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Let’s be honest: nothing will kill germs and bacteria better than washing your hands with soap and (warm) water. But if you don’t have easy access to a sink, a good hand sanitizer will work as a solid alternative.
Hand sanitizers are an essential part of your everyday carry, whether you’re packing for a camping trip, keeping clean during a festival or trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Produced in a viscous form, hand sanitizers feel a little bit like a slippery hair gel or shampoo, only instead of lathering up, they dry on contact with skin.
The best way to use hand sanitizer is to squeeze or spray a coin-sized amount into the palm of your hand and rub your hands together, making sure the product is distributed evenly. We’ve found hand sanitizers that dry quickly and won’t leave a sticky film or residue.
According to manufacturers, the best hand sanitizers are up to 99.99% effective in killing germs. They can also help eliminate odors (say, after chopping an onion). The latest hand sanitizers may also contain natural fragrances and moisturizing ingredients, to keep your hands soft and smelling good.
What You Need to Know About Hand Sanitizers
They’re just for your hands. As the name suggests, hand sanitizers are meant for use only on your hands. Do not use on other areas of the body, as it could cause irritation or redness on the skin. And definitely do not rub your eyes until the product has completely dried.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are best. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. According to the CDC, alcohol helps reduce the number of microbes on your hands. People with skin sensitivities may want to consider an alcohol-free option, which we’ve included in our list below. Keep in mind, the CDC says hand sanitizers without 65-90% alcohol “may merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.”
Dust your hands off or wipe them down before using a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers work better when your hands are free from dust and dirt. They won’t be as effective when your hands are dirty or greasy. Soap is still best for getting out grease and oil.
Hand sanitizers won’t completely kill everything. While the CDC says hand sanitizers help to kill bacteria, they won’t be completely effective in removing things like pesticides and heavy metals from hands. And they definitely won’t be effective if you’ve touched a hazardous substance. Seriously, if that happens — go to the hospital.
To prevent you from getting sick or spreading germs to other people, here are the best hand sanitizers to pick up right now.
1. Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer Wipes
Pediatrician and dermatologist-approved, this hand sanitizer is made from gentle, plant-based ingredients that help disinfect as they clean. Things like citrus peels help to nourish, while aloe helps to soothe even sensitive skin. The non-allergenic, alcohol-free formula is safe to use even on babies, and it won’t dry out your skin.
Babyganics says the hand sanitizer kills 99.9 percentage of germs. In addition to being alcohol-free, there are no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances or dyes.
The set contains four packs of sanitizing wipes, with 20 wipes per pack. The wipes are great for your hands, wiping down furniture and devices and for keeping germ-free while traveling.
PROS: Safe, gentle, effective formula for all ages and skin types. These packs of wipes are travel-friendly.
CONS: There is a subtle “mandarin” scent which may affect sensitive noses.
2. Germ-X Hand Sanitizer
Products from Germ-X are made in the USA and found in some of the most bacteria-prone places in the country, from doctors’ offices to airports to labs. The company says this hand sanitizer can kill 99.99% of common household germs and bacteria in as little as 15 seconds.
The fast acting formula dries quickly, with no sticky residue. It also contains vitamin E and aloe, known for their moisturizing and skin-soothing properties. Hands feel cleaner and smoother.
This eight ounce bottle is an ideal size for your desk, by the sink or to keep in your glove compartment.
PROS: Convenient pump bottle dispenses an even amount each time.
CONS: Contains a sweet aloe scent; not fragrance-free. Bottle is too large to bring on-board a plane.
3. Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray
Clorox is known for its household cleaning solutions, but don’t worry, this bottle of hand sanitizer is bleach-free and safe for skin contact.
From Clorox Commercial Solutions, this spray bottle was originally developed for industrial use (think warehouses, schools and restaurants) but it’s great for use around the home as well. Clorox says its powerful formula kills 99.999% of germs in 15 seconds.
The hand sanitizer contains 71% ethyl alcohol, with the addition of emollients (I.e. non-cosmetic moisturizers) to help keep skin soft. There is no greasy or sticky feeling and the spray dries quickly.
This set gets you a 16.9 ounce pump spray bottle of hand sanitizer. We like the spray action, which distributes the sanitizing ingredients more evenly and across a wider surface.
CONS: Contains alcohol which can be drying.