Is Hand Sanitizer Effective?

Hand sanitizers are a convenient method of cleaning your hands when you are on the go. Whether you or at the mall or a sporting event, you can easily disinfect your hands before eating or after sneezing with a quick rub of your hands. Although public bathrooms have soap and water to clean your hands, it is a good idea to use a hand sanitizer as well to provide yourself with as much protection against germs as possible.


Is Hand Sanitizer Effective?

There are many different types of hand sanitizers.  Typically, hand sanitizers are in the form of a lotion or gel, such as Purell.

Hand wipes in a container or packet, such as Wet Ones, are also available.  Some liquid sanitizers come in a bottle with a pump that transforms the liquid to a foam to apply to your hands.


Hand sanitizers are used to disinfect and eliminate bacteria from your hands.  These products are usually made in small travel sizes so they are convenient to take anywhere.

When you are somewhere where soap and water are not readily available to wash your hands, these products can be used instead. 


Hand sanitizers are particularly beneficial for reducing the amount of bacteria on your hands, which can lead to illness or cause infections.  For example, the use of hand sanitizers can reduce the risk of developing respiratory or gastrointestinal illness.

The best way to ensure that your hands are clean and free from bacteria is to use hand sanitizers in addition with hand-washing instead of as a replacement when possible. 


Alcohol-based, specifically ethanol or isopropanol, hand sanitizers are more effective in the prevention of bacteria.  In addition to cleaning your hands before and after eating, hand sanitizers are useful in eliminating germs that you are in contact with when using a phone, toilet or computer keyboard.

For optimal results, rub a dime sized amount of sanitizer into your hands vigorously for a minimum of 20 seconds or until dry.  If your hands are dry before the 20 seconds are you, you did not use enough and should repeat this process.

Remember to clean under your fingernails as well. 


When purchasing hand sanitizers, it is important to check their alcohol concentration.  Only sanitizers with a minimum of 60% ethyl alcohol, ethanol or isopropanol can effectively kill the most harmful bacteria.

These items should be kept away from children, since the high concentration of alcohol could result in alcohol poisoning if ingested.  However, hand sanitizers are not cleaning agents.

Therefore, when removing blood or other bodily fluids from your hands, you must wash your hands first in order for the alcohol in the sanitizer to be effective. 

About the Author

Barbara Aufiero has been writing health-related articles since 2008, specializing in mental health and health insurance. Aufiero resides in New York and holds a Master of Arts in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • www.nytimes.com