How to Tell if The Hand Sanitizer You’re Buying is Effective

With many new companies producing hand sanitizer in lieu of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to make sure the sanitizer you’re buying is actually effective. While the FDA has become a bit laxer on the requirements for making hand sanitizer, there are still many companies out there selling and advertising products that aren’t up to par, or just downright ineffective. In order to get an idea on how effective your hand sanitizer is, it’s important to know what exactly the FDA regulations are for the production of hand sanitizer.

FDA Guidelines

The recent changes to guidelines are allowing for unlicensed entities to temporarily manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the pandemic. They are also required to list products in the FDA Drug Registration and Listing System. There are also certain ingredients that must be used in the manufacturing of these hand sanitizers, such as glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, and sterile water. The alcohol content of the alcohol used in the sanitizer also has to be over 94.9% by volume, ensuring it is strong enough to kill most microbes including the COVID-19 virus. While higher alcohol content products can be more expensive, the FDA recommends not buying any product with less than 60% alcohol. Despite the laxer requirements companies are also still liable for any harm or side effects that occur due to the quality of the products. Denaturing the alcohol, or adding an unpleasant taste, is also critical as even accidental consumption in small doses can be fatal to young children, and can be hazardous to adults. Companies are also prohibited from improving the taste or smell through the use of additives.

What Does This Mean For You

Many products claim that they kill 99.9% of germs, but depending on what goes into the product, it may not actually be effective against the coronavirus. Many brands like Purell rely on non-alcoholic sanitizers, such as benzalkonium chloride, which might not be as effective at killing existing germs. Non-alcoholic sanitizers, as well as products with less than 60% alcohol content, might just reduce the growth of germs while not doing much in the way of actually killing them. Sadly, most people might not realize there is even a difference.

When shopping for hand sanitizer, focus on those which rely on alcohol, since high alcohol content sanitizers have been proven effective against the coronavirus according to CDC guidelines. If you’re having trouble figuring out if a sanitizer uses alcohol or not, here are some key things to look for:

  • Packaging advertising the product is alcohol-free
  • Labels advertising the alcohol content
  • Benzalkonium chloride is the active ingredient on the back of the label

The CDC is trying to monitor advertising and cracking down on products that are falsely claiming their products are effective against COVID-19, but there are still many manufacturers who will try to deceive the public for a profit as long as they can get away with it. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re getting the most effective sanitizer.

When shopping for sanitizer, you’ll want to always check the alcohol content. The higher the alcohol content, the more effective the sanitizer will be. This can be difficult to do when it comes to online listings on eBay and Amazon, or other online sellers, but online resale sites are making an effort to remove listings of any healthcare product directly related to COVID-19, especially those who are using the crisis to price gouge to make a massive profit.

Thanks to resellers removing a lot of the online listings, odds are you’ll really only be able to find sanitizers on store shelves or online through grocery store and pharmacy delivery and mail order services. The product descriptions on these pages are more regulated and more likely to give you the correct information, but you still need to be careful. Many manufacturers of sanitizers, especially smaller budget brands or new temporary producers of sanitizer, will advertise the claim that their sanitizer is effective against COVID-19. This might just be a marketing ploy and not accurate information. Check the alcohol content and ingredients to be sure that there is alcohol, and that the alcohol content is sufficient enough to kill COVID-19. You’re looking for a minimum of 60% alcohol but the higher the better.

Make Sure You Use It Properly

The other way to make sure that the hand sanitizer you’re using is effective is to make sure you’re actually using it properly. Hand sanitizer isn’t soap, and it should really only be used in situations where you can’t wash your hands, be it because you’re out and don’t have immediate access to a sink or need to immediately sanitize your hands. First, apply a drop of sanitizer to the palm of your hand. This amount varies and is based on how much the instructions recommend using. Next, you should rub the product between your hands, rubbing it between your fingers and making sure it thoroughly covers your hands. Then you simply let it dry. Do not wash off the hand sanitizer, since that kind of defeats the purpose and stops it from fully working. The alcohol will quickly evaporate into the air so simply let your hands dry naturally.

While hand sanitizers are great in a pinch, there is no better alternative to washing your hands. If you really want to make sure you are getting rid of any germs, remember to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. First, wet your hands and the soap. Then lather for 15-20 seconds. Lastly, rinse your hands under the water for another 15-20 seconds and you’re good to go.

Also, while alcohol can kill many germs, don’t waste your vodka on making sanitizers. Many alcoholic beverages like vodka, liquor, and the like don’t have anywhere near a high enough alcohol content to be used to make homebrewed sanitizers. You also likely don’t have many of the other essential ingredients listed by the FDA. Just save yourself the time, frustration, and perfectly fine booze and either purchase sanitizers or just settle for washing your hands more frequently.