Hand sanitizer has been in the news a lot recently. Everywhere you turn it seems that everyone has a recommendation for how, when, and why to use it. It can even make you second guess things you thought you knew about hand sanitizer, like the fact that all hand sanitizers were not created equal, and some are not even strong enough to kill common bacteria, let alone viruses, which are typically more difficult to destroy.

As important as washing your hands is for protecting your own health, it is just as important to sanitize your hands to avoid spreading germs across surfaces to potentially infect other people.

Luckily, we have a handful of tips on exactly what to look for in an effective hand sanitizer to make sure you and your loved ones are as protected as possible.

Before we dive into the list, you should know that the CDC recommends washing your hands whenever possible, using soap and clean, warm water. Good handwashing is always your best first line of defense against disease-causing germs, whether there is currently a global pandemic going on or not.

  • Alcohol Concentration greater than 60%

The main ingredient in hand sanitizer and the main reason it is effective against some (not all) viruses and bacteria is because of alcohol. Alcohol breaks down the protective outer layers of certain germs and destroys them, but only in a high enough concentration.

  • Avoid Using Pure Alcohol

Although it would seem like if 60% of alcohol was good, that 100% would be better, but there are a few complicating factors. Even at 60%, alcohol-based hand sanitizers dry out your skin pretty quickly, and 100% alcohol is even harsher, making it a painful option for continual hand sanitizing. Also, studies have shown that a little bit of water improves the protein denaturation that helps protect against viruses and bacteria.

  • Stick to Store-Bought Sanitizers

Hand sanitizer is in short supply right now, which means people have started getting creative. From selling home-bottled sanitizers to offering recipes for a vodka-based substitute, it can be like navigating a minefield trying to decide the best way to sanitize. The professionals, however, recommend erring on the side of caution. Your average bottle of vodka is 80 proof, making it around 40% alcohol- not strong enough to kill most germs, and most off-brand sanitizers were not tested for efficacy. If you are trusting your health to these sanitizers, make sure it is a reputable brand purchased from a reputable retailer.  Better yet, you can purchase our Nurse Madonna Hand Sanitizers, which are 70% ethyl alcohol, and proudly made in the USA.

  • Check the Expiration Date

Although you may not have realized it, alcohol-based products- sanitizer included, expire. Unlike how food products expire, your sanitizer won’t go moldy but alcohol does lose its potency over time, so if your sanitizer is beyond its sell-by date, it is best you toss it out.

As with anything these days, a little bit of common sense seems to go a long way. It is still possible to find effective hand sanitizer out in the world, as long as you are careful with what you choose and you know what to look for.