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Which hand sanitizer is best?

We live in a time when limiting the spread of dangerous microscopic organisms is of the highest concern. There are many methods of helping others and ourselves stay healthy and safe, from getting vaccinations to self-isolating when sick, but one of the easiest, most affordable methods is using hand sanitizer.

The best-known hand sanitizer brand is also the best, for good reason. Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel is effective, quick-acting and available in several sizes, from travel to massive refill-sized bottles.

What to know before you buy hand sanitizer


Look at your hand sanitizer’s package to see how much you should use. With most gel-based sanitizers, a quarter-sized amount is sufficient. Foam and spray types typically require one to four pumps. Once dispensed, rub the sanitizer into your hands as if it were soap.

Hand sanitizer types

Gel hand sanitizers are the most common type and also the most affordable. The name can be a slight misnomer as gel sanitizers usually have a watery consistency and can slide off your hands if not rubbed in immediately. They can also be quite messy.

Excellent for travel use, liquid and foam hand sanitizers are less messy due to their lightweight consistencies. They waste very little, which is good because they are more expensive than gel hand sanitizers.

Dispenser types

  • Squeeze: These bottles have flip-top caps. When opened, turn them upside down and squeeze to get the contents into your hands. These are among the most affordable dispensers.
  • Pump: Pump dispensing is typical of extra-large vats of hand sanitizer, and they usually dispense gel sanitizer. It might take a few pumps to get enough sanitizer in your hands, though.
  • Spray: A popular dispensing type for travel, it can take a few sprays to get enough — but you can’t beat their convenience.
  • Foam: Foam dispensers usually are attached to large pump bottles of hand sanitizer. They are a popular dispensing type for automatic hand-sanitizing dispensers.

What to look for in a quality hand sanitizer


With most hand sanitizers, 60%-70% is ethyl alcohol, with inactive ingredients such as water, acetate and fragrances making up the rest. Others might include moisturizers such as aloe vera and vitamin E.

Specialty formulas

Some hand sanitizers don’t contain alcohol or other harsh chemicals that can burn or dry skin. These typically are marketed for children or those with sensitive skin, and they generally use plant-based ingredients instead.

How much you can expect to spend on hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizers come in all amounts and sizes, all with their own ranges of costs. For less than $10, you typically can pick up travel-sized or small pump bottles. Spending up to $25 nets you large off-brand bottles meant more for refilling bottles you already have. Above that you’ll find bundles of high-quality hand sanitizers or refill bottles of top brands, among other specialty sanitizers.

Hand sanitizer FAQ

Are alcohol-free hand sanitizers as effective as those with alcohol?

A. Yes and no. They aren’t as effective when used to fight microbes and other germs, but they’re just as effective when used as an antiseptic, although with limited scope. They stay active longer after use than alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Are there ethical or ecologically friendly hand sanitizers?

A. Yes. Some hand sanitizers are made from plant-based ingredients; others are fair trade and cruelty-free, with their packaging or websites frequently listing their testing labs. Others use biodegradable formulas and recyclable containers.

What causes a burning sensation when you apply hand sanitizer?

A. You’re likely using an alcohol-based formula that came into contact with open wounds or areas of broken skin. Another reason could be the hand sanitizer contains parabens, which can cause a burning sensation for those with sensitive skin. Try using alcohol-free formulas to avoid the sensation.

What’s the best hand sanitizer to buy?

Top hand sanitizer

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel

What you need to know: It’s effective and made by a reputable, well-known manufacturer.

What you’ll love: The alcohol-based formula works fast, absorbing into the skin quickly.

What you should consider: If you don’t like the strong smell of alcohol or your skin is dry, avoid this hand sanitizer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top hand sanitizer for the money

Best Germ-X Original Hand Sanitizer

Germ-X Original Hand Sanitizer

What you need to know: This is the best budget option without sacrificing value.

What you’ll love: This is a hand sanitizer with a fresh scent instead of the strong waves of alcohol like most sanitizers.

What you should consider: Those with sensitive skin should avoid this strong hand sanitizer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

BestThe Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray

The Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray

What you need to know: This hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested hand sanitizer spray effectively kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria.

What you’ll love: It’s free of alcohol, fragrances and sulfates, among other chemicals.

What you should consider: This is fairly pricey for a 2-ounce bottle.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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