The best hand sanitizers

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 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 new coronavirus, many of these products are quickly selling out or appearing at prices well above market retail. We're doing our best to keep this guide updated with in-stock purchase links.

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 all those microbes, 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.

But if you're in a situation where you can't easily wash your hands, then hand sanitizers are a viable option. Advertisement

The key to making these microbes inactive 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.

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 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're doing our best to keep this guide updated with in-stock purchase links.
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Here are the best hand sanitizers you can buy:

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The best hand sanitizer overall

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, this cost a little under $7 in August 2017 and $17 at the end of January 2020 on Amazon. 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 publishing time for this item is $120. Stock is low at many online stores, including Office Depot.

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

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.

The usual price for this looks to be around $20 on Walmart, which is one of the more reputable sites that still have these wipes. However, due to news of the novel coronavirus, the price has gone up significantly and stock is low at Walmart.

Pros: Wipes contain 70% isopropyl alcohol, resealable canister, made in the USA

Cons: Very drying to the skin, strong alcohol odor

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The best non-alcohol sanitizer wipes

The best non-alcohol sanitizer wipes
While not as effective as an alcohol-based sanitizer, Purell Fresh Scent 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 Fresh Scent 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.

The sub-$5 for this is about right for the product, but 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 12 cans of wipes per person, and you can subscribe to the item for a future order when it's back in stock.

Pros: Antimicrobial, no harsh ingredients, the package is resealable

Cons: Not as effective as an alcohol wipe

The best hand sanitizer for dry skin

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, though you may find it in stores. When the item comes back in stock online, shoppers will be limited for four bottles each.

Pros: Effectively kills bacteria, contains moisturizers, light scent, large pump bottle

Cons: Only available at Office Depot or Office Max

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The best budget hand sanitizer

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 $6 for the large bottle, this doesn't seem to be marked up. Online inventory is currently unavailable at the time of publishing, but you might be able to find this in stores since it's Walmart's in-house brand. There are no current limits to how much shoppers can purchase if inventory becomes available online.

Pros: Budget-friendly, effectively kills microbes, contains moisturizers

Cons: Squeeze top

Check out our other cleaning guides

Check out our other cleaning guides
The best hand soaps

Washing your hands with soap and water is the single best way to prevent the spread of viral illnesses like colds and the flu, and it's the best way to keep bacteria from entering your body. Plain soap is fine — according to the FDA, there is no data to prove that anti-bacterial soaps are more effective than regular soaps. Here are the best hand soaps.

The best disinfecting cleaners

With the rise of infection from cold and flu viruses, protecting your family is more crucial than ever. While there isn't just one product that will easily disinfect everything in your home, we've put together the best disinfecting cleaners for everything from clothes to counters and athletic gear. Here are the best disinfecting cleaners.

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