How to choose the right hand sanitiser

With so many sanitisers on the market, it can be difficult to determine the most effective one and moreover, what works best for you. Below are some criteria to help you make the decision.

Alcohol-based or alcohol-free?

Sanitisers can either be alcohol-based or alcohol-free, but it begs the question; which option is more effective at killing germs? The answer is both.

Alcohol has pathogenic-killing properties and is present in almost all domestic disinfectants, so there is no doubting its effectiveness in killing germs. According to the CDC, hand sanitisers with at least 60% alcohol content are scientifically proven to be the most effective in germ elimination [1]. You can locate this on the label of the sanitiser bottle under names of ethanol, ethyl alcohol or isopropanol.

Alternatively, hypocholorous acid is the substitute within the alcohol-free sanitisers and is just as effective at eliminating pathogens as alcohol. The preference for either lies on your skin sensitivity. Alcohol-free sanitisers tend to be kinder on the skin and can contain other ingredients such as; aloe vera which help to moisturise [2].

The alternative ingredient – hypochlorous acid?

Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is a natural occurring acid within our bodies. It’s released by our white blood cells when they encounter certain pathogens [3]. Therefore, it would make sense that sanitisers containing HOCl would be just as effective as killing on-surface skin pathogens. Artificial chemicals within sanitisers, such as; alcohol, can increase the risk of dermatitis upon regular usage. Sanitisers with HOCl hold the upper hand in that they kill more bacteria than bleach with minimal. One to note for those with more sensitive skin types.

The percentage rule.

Typically, sanitiser labels will often state they kill 99.9% or 99.99% of germs. It is not a question of effectiveness rather a difference in the number of pathogens it eradicates. It goes by the rule; the more decimal places, the more pathogens it kills. There is not a single sanitiser yet that eliminates all types of bacteria and viruses. However, the more types of pathogens it kills, the less likely you are to contract an infection from one [4].

So, when making your decision about the right sanitiser for you, remember that labels with 99.999% compared to 99.9% will protect you from more pathogens.

Finding the right sanitiser can be difficult but knowing what ingredients to look for on the label will help you make an informed choice – from alcohol content to percentage of bacteria killed. If you prefer the standard alcohol formula or if you favour the natural alternative, remember that hand hygiene is effectively maintained by regular hand washing [5].

Author: Rebekah Jordan


[1] CDC. (2019). How to Select and Use Hand Sanistizer. Accessed at:

[2] Dyer. D. L, Gerenraich, K. B. & Wadhams, P. S. (1998). Testing a new alcohol-free hand santizer to combat infection. Accessed at:

[3] Block, M. S. and Rowan, B. G. (2020). Hypochlorus Acid: A Review. Accessed at:

[4] Toucaneco. (2020). 5-minute explainer: how to understand log reductions. Accessed at:

[5] Eurofins. (2020). Covid-19 | Hand sanitisers – Testing service, toxicology and regulatory support. Accessed at: