Best Hand Sanitizers

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
202 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best hand sanitizers

Last Updated July 2020

When you spend time in public places, you know how important it is to keep your hands clean to avoid the spread of germs, illnesses, and bacteria. Since a sink isn’t always within reach to wash your hands, hand sanitizer is an effective defense to keep germs at bay. Hand sanitizers are waterless hygiene products that are convenient, especially if you’re a commuter, educator, or healthcare worker. Some formulas are over 99% effective at reducing the spread of illness-causing germs.

There’s a wide variety of hand sanitizers to choose from. If you want a cost-effective formula, stick with traditional alcohol-based sanitizers to get the most bang for your buck. However, there are also specialty formulas with organic ingredients and chemical alternatives if you have allergies, sensitive skin, or are looking for a hand sanitizer that’s safe for kids.

Our buying guide details everything you need to consider when shopping for hand sanitizers. For our picks for the best hand sanitizers on the market, see the matrix above.

It’s not the best idea to keep hand sanitizer in your car because the bottle may explode in extreme temperatures. If you always want to have hand sanitizer with you, it’s better to keep it in your purse or gym bag.

Key considerations

Formula

Most hand sanitizers come in gel form. Unlike other gels like hair gel, hand sanitizer usually has a watery consistency and drips off quickly if you don’t work it into your hands. Gels can get messy, but they tend to be the least expensive hand sanitizers. As a result, gel hand sanitizers are often found in extra-large dispensers in classrooms, offices, and hospitals.

Liquid and foam hand sanitizers both have lightweight consistencies that are ideal for travel and personal use. Not only are they less messy than gels, there’s little wasted product with these hand sanitizers. They’re usually significantly more expensive, however. That said, some consumers find real value with liquid and foam sanitizers as a little goes a long way.

Dispenser

  • Spray: Travel bottles of hand sanitizer usually have spray nozzles. Though it takes a couple sprays to get the desired amount of sanitizer on your hands, spray bottles are ultra-convenient, especially since there is little mess.
  • Squeeze: These bottles have a flip-top cap that allows you to squeeze hand sanitizer into your hands. Squeeze bottles are generally less expensive than spray bottles. You can also refill them with almost any gel sanitizer.
  • Foam: Foam bottles are popular for everyday use, and they are generally full-size. Like foam hand soaps, foam hand sanitizers usually come in pump bottles. It’s easy to control how much product comes out at once.
  • Pump: Pump dispensers are popular for extra-large bottles of hand sanitizer. They have a traditional pump that takes a few full presses to dispense the desired amount of sanitizer, which is usually in gel form.

How to use hand sanitizer

No matter which hand sanitizer you choose, you’ll need to dispense an adequate amount for it to be effective. When it comes to gel sanitizer, a quarter-size amount is sufficient. For any spray or foam sanitizer, the packaging will indicate how many pumps are required, which is usually one to four. Once you have the sanitizer in your hands, rub it in as though you are washing your hands with soap. Hand sanitizer dries in seconds, leaving no residue behind, so you can continue with normal activities, protected from germs.

Residue-free formula with a convenient pump

Purell is a leading manufacturer of hand sanitizer, which is why this value pack of two extra-large pump bottles is a worthy investment. This alcohol-based antimicrobial formula absorbs quickly, so there’s no residue that transfers to other people or surfaces. The pump on the bottle is designed for heavy, frequent use, and it’s easy to refill smaller sanitizer bottles with the gel formula. With a reputation for effectiveness, it’s no wonder Purell is the preferred brand for hospitals and schools.

Features

Ingredients

The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol, making up between 60% and 70% of the formula. Inactive ingredients vary between hand sanitizers, though most contain water, glycerin, acetate, and fragrances. Many hand sanitizers also include moisturizing ingredients in the form of oils, aloe vera, or vitamin E.

Specialty formulas

There are hand sanitizers with specialty formulas that are alcohol-free or free of the harsh chemicals found in regular sanitizers. Alcohol-free formulas won’t dry out or burn your skin, so they’re ideal for children or those with sensitive skin. Other hand sanitizers aim to be as chemical-free as possible and are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes, and fragrances. These sanitizers tend to have plant-derived ingredients in place of chemicals.

EXPERT TIP

Hand sanitizer is essential for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Instead of wasting water to wash your hands, clean up with hand sanitizer after eating or touching sticky surfaces.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Keep multiple bottles of hand sanitizer around the house if you have a new baby. Encourage friends and family to sanitize before holding your little one to prevent the spread of germs.


Staff  | BestReviews

Hand sanitizer prices

For budget-friendly value packs of hand sanitizers, expect to spend between $8 and $12. You’ll get travel-size bottles or eight-ounce pump-bottle sanitizers. These hand sanitizers come from recognized brands with solid reputations for effective formulas.

If you need a sizable amount of hand sanitizer, expect to spend between $12 and $25 on a value pack. In this price range, you can find 32-ounce bottles of hand sanitizers, but they’re usually from lesser-known brands. Many of these bottles are refills with regular caps, though some have pumps.

At the top of the price range, between $25 and $40, are value packs from leading brands. You’ll find plenty of 32-ounce bottles of hand sanitizers from respected brands as well as specialty formulas and liquid and foam consistencies.

DID YOU KNOW?

Those who suffer from psoriasis, eczema, or other dermatological conditions do best with hand sanitizers that are free of alcohol, dyes, and parabens.

Tips

  • Use hand sanitizer after petting animals. After petting animals, use hand sanitizer to keep germs and dirt at bay until you can thoroughly wash your hands.
  • Keep hand sanitizer in your bag if you visit garage sales. If you go to a lot of garage and estate sales, especially in the same day, carry hand sanitizer with you to keep your hands clean as you’re touching many things throughout the day.
  • Avoid wiping hands on clothing after use. Some hand sanitizers have dyes or chemicals that can permanently stain fabric. Instead of wiping your hands on clothing, use a tissue or handkerchief to wipe away excess if necessary.
  • Keep hand sanitizer in homes with immune-compromised individuals. If someone in your home has a compromised immune system, keep hand sanitizer around the house. Remind guests to use the hand sanitizer prior to coming into contact with your family member.

Fresh-smelling and moisturizing

If you need a lot of hand sanitizer but have a small budget, this gel sanitizer from Germ-X is ideal. This value pack comes with four 30-ounce bottles equipped with pumps, so they’re ready to be used in bathrooms, classrooms, and offices. It has a cool, refreshing scent that masks the strong alcohol smell that’s associated with some hand sanitizers. To keep your hands moisturized, even after frequent use, it also contains aloe vera and vitamin E. With a formula that kills 99.9% of germs, this hand sanitizer is an essential addition to desks everywhere.

Other products we considered

The Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Organic Hand Sanitizer Spray is by far the best-smelling hand sanitizer out there, thanks to its subtle yet pleasant aroma of organic lavender oil. This multi-purpose hand sanitizer can also be used as a surface cleaner, air freshener, and deodorizer, so it’s ideal for those who travel, especially with children. As a child-safe, vegan, and non-GMO formula, it receives high marks for its all-natural formula. While this hand sanitizer has a premium price, a little goes a long way, so the two-ounce bottles last longer than you’d expect.

If you go through a lot of hand sanitizer, try the Mountain Falls Advanced Hand Sanitizer. This mega value pack of four 32-ounce bottles can meet the needs of offices, classrooms, and public bathrooms. The formula kills 99.9% of germs and is infused with moisturizers like vitamin E to leave hands soft after each use. The pleasant scent makes this hand sanitizer a favorite across the board, especially for those who are sensitive to off-putting chemical smells. Best of all, it only takes one pump to get the right amount.

If your hands feel dry after using hand sanitizer, apply a moisturizing lotion to keep your hands smooth and free from cracking.

FAQ

Q. Are there eco-friendly and ethical hand sanitizers?
A.
There are a number of hand sanitizers with formulas derived from plant-based ingredients, rather than harsh chemicals. If you’re looking for ethically sourced products, there are many hand sanitizers that are cruelty-free and fair trade, and these brands often list their testing labs on the packaging or their websites. Some hand sanitizers have biodegradable formulas and are also packaged in recyclable containers.
 

Q. Are alcohol-free hand sanitizers less effective?
A.
The CDC reports that alcohol-free hand sanitizers aren’t as effective for combatting certain germs and microbes. They’re still considered effective as antiseptics, but their scope is somewhat limited compared to alcohol-based formulas. On the upside, many alcohol-free formulas stay active longer – sometimes up to six hours – for long-term effectiveness. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have much shorter windows, so reapplication is often necessary.
 

Q. Why does my skin burn when I use hand sanitizer?
A.
You could have open wounds or broken skin on your hands, which will sting if they come into contact with hand sanitizer, particularly alcohol-based formulas. Some hand sanitizers also have parabens, which can cause a burning sensation for some individuals with sensitive skin. If you’re experiencing burning when using hand sanitizer, switch to an alcohol-free formula with gentle ingredients that are suitable for sensitive skin.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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