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What is Hand Sanitizer?

Clean hands save lives. We all know soap and water do the trick, so why use this curious little product? Because we don’t have time to run to the bathroom after every time we open a door or push the elevator button. If that were the case, we’d never leave the bathroom.


Hand sanitizers are the best option to keeping your hands clean when soap and water are not available. Let’s get up close and personal with this liquid superhero.   

What is hand sanitizer exactly?

There are two types of hand sanitizers on the market: alcohol-based and alcohol-free.


Alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain 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. Isopropanol is commonly used because it is soluble in water. This mixture is available in the form of a gel or foam and is non-toxic to the outer layers of your skin.


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 combo is non-flammable and non-toxic.

How do hand sanitizers kill the bad guys?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills disease causing agents by breaking apart their proteins, blasting cells into pieces or disrupting the cell’s metabolism. It’s tough work but someone’s gotta do it.


Research has shown that 60-95% alcohol concentration works best at blasting a variety of bacteria and viruses. Anything lower than 60% merely reduces the growth of germs rather than extinguishing completely. Why not just use 100% alcohol concentration? Alcohol’s effectiveness levels out at about 90-95% concentration.


Alcohol-free hand sanitizers may not be as strong as its counterpart, but they definitely get the job done. Their special power is that it acts like a detergent, destroying cell membranes and killing microorganisms. Unlike any alcohol-based product that stops working once dried, benzalkonium continues to provide protection long after the solution is absorbed.

Do hand sanitizers ever need to retire?

As long as evil germs circulate this earth, the hand sanitizer’s job is never done. So what’s this expiration date all about? Hand sanitizer, which is regulated by the FDA, receives an expiration date because of the FDA’s requirements on all packaging.


The expiration date refers to the last date at which the product contains the full amount of alcohol concentration specified on the label. Because alcohol has a low boiling point, it evaporates very easily. As the bottle is opened and closed, or if the temperature outside fluctuates, some of the alcohol may escape, ultimately lessening the effectiveness of the product. Two ways to avoid this from happening: keep the bottle at room temperature and keep it tightly closed when not in use.

Is hand sanitizer bad for your skin?

Safety should be a super hand sanitizer’s top priority! Good thing alcohols are considered safe and have generally no toxic effect on skin. Although, overuse can lead to dryness and cracking since the body’s natural oils get caught in the crossfire.


Alcohol-free options were designed with skin health in mind. Mainly water-based and typically paired with skin conditioners, this combination creates a much more gentle product on the skin.

How to properly use hand sanitizer.

Apply the suggested amount to the palm of one hand and rub the product over all the surfaces until your hands are completely dry.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using water and soap as your first line of defense against all types of germs. However, when that super duo aren’t around, grab your personalized hand sanitizer and demolish those villainous germs!