The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend hand washing as one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from communicable diseases, but if that’s not an option, using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a good alternative.
Here are the most effective hand sanitizers including Purell, Equate, and Pharma C.
This article was medically reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.
Due to fears of the novel coronavirus, many of these products are quickly selling out or appearing at prices well above market retail.
We’ll continue to keep this guide updated with in-stock purchase links and have kept all links in the post in case products become available.
Read more: The best hand soaps
Commonly touched surfaces like door handles, shopping carts, phones, faucets, remote controls, and more harbor billions of potentially harmful microbes. This can be amplified during cold and flu season and viral outbreaks, making clean hands even more essential.
To help kill microbes that can make you sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend washing your hands with soap and water several times a day, spending at least 20 seconds lathering your hands, including the back of your hands as well as underneath your fingernails.
We have a buying guide to the best hand soaps here, but it goes beyond the proper soap — 97% of people aren’t washing their hands effectively. Here’s a great how-to as well as a list of songs you can sing besides “Happy Birthday” to hit the 20-second threshold.
When should you use hand sanitizer?
But if you’re in a situation where you can’t easily wash your hands, then hand sanitizers are a viable option.
The key is to use a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-free sanitizers that rely on other ingredients are not effective in killing the type of germs that can cause norovirus and coronavirus.
How to use hand sanitizer correctly
It’s also essential to use hand sanitizer correctly. Use at least a quarter-sized dollop of the sanitizer or enough to completely cover your hands each time. Rub it in well until your hands are dry — don’t wipe it off. If your hands are greasy or heavily soiled, sanitizer alone will not be effective.
Dr. Tania Elliott, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health, suggests wiping your hands off with a paper towel or rinsing with water if that’s available before doing a double application of hand sanitizer. This helps it penetrate the grime so the sanitizer can be effective.
Due to fears of the new coronavirus, many of these products are quickly selling out or appearing at prices well above market retail. We generally advise against hoarding so everyone can get fair access to the supplies they need and also caution against buying products at marked-up prices if you can avoid it, which is a result of hoarding and product shortages.
Manufacturers have stated that they’ll work to address production shortages, and we have personally seen availability come in and out and prices being more reasonable, so we expect to see things trend back to normal. We suggest signing up for email alerts when items come back in stock online. We suggest signing up for email alerts when items come back in stock online.
We’ll continue to do our best to keep this guide updated with in-stock purchase links, and have kept all links in the story in case products become available.
The best hand sanitizers you can buy:
Best hand sanitizer overall: Purell Advanced Aloe Scent Hand Sanitizer
Best hand sanitizing wipes: Pharma C Alcohol Wipes
Best non-alcohol sanitizer wipes: Purell Fresh Scent Sanitizing Wipes
Best hand sanitizer for dry skin: Highmark Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Aloe
Best budget hand sanitizer: Equate Hand Sanitizer with Aloe
Updated 6/12/20: Prices and links are accurate as of 6/12/20. Links to other effective hand sanitizers were added.
The best hand sanitizer overall
Purell Advanced Aloe Scent Hand Sanitizer contains 70% ethyl alcohol and is 99.9% effective in killing germs to help protect your hands.
Purell, a leading brand in hand sanitizing products, is used in many hospitals and medical clinics. This Purell gel formulation contains 70% ethyl alcohol as well as aloe, vitamin E, and other moisturizers to prevent excessive drying of the skin on our hands.
The high level of alcohol kills germs quickly and the solution is 99.9% effective in killing the contagious microbes. The formula is free of parabens, phthalates, and preservatives that can cause skin irritation.
I have sensitive skin and find that it does not cause excessive drying or result in itching or redness after use.
According to the price-tracking site CamelCamelCamel, a 4-pack of 8-ounce pump bottles on Amazon cost a little under $7 in August 2017 and $23 at the end of February 2020 if the order was fulfilled by Amazon. But due to news of the novel coronavirus, items fulfilled by Amazon have sold out and the prices for products fulfilled by third-party sellers have gone up significantly — the highest price as of March 11 for this item was $120, while the price at the end of February was already $60.
Stock is low at many online stores, including Office Depot where it’s currently sold out. Walmart was selling a 3-pack for a little under $13, which is more expensive than expected but not outrageously so. Staples was selling an eco-friendly version at a little under $9 for one 8-ounce pump bottle, which is considerably more expensive than usual. Previously, all three sites had waitlist options so shoppers could be notified once items were back in stock, but it seems like such options are no longer available.
Pros: Contains 70% ethyl alcohol, 99.9% effective in killing germs, contains moisturizing ingredients, light aloe scent, available in a pump bottle
Cons: More expensive than other sanitizers
The best hand sanitizing wipes
Pharma C Alcohol Wipes are large enough to thoroughly sanitize your hands with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
If you have ever had a flu shot, your arm was wiped down with a small alcohol wipe to remove bacteria from your skin. Pharma C Alcohol Wipes are a larger version that can sanitize your hands.
Measuring around 5.5 x 7 inches, the woven wipe is saturated with a 70% isopropyl alcohol and purified water solution. Presented in a canister with a pop-up lid, the wipes will stay moist if the lid is closed tightly.
I feel very confident when using these wipes that my hands are as germ-free as they can be. The big downside is that alcohol alone with no other buffers can be very drying to skin.
However, due to news of the novel coronavirus, the price has gone up significantly and stock comes in and out at. Both the one 40-count canister and the 6-pack option are both currently sold out on Walmart and Amazon respectively, though you can sign up for stock alerts for both products. According to the price tracker CamelCamelCamel, the price for one 40-count canister was around $15 via third-party at the end of February, and the 6-pack was around $45 from third-party sellers at the end of February.
At Walmart, the usual price for this looks to be around $20, which is more expensive than what we found on Amazon but also one of the more reputable sites that sell these wipes.
Pros: Wipes contain 70% isopropyl alcohol, resealable canister, made in the US
Cons: Very drying to the skin, strong alcohol odor
The best non-alcohol sanitizer wipes
While not as effective as an alcohol-based sanitizer, Purell Hand Sanitizing Wipes can help kill germs while still being gentle enough to use on your face.
If alcohol-based sanitizers are too harsh and drying, Purell Sanitizing Wipes can help kill common germs until you can get to a sink for handwashing.
I have a two-year-old grandson and he loves to share every germ he picks up as he explores the world. It just isn’t always convenient to wash his hands after he touches every surface in every store or play area, and alcohol-based wipes or gels can be rough on his skin. That’s why I keep a resealable pack of Purell wipes with us to clean his hands and face until we can do a more thorough job with soap and water later.
The wipes measure 6 x 7-inch and have been tested by dermatologists. They contain moisturizers but no dyes, parabens phthalates, or alcohol so they won’t wreck delicate skin. The solution instead contains benzalkonium chloride, an antimicrobial that kills most common germs that may cause illness. However, the CDC still recommends alcohol-based wipes as they’re more effective.
It was previously under $5 for one tub of wipes on Office Depot, so the current $10 price is definitely higher than normal. It’s currently out of stock for delivery on Office Depot as well as most other online stores, including Amazon, due to news of the novel coronavirus. It’s limited to 2 cans of wipes per person.
You might be able to find the wipes online at Target stores, but you’d have to confirm whether the items can be shipped to your zip code. There was a bulk option at Staples though inventory is unavailable as of March 12. If you’re looking to buy and split among your family or friends, and stock comes back in, buying in bulk seems like a good option when possible.
Pros: Antimicrobial, no harsh ingredients, the package is resealable
Cons: Not as effective as an alcohol-based wipe
The best hand sanitizer for dry skin
Highmark Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Aloe helps kills germs with 65% ethyl alcohol while aloe and vitamin E protect your skin.
If you need a hand sanitizer that won’t dry out hands, Highmark Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Aloe is a perfect choice. The large 32-ounce pump bottle makes it convenient to accommodates lots of dirty and sensitive or dry hands.
Highmark is an effective hand sanitizer with 65% ethyl alcohol, but the addition of aloe and vitamin E helps keep hands soft and moisturized. The aloe also leaves behind a light, fresh scent.
The $8 price sounds normal for this product especially when it’s such a large bottle, but it’s currently out of stock for delivery at the time of updating, though you may find it in Office Depot or Office Max stores as Highmark is made exclusively for those retailers.
When the item comes back in stock online, shoppers will be limited to ordering four bottles each.
Pros: Effectively kills bacteria, contains moisturizers, light scent, large pump bottle
Cons: Only available at Office Depot or Office Max
The best budget hand sanitizer
A large bottle of Equate Hand Sanitizer with Aloe can help kill germs without wrecking your wallet.
Walmart is a great place to save money on bulk household supplies, and its in-house brand of hand sanitizer, Equate Hand Sanitizer with Aloe, is a great budget buy. Made with 62% ethyl alcohol, moisturizing aloe, and vitamin E, it meets the requirements of an effective hand sanitizer outlined by the CDC while still preventing excessively dry skin.
The downside is that the large 60-ounce bottle is a squeeze bottle, not a pump, so it’s not as convenient as the Highmark and can be hard for kids and mature hands to pick up and use effectively.
At a little under $4 for a 32-ounce bottle, and under $6 for a 60-ounce, and under $8 for two, this doesn’t seem to be marked up. Online inventory is currently unavailable at the time of updating, but you might be able to find this in stores since it’s Walmart’s in-house brand.
You might have luck checking the site or even your nearest Walmart every so often too. We have seen availability online, but the items seem to sell out within five minutes so you’ll have to be quick if you see it available.
There are no current limits to how much shoppers can purchase if inventory becomes available online, though we’ve seen physical stores limit shoppers to prevent them from hoarding. You can put yourself on a waitlist to be notified when it’s back online.
Pros: Budget-friendly, effectively kills microbes, contains moisturizers
Cons: Squeeze top, only available at Walmart
What else we considered
Many companies have started developing hand sanitizers in response to the novel coronavirus to meet a public health need. We have not tested all of these to help keep inventory available to shoppers, but they meet the CDC and FDA guidelines for effective alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol.
Most of these are in stock as of publishing time, but if any are unavailable, know that brands are working to keep up with demand so we expect them to come back in stock soon.
Touchland Power Mist, $12 | Read our review of Touchland here
Nomad Hand Sanitizer, $26.95 for 6-pack
Lather Hand Sanitizer With Moisturizing Aloe, $6
Herbivore Hand Hero 75% Alcohol Hand Purifying Gel, $12
Public Goods Hand Sanitizer, $7.50
Public Goods Hand Sanitizer, $2
Oars Alps Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Spray, $12 for 2-pack
Oars Alps Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Gel, $16 for 2-pack
Soapbox Hand Sanitizer, $8.99
Murphy’s Naturals Hand Sanitizer, $4.99
DS Laboratories Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer, $17
By Humankind Hand Sanitizer, $20
Lather Hand Sanitizer With Moisturizing Aloe, $18
The Sis Kiss Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer, pre-order $22 for 3-pack
Vegamour Hand Sanitizer Spray, $16
Cabinet Duo Pack Instant Hand Cleanser, $8
Suny-tizer Lemon Hand Gel, $9.99
Suny-tizer Hand & Surface Sanitizer, $9.99
Nala Free-From Hand Sanitizer, $10
Fleur & Bee Dis-Mist Hand Sanitizer Spray, $18 for 3-pack
Sabon Hand Sanitizer, $9
Augustinus Bader The Hand Sanitizer (item is free but shipping to the US is $3.95)
MedZone Hand Sanitizer Gel, $17.99 for 3-pack
Bare Republic Hand Sanitizer Gel, $3.99
Bare Republic Hand Sanitizer Spray, $5.99
Zoya Hand Sanitizer, $2.99-$8.50
Bluelene Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer (free with any Bluelene purchase)
SPARITUAL Hand Sanitizer Spray, $20 for 4-pack
SPARITUAL Hand Sanitizer Liquid Refill, $25
Twinmedix Hani-tizer, $15
Sun Bum Baby Bum Hand Sanitizer, $3
Green Goo Hand Sanitizer, $9.95
Nature’s Fusion Hand Sanitizer Spray with Dragon’s Breath, $40 for 10-pack
Olika Minnie, $17.99
Art Naturals Hand Sanitizer Scent Free, $11.95 for 2-pack
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