When the pandemic hit in 2020, hand sanitizer quickly became one of the hottest commodities to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, resulting in empty store shelves and a demand manufacturers could not keep pace with. The germ-fighting product is easier to find nowadays, but demand is on the rise again with U.S. officials having recently declared monkeypox a public health emergency.
While monkeypox spreads primarily through close intimate contact, it can also spread through skin-to-skin contact, including “direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs or body fluids from a person with monkeypox or touching objects, surfaces or clothing that have been used by someone with monkeypox,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So how should you protect yourself? Besides getting vaccinated, which the CDC strongly recommends, another safeguard is to wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and, when that option is not available, to use a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Below, we outlined the CDC’s guidance on how to shop for hand sanitizers and rounded up hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol per their guidelines.
The best hand sanitizers meeting CDC guidance
Unfortunately, the ingredients within hand sanitizers vary greatly, and the FDA can’t force recalls on over-the-counter drugs and hand sanitizers; it can only do so by pressuring companies to do so voluntarily.
To help you find some of the safest and most effective hand sanitizers on the market, we rounded up sanitizers that are not only CDC- and FDA-compliant, but also contain ingredients such as aloe vera and glycerin to help soothe and hydrate the skin. We included household-sized sanitizers as well as travel-sized sanitizers for on-the-go protection.
Germ-X comes in four varieties: fragrance-free, waterfall scent, citrus peel scent and aloe vera-infused. It’s free from parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde, according to the brand, and contains 62% alcohol. It’s also formulated with moisturizers and vitamin E to soothe drying hands, Germ-X says.
This organic hand sanitizer, which contains 62% alcohol, is formulated with glycerin and dimethicone, which together help hydrate and moisturize the skin, according to EO. The hand sanitizer is available in three soothing scents: Lavender, Peppermint and Sweet Orange. If you’re sensitive to smells, opt for the Unscented version — experts have previously told us that unscented products are better for sensitive skin.
The 70% ethyl alcohol in ClimbOn’s Hand Spray exceeds the CDC requirement, making it a good option for fighting germs and bacteria. The spray is made with soothing aloe vera gel as well as moisturizing coconut oil, the brand says. Lemon and clove oils help leave behind a light, refreshing scent. Other hand-sanitizing sprays to consider include OLIKA, Noshinku, Hello Bello and OH.SO.
Touchland’s hand sanitizer contains 67% ethyl alcohol, which is above the CDC requirement, and comes in 12 different fragrances, like Watermelon, Beach Coco, Aloe Vera and Mint. Each variety contains aloe vera and lemon essential oil to soothe the skin, as well as radish root ferment to boost antimicrobial protection, according to the brand.
Perhaps one of the most well known hand sanitizers ,Purell contains 70% ethyl alcohol. The gel hand sanitizer is paraben-, aluminum- and dye-free, according to the brand. It’s available in large sizes to keep around the house, as well as in travel-size bottles to take with you on the go.
This gel hand sanitizer comes in three scents — Orange Neroli, White Tea and Grapefruit Cassis — in either 2- or 8-ounce sizes. According to the brand, it contains 70% ethyl alcohol and is made with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, prickly pear seed oil and glycerin, without parabens or phthalates.
These hemp seed extract-infused hand sanitizers contain 70% alcohol and are available in gel and spray formulas. They come in two sizes — 1.7 ounces and 10 ounces – so you can pick what is most convenient for you.
Mega Babe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer is made with 62% ethyl alcohol to help kill bacteria. It’s free of problematic ingredients like synthetic fragrance, parabens, phthalates and sulfates, the brand says — instead, there are hydrating ingredients in it like aloe vera, marula and sweet almond oils, which Mega Babe says can help you avoid dry, cracked hands. The pocket-size hand sanitizer, which has a light citrus scent, is convenient for when you’re on the go. If you prefer a larger size, consider the 16-ounce bottle of Squeaky Clean hand sanitizer with a pump to keep by your work-from-home desk for quick access.
Select editor Morgan Greenwald said she doesn’t leave the house without her travel-size Dove Hand Sanitizer. “It feels almost like a lotion and doesn’t have an overpowering alcohol smell like some of the others,” she said. Dove’s hand sanitizer contains 61% ethyl alcohol as well as the brand’s Moisture Renewal Blend, which it says works with your skin to produce ceramides and provide lasting moisture. The sanitizer, which comes in different scents, is also available in a larger 8-ounce container.
How to use hand sanitizer (and what to avoid)
In August 2021, the CDC updated its guidance to include the following:
- Supervise young children when using hand sanitizer to prevent them from ingesting alcohol.
- Always put enough sanitizer on your hands to cover all surfaces.
- Rub your hands together for about 20 seconds after putting on sanitizer until they feel dry (the dry time is critical to increasing the efficacy of your hand sanitizer, according to medical experts).
- Avoid hand sanitizers listed on the FDA’s Hand Sanitizer Do-Not-Use List. This is largely because only ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol (also known as 2-propanol) are acceptable in hand sanitizer. The FDA is seeing a sharp increase in hand sanitizers containing other types of alcohol, notably methyl (other common names include methanol and wood alcohol) and 1-propanol (sometimes referred to as 1-propanol), both of which are toxic to humans.
- Avoid hand sanitizers that are labeled “alcohol-free.”
- Avoid hand sanitizers packaged in a container that resembles a water bottle or a food container.