How to Know if Your Hand Sanitizer is Safe and Works
Updated: Feb 16
On April 7, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement about its decision to relax hand sanitizer manufacturing guidelines. As COVID-19 cases rose rapidly, hand sanitizer was sold-out around the nation. The FDA loosened guidelines to get hand sanitizer back on store shelves and in the hands of those who need it.
The FDA continues to monitor emerging hand sanitizers for potentially harmful formulas or misleading claims. In a statement given on April 27, 2020, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said, “With this increased supply comes our continued mission to ensure safety of these products.” In this statement, the FDA confirmed more than 1,500 new manufacturers had registered with the agency to produce hand sanitizer. It is now January 2021, and this number has risen. With the major influx of hand sanitizer manufacturing, the FDA’s monitoring is not fail-proof.
As consumers, we have the privilege and responsibility to purchase consciously. So, how can you be sure the hand sanitizer you are purchasing is safe and effective?
What the experts say
The FDA recommends using “alcohol (ethanol) that is not less than 94.9 percent by volume.” Other required ingredients include glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, and sterile water.
How you use your hand sanitizer plays a large role in its efficacy. The CDC recommends you “properly apply hand sanitizer by rubbing the gel over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.”
Despite the relaxed regulations surrounding these circumstances, companies are responsible for the quality of their product.
Denaturing the ethanol is required to protect those who can’t read labels from mistaking hand sanitizer for something else. Denaturing means adding an unpleasant taste to the mixture.
Warnings from the CDC and FDA
Do not use a hand sanitizer that contains methanol (wood alcohol) or 1-propanol contamination.
Do not use a hand sanitizer that is “alcohol-free.” The CDC and FDA only recommend the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Do not choose alcohol-based hand sanitizers packaged in a container that resembles a food or beverage container. Calls to the National Poison Data System in March of 2020 rose 79 percent compared to March of 2019. One report involved a 13-year-old drinking hand sanitizer packaged in a liquor bottle from a distiller. The sanitizer wasn’t denatured, so it tasted like drinking alcohol. Brad Plummer, director of communications for the American Distilling Institute, stated denaturants are expensive to source and that the use of denatured alcohol can damage the distiller’s alcohol-making equipment.
Do not rinse or wipe off the alcohol-based hand sanitizer before it’s dry. Keep rubbing your hands together until they are dry. Once your hands are dry, they are safe.
Do not make your own hand sanitizer. DIY hand sanitizer can be ineffective and even dangerous. If a homemade hand sanitizer is formulated incorrectly, it could cause skin irritation or burns.
Hand Sanitizer Formulas
Some hand sanitizer formulas are much better than others. You may have caught what the CDC stated above, but to be clear, gel formulas are preferred. Liquid hand sanitizer comes in a spray bottle, which has proven to be less reliable than gel. Spray hand sanitizer is less favorable due to the difficult handling and application. Liquid sanitizer dries very quickly, which makes it difficult to know if you coated your hands thoroughly. You can read more about the benefits of gel hand sanitizer in my previous blog. Sympol hand sanitizer exemplifies how great gel hand sanitizer can be. You can trust Sympol is highly effective due to our formula using 80% ethanol alcohol. Our sanitizer is especially unique because it is formulated with moisturizing ingredients and pure natural oils.
How to Sanitize Your Hands the Right Way
Your hand sanitizer efficacy depends partially on how you use the hand sanitizer. To properly sanitize your hands, you must:
Put enough product on hands to cover both hands completely in sanitizer
Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds
Do not rinse or remove sanitizer in any way
Wait until the sanitizer is dry before touching anything else
This diagram shows how to rub-in your hand sanitizer most effectively. This technique will allow you to make sure both of your hands get entirely sanitized. Hand sanitizer can be ineffective if you do not cover your hands entirely, so it’s vital to make sure you apply enough product.