When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, nothing beats soap and water. But if handwashing isn’t an option, the next best thing is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

To help you find a hand sanitizer that not only kills germs, but also works for you, we read product reviews, talked to experts, and considered user comments for a variety of products.

After careful consideration, we chose eight top picks for hand sanitizers, each representing a different category.

Hand sanitizers are a portable and convenient product that, when used correctly, can help prevent the spread of infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol to help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs.

What to look for in a hand sanitizer

Knowing which brand to trust isn’t easy, especially since the market is experiencing a significant increase in products.

Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, associate professor of health science at Ball State University, says he’s seen all kinds of hand sanitizer brands that he never saw on the shelves before COVID-19.

The problem is, says Khubchandani, it’s not always clear if these products are strong and efficient enough to stop the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

He also says consumers need to question whether these products have the right mix of ingredients.

You can follow the current good manufacturing practice (CGMPs) or the guidelines from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Can hand sanitizers lead to bacterial resistance?

Hand sanitizers come in handy, especially when soap and water aren’t available.

But with increased use and reliance on alcohol-based hand sanitizers, some people wonder if the germs we’re trying to kill could develop a resistance.

It’s an excellent question and one that doesn’t have a definite answer yet.

What we do know, according to one study, is that several strains are adjusting to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which could lead to resistance.

Remember that regular soap is a natural antibiotic. Experts say proper handwashing is enough to keep people safe, and they only recommend using hand sanitizers when you don’t have access to soap and water.

Recommended hand sanitizers

Online and brick-and-mortar retailers carry several hand sanitizers, but some brands have more benefits than others. Here are eight of the best hand sanitizers for 2020.

Price guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Due to COVID-19, some hand sanitizers may be difficult to find

It’s important to note that some of these products are currently unavailable both online and in-store. Many companies plan to restock hand sanitizer by July 2020.

Healthline

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: It’s a top pick for hospitals and doctor’s offices, and it contains more ethyl alcohol than other leading brands.
  • Cons: The original formula has a strong alcohol smell.
  • Price: $

A top pick for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and homes is Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer. Why? Because it’s formulated with 70 percent ethyl alcohol, which is higher than the minimum recommended by the CDC.

If you’re looking for a hand sanitizer with a light fragrance and soothing qualities, Purell offers a formula with aloe vera.

CHI Natural Gardens Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: The soothing formula keeps hands soft, and it contains 92 percent natural ingredients.
  • Cons: It’s more expensive than other brands and not widely available (may be purchased from the company website and Sally Beauty Supply).
  • Price: $$/$$$ (depending on size)

Effectively kills germs, yet gentle enough for sensitive skin. CHI Natural Gardens Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer is an excellent option for anyone looking for a natural hand sanitizer.

CHI contains organically grown aloe vera and glycerin to help soothe and seal in moisture.

Germ-X Moisturizing Original Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: The aloe vera formula contains vitamin E and aloe, which can help soothe and moisturize dry skin. It contains 63 percent ethyl alcohol.
  • Cons: The original formula might be drying for some skin.
  • Price: $

When you’re traveling, you’ll want a conveniently sized bottle that’s also easy to open. That’s why Germ-X Moisturizing Original Hand Sanitizer is a great choice for on-the-go.

Available in a variety of travel sizes including 2, 3, and 8 ounces, it also comes with a flip-top cap that prevents spills.

Small enough to fit in your pocket yet strong enough to kill 99.99 percent of many common harmful germs and bacteria, Germ-X is a trusted brand that has been around for years.

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: It smells good, comes in a small size for convenience, and is certified USDA organic.
  • Cons: It’s much more expensive than other travel-size hand sanitizers.
  • Price: $/$$ (depending on size)

If you’re looking for an organic and portable hand sanitizer spray, then check out Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer.

This travel-sized formula is certified organic, packaged in a recyclable bottle, and it contains 62 percent organic fair-trade ethyl alcohol. Plus, it comes in two different fragrances: lavender or peppermint.

Pharma C Alcohol Wipes

  • Pros: Wipes are moist and dispense easily.
  • Cons: There’s no moisturizer, and it’s very strong. It could dry out your skin.
  • Price: $

Hand sanitizing wipes come in handy when you’re on-the-go and need to kill germs while also wiping away dirt and messes.

A great choice for sanitizing wipes, says Mike Golpa, DDS, a dentist, and CEO of G4 by Golpa, is Pharma C Alcohol Wipes. “It’s a safe solution with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, and it comes in a convenient canister,” he says.

Suave Hand Sanitizer Spray

  • Pros: It evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave hands feeling sticky.
  • Cons: The bottle is big (like a hair spray bottle), so it’s not the best choice for a purse or bag.
  • Price: $ (price per bottle, but it comes in a pack of six from Amazon)

Suave is well known for their hair products, but they also have a hand sanitizer spray that’s a top pick for families, worksites, and offices.

The sanitizer is a liquid mist, not a gel, so it goes on easy. Plus, it contains 65 percent ethyl alcohol, which exceeds the CDC’s guidelines.

Megababe Squeaky Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: The vegan formula is gentle on skin, and it’s free from parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and other harmful ingredients.
  • Cons: It’s more expensive than other brands.
  • Price: $$

Megababe contains 62 percent ethyl alcohol as well as sweet almond oil, marula oil, geranium oil, and more. The essential oils give the formula a pleasant, sweet smell and provide extra hydration for your skin.

Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer

  • Pros: It’s a foam instead of a gel.
  • Cons: It may not be as effective as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Price: $

Most kid-approved hand sanitizers are alcohol-free, so finding a formula with ingredients safe for your little one’s hands is priority number one for many parents.

That’s why Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer is such a popular option for families on the go.

Made from plant-derived products, Babyganics is also free from harsh ingredients like artificial fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

If you can’t find a hand sanitizer on your supermarket shelves, here’s how to make your own.

Ingredients

  • 2 parts isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (91–99 percent alcohol)
  • 1 part aloe vera gel
  • a few drops of clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, or other essential oil

Directions

  1. Pour all ingredients into a bowl. Make sure the alcohol used for the hand sanitizer isn’t diluted.
  2. Use a clean spoon or whisk to mix all the ingredients thoroughly until they’re well blended.
  3. Don’t touch the mixture with your hands until it’s ready for use.

Another formula, recommended by the World Health Organization, uses isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and sterile distilled or boiled cold water.

Soap and water are the best choices to help prevent the spread of germs. But in a pinch, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative if handwashing isn’t an option.

When purchasing a hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Other ingredients like aloe vera and essential oils can help moisturize and soothe hands and leave your skin smelling nice.