hand sanitizer

How Do Hand Sanitizers Work


The demand for Hand Sanitizers has been drastically increased since the last few months due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, there is a wide range of options for hand hygiene like bar soaps, liquid soaps, and sanitizers. During the spread of Coronavirus the key advice is using hand sanitizers to cleanse hands. But this arise a question – Will just using hand sanitizer be enough? Due to high demand, there are large amounts of duplicate hand sanitizers sold in the market today. Hence there is a possibility that you may end up buying the wrong product.

Ingredients of a good Hand Sanitizer

Products with 60% to 95% alcohol by volume are effective antiseptics. Lower or higher concentrations are less effective; most products contain between 60% and 80% alcohol.  Active ingredient in some hand sanitizers is usually a type of alcohol that acts as an antimicrobial that kills bacteria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control recommend ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or a mix of both in a concentration of 60% to 95%.


  • Alcohol (ethanol, isopropanol or n-Propanol)
  • Additional antiseptics such as chlorhexidine and quaternary ammonium derivatives


  • Sporicides such as hydrogen peroxides that eliminate bacterial spores that may be present in ingredients,
  • Emollients and gelling agents to reduce skin dryness and irritation,
  • A small amount of sterile or distilled water,
  • Foaming agents, colorants or fragrances are also added
  • Glycerol which acts as a moisturizer to stop your skin drying out


  • Hydrogen peroxide is also added to prevent bacterial contamination
How they work:

Alcohols in hand sanitizers alter (denature) the structure of proteins. They destroy the cell wall and membranes of bacteria cells and the envelope of viruses (including coronavirus). They’re less effective against non-enveloped viruses. Non-alcohol-based sanitizers also kill bacteria but are less effective against viruses.

How effective are they in comparison to hand washing?

There are certain situations during which handwashing with water and soap are preferred over hand sanitizer, these include:

  • Eliminating bacterial spores of Clostridioides difficile
  • Parasites such as Cryptosporidium
  • Viruses like norovirus depending on the concentration of alcohol in the sanitizer

Handwashing with soap for 20 seconds washes away bacteria and viruses, and also removes dirt and grease. It is observed that sanitizers that contain 95% alcohol were seen to be most effective in eliminating most viruses.

Hand Sanitizers Types

There are generally two categories of hand sanitizes:

Alcohol-based – Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are extensively used in the hospital environment as an alternative to antiseptic soaps. The most common brands of alcohol hand sanitizers include Aniosgel, Avant, Sterillium, Desderman, and Allsept S.

Non-Alcohol based – Some hand sanitizer products use agents other than alcohol to kill microorganisms, such as povidone-iodine, benzalkonium chloride, or triclosan. Alcohol-free hand sanitizers may be effective immediately while on the skin, but the solutions themselves can become contaminated because alcohol is an in-solution preservative and without it, the alcohol-free solution itself is susceptible to contamination.

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