean and free from germs, but that might not always be true. If you do not rub the gel in completely and wait for it to dry before wiping your hands, your hands have not been properly sanitized. Washing your hands with soap and water is always more effective at killing germs than hand sanitizer, the reason being that the majority of people don’t wait long enough before wiping away the sanitizer.

It’s also important to address the “kills 99.9% of germs” claim that most companies make. It’s plastered on almost every bottle, and gives us a false sense of security. If you check the fine print, you’ll find that companies can choose which germs it kills, which may or may not include the most common viruses and bacteria.

What Makes A Good Hand Sanitizer?

The market of hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and cleaning products has become extremely confusing, especially now that we are in a pandemic. Suddenly new brands of sanitizers and wipes are appearing on shelves, making miraculous claims and misleading consumers. It can be hard to tell which brand you can trust.

Pick a hand sanitizer that contains mostly alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that hand sanitizers should be at least 60% ethyl alcohol, or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Approved ingredients include: sterile distilled water, hydrogen peroxide, and glycerin.

Avoid any hand sanitizers with methanol or 1-propanol. These are highly toxic when ingested, and unfortunately have appeared this year. Do not make your own hand sanitizer because you could make an ineffective batch, or one that’s too strong and possibly burn your skin.

Best Hand Sanitizers

Most people don’t realize that there is a big difference between hand sanitizers and their effectiveness. These are the top brands of hand sanitizer gel products, and how they compare.

Purell Hand Sanitizer

As a top pick for hospitals, Purell contains more ethyl alcohol (70%) than other leading brands. That is also much higher than the minimum recommended by the CDC. They offer different fragrances and even one with aloe to soothe your skin.

Purell has a strong alcohol smell to it that might not be for everyone. GOJO Industries, the makers of Purell, have received a warning from the FDA for making a statement that their product can prevent “99.9% of illness-causing germs” without any scientific evidence to back it up. They are facing some class action lawsuits about their misleading claims.

Suave Hand Sanitizer

Suave is less commonly seen than Purell, but it actually has 75% ethyl alcohol which exceeds the CDC’s recommendation. One reason why someone might pick Suave Hand Sanitizer is because they also sell a hypoallergenic sanitizer spray that is safe for sensitive skin. This is a great option for children and people who do not like the sticky feel of gel.

Suave gel hand sanitizer has been reported to leave a sticky residue similar to hair gel. Even after you allow the liquid to dry, your hands will still feel sticky, which many people do not like.

Germ-X Hand Sanitizer

A household name and possibly one of the most common hand sanitizers, Germ-X is a consistent brand you can trust. It contains 63% ethyl alcohol, and claims to kill “99.99% of common harmful germs and bacteria” in only 15 seconds. It’s sold everywhere in many different sizes, from large tubs to small, convenient bottles.

The original formula, which is most commonly sold in stores, does dry out your skin quite a bit. If you’re using Germ-X throughout the day, your skin will definitely become dry and cracked. Germ-X is another big brand name like Purell that is facing class action lawsuits for advertising that their product can fight coronavirus without scientific evidence.

Rubbermaid Hand Sanitizer

You might not realize that Rubbermaid makes hand sanitizer, but they actually make a decent product. It contains 62.5% ethyl alcohol, about the minimum amount required by the CDC. It also contains Aloe and Vitamin E to soothe hands, and is dye and fragrance free.

The downside is that this product is not widely available in stores, as it’s only sold commercially. You’re more likely to see it in large quantities sold to businesses and companies. They also claim it kills up to “99.99%” of germs, with no evidence to back it up.

Superfy Hand Sanitizer

This is also a lesser known hand sanitizer brand, but it works very well and dries in as little as 15 seconds. It claims to leave no residue behind, and is gentle on sensitive skin because it has no phosphates or synthetic fragrances and dyes. It is more commonly sold in bulk online.

There are conflicting claims on their website about the percent of ethyl alcohol it contains. In some places it claims it contains 62%, while others it says 70%. Although both are above the minimum standard, this inconsistency is not something to take lightly when you are relying on a product to keep you safe.

Hydra Pearl Hand Sanitizer

What makes Hydra Pearl appealing to consumers is that their website offers you a free sample to try before you buy. It contains 70% of what they call “premium ethyl alcohol.” It also does not leave a sticky residue behind, or a strong alcohol smell, instead it has a “clean alcohol smell.”

This brand makes no claims about what percent of germs it kills, unlike all the other brands. This might make some trust this brand more since we know that claim is mostly a marketing tactic, or it might make some trust them less. Their website, the primary way to purchase Hydra Pearl, is also riddled with typos and errors, which is unprofessional and untrustworthy for a medical grade product.

SanIT Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer

Containing 70% of ethyl alcohol, SanIT is a decent choice for hand sanitizer, especially if you want to buy in bulk. It claims to kill 99.99% of germs, and contains soothing aloe vera and Vitamin E which are good for dry hands. Unlike most other hand sanitizers on this list, this one has a ‘fresh scent’.

As part of their product description, they say it “Quickly removes dirty stuff on your hands” which is very vague and informal. This product seems to be focused more on not irritating your skin than anything else, so if that is your priority this hand sanitizer is a good choice.