There are two types of hand sanitizers on the market approved by the FDA: alcohol-based and alcohol-free.
Alcohol-free hand sanitizers often contain 0.1% concentration of benzalkonium chloride, a quaternary ammonium, combined with water and enhanced with skin conditioners like vitamin E and green tea extract. This combination acts like a detergent, destroying cell membranes and killing microorganisms.
Unfortunately, studies suggest alcohol free-hand sanitizers might only reduce the growth of germs rather than killing them altogether. Of course, this option is better than using nothing at all, but it’s extremely important to read labels and understand the active ingredients weaker capabilities.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain anywhere from 60-95% alcohol in combination with emollients, thickening agents, and sometimes fragrance. The types of alcohol used in most hand sanitizers are ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol).
Ethanol is the same chemical in alcoholic beverages that classify them as alcoholic. It is a well-known antimicrobial agent, first recommended for the treatment of hand washing in the year 1888.
Isopropanol and n-propanol are commonly used because of its disinfectant prosperities and that it is easily soluble in water. These antimicrobial agents were introduced into the hand disinfectant community in 1904.