The 6 Best Hand Sanitizers That Meet the CDC Guidelines
Purell might be sold out, but you can shop these alternatives instead.
You’ve been hearing it since childhood, but we’ll say it again for the people in the back: Keeping your hands clean is the easiest way to prevent sickness and stop the spread of germs. It’s not just a statement beloved by moms and kindergarten teachers, but a fact shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While a thorough scrub-down with soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands—it’s the best cleansing method for removing germs like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridium difficile, according to the CDC—you won’t always have access to a sink. And even if a sink is nearby, washing your hands after every single exposure to a dirty surface (so, basically every second) can start to feel like an obsessive, time-sucking venture. Instead, it’s worth trying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Multiple studies have found that using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a water-constrained environment can be just as effective as handwashing with soap, if not more. Plus, with 97% of people improperly washing their hands, it’s no surprise that incorporating hand sanitizer into your hygiene routine can actually lead to less sick days, as researchers found in a 2018 study published in the Pediatrics journal.
To ensure you’re getting the most of your hand sanitizer, the CDC recommends using a formula with at least 60 to 95% alcohol concentration. This high concentration is critical because alcohol acts as a “denaturing agent” that kills or inactivates viruses, as Pritish K. Tosh, MD, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician and researcher, previously told Health.
To help you find the best sanitizers that meet CDC requirements, we collected the top picks available to shop online right now. Unfortunately, options are limited due to the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak—many major brands, including Purell and GermX, are sold out. But the good news is that there are still plenty of top-rated hand sanitizing products available to stock up on now so you can stay as healthy as possible. Here are the best hand sanitizers:
1. Best Overall: Peter Thomas Roth Hand Sanitizer
Celebrity-adored skincare brand Peter Thomas Roth launched its first-ever hand sanitizer this month, and it doesn’t disappoint. The 2-ounce bottle contains the highest alcohol concentration on this list, 80%, along with a hydrating boost of glycerin. Plus, your purchase supports the beauty brand’s initiative to give up to 5,000 bottles of the sanitizer to New York’s largest healthcare provider, Northwell Health Hospitals.
Available at peterthomasroth.com, $10
2. Best Multipurpose: Jao Refresher Not Just for Hands Sanitizer
Jao’s unique formula isn’t just crafted for clean hands, but actually doubles as a face toner, underarm refresher, zit zapper, aftershave, and aroma booster, too. The disinfectant combines 65% ethyl alcohol with antiseptic essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and lavender to clean and give a powerful dose of aromatherapy. Plus, the clean beauty find is bound to be a staple that stays in your handbag far beyond flu season.
Available at anthropologie.com, $10
3. Best Spray: Orly Hand Sanitizer Spray
This sanitizer’s streamlined formula skips fragrances and oils in favor of efficiency. The spray-on formula has just 4 ingredients—hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, purified water, and 75% isopropyl alcohol—to keep your hands clean when soap and water just isn’t an option. Your purchase also gives back; each 4-pack sold is matched with a donation of one bottle to the city of Los Angeles, and that’s in addition to the 10,000 units Orly has already donated.
Available at orly.com, 4 for $24
4. Best Scent: Vegamour Hand Sanitizer Spray
Unlike other hand sanitizers on the market, Vegamour’s plant-based option smells like calming lavender and citrus peel rather than alcohol. Every spritz delivers a 75% alcohol concentration to kill fungus, germs, and microbes without leaving your skin with a sticky residue. You’ll also love that the vegan formula doesn’t dry out skin and boasts nourishing ingredients like marula oil and aloe vera.
Available at vegamour.com, $16
5. Best Hydrating: Pipette Hand Sanitizer
Baby brand Pipette created this fragrance-free gel to give small hands a safe sanitizer. You’ll still find the CDC-recommended alcohol level, 65%, in the formula, but it also includes a dose of hydrating squalane oil and glycerin. That means you can count on hands that are sanitized and soft—no hand cream necessary.
Available at pipette.com, $5
6. Best for Sensitive Skin: Art Naturals’ Mini Hand Sanitizer
You won’t want to leave your home without bringing along this travel-sized pick. Perfectly constructed for sanitizing on the go with an easy-open top, it’s a top pick for anyone with sensitive skin due to its lower alcohol concentration and lack of synthetic chemicals. Already an Amazon best-seller, it stands out from other picks thanks to a moisturizing formula developed with jojoba oil and Vitamin E in addition to 62.5% ethyl alcohol.
Available at amazon.com, 4 for $30
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.