Instant Hand Sanitizers

Your first defense against germs

Alcohol-based sanitizers are a quick and easy way to keep one's hands clean without the use of soap and water. Once seen only in hospitals, this easy-to-use product is quickly becoming a fixture in homes, classrooms, day-care centers and offices. Studies have proven that these sanitizers are effective in removing bacteria and viruses. Despite their popularity, though, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not suitable for all circumstances.


According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), commercially available sanitizing products are most effective when their alcohol content is greater than 62 percent. This is the concentration at which the most bacteria and viruses are killed. Additionally, these products are wonderful at preventing the spread of common infections that lead to contagious illness. Some of these products are even formulated to prevent dryness that would normally accompany the use of alcohol, which has astringent properties. Most of these products are nontoxic; however, it is important to read the label and follow instructions for use. Additionally, the FDA determined that the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers did not contribute to antibiotic resistance. This makes these products more desirable than antibacterial wipes.


Commercially available hand sanitizers are not effective against all types of bacteria. For example, alcohol-based products, even those with high concentrations of alcohol, cannot kill Clostridium difficile (aka C.diff), a common source of infection in hospitals. There are also dangers associated with using alcohol-based hand sanitizers around younger children. Just because something is nontoxic does not mean it's safe for children. A mere ounce or two, if ingested by a toddler, could be fatal. Purell is currently the only product of its type that is safe for use around children, according to the label. In order to protect little ones from coming into contact with dangerous amounts of alcohol-based sanitizers, it is best to keep the product in a cupboard instead of leaving it out on the counter as if it were a soap dispenser.

Proper Use of Hand Sanitizers

Proper use is of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is the best way to ensure safety. Always consult the label for application instruction if the sanitizer being used is a different one from usual. Application of the product should proceed as follows:

  1. Pump or squirt approximately 1 teaspoon (a drop the size of a nickel) onto the palm of your hands.
  2. Rub hands together thoroughly, being sure to rub the product over the entire surface (palm and back) of your hands.
  3. Keep rubbing until the product evaporates and your hands feel dry.

Hand-sanitizing gels should be used only when washing with warm water and soap is not an option or when you're in a situation where there's a high likelihood of hepatitis B (such as at outdoor picnics and parties, at petting zoos, in public restrooms at state parks, etc.)

A good rule of thumb for using hand sanitizers is: If dirt is visible, use soap and water; all other times, hand sanitizer is sufficient.

By Lauren Beyenhof