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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 with experts, and considered user comments for a variety of products.

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

Hand sanitizer is a portable and convenient product. When used correctly, it 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.

We considered the following criteria when selecting the best hand sanitizers:

  • Ingredients. Hand sanitizers must contain a minimum of 60 percent ethyl alcohol to effectively kill germs. Benzalkonium chloride is an effective alcohol-free option.
  • Price. We considered hand sanitizers at a variety of price points to meet all budgets.
  • Texture. No one likes a sticky hand sanitizer. We read reviews to make sure the textures of our choices are not sticky or drying.
  • Consistency. Gel, liquid, foam, wipes — we considered it all. Based on your preferred consistency, we chose options for everyone.

Pricing guide

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

Online and brick-and-mortar retailers carry several hand sanitizers, but some brands have more benefits than others.

Best overall

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $
  • 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.

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.

Best natural

CHI Natural Gardens Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $ to $$$, depending on size
  • 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. You may be able to purchase it from the company website and Sally Beauty Supply.

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

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

Best for travel

Germ-X Moisturizing Original Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $
  • 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.

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.

Best organic spray

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: It smells good, comes in a small size for convenience, and is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Cons: It’s much more expensive than other travel-size hand sanitizers.

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

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

Best wipes

Pharma-C Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes

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

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

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

Best for sensitive skin

Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer

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

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.

Best for babies and young kids

Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer

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

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, this Babyganics hand sanitizer is also free of harsh ingredients like artificial fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

Best moisturizing

Biossance Squalane Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Hydrating formula contains squalane to moisturize hands.
  • Cons: The bottle is not suitable for travel.

Hand sanitizer is notorious for drying out your hands. This formula contains squalane, a popular skin care ingredient known for its moisturizing properties.

It contains 70 percent alcohol to kill germs, but you’ll still have soft hands in the process.

Best vegan

Desert Essence Probiotic Lemongrass Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $
  • Pros: The 75 percent alcohol content kills bacteria, and probiotics condition the skin.
  • Cons: It’s infused with essential oils, which could be irritating to some with sensitive skin.

Those looking for a vegan-friendly hand sanitizer should check out Desert Essence. It’s made with plant-based ingredients and is cruelty-free.

It also contains kefir, a source of probiotics to soothe and condition the skin.

Best spray

Honest Hand Sanitizer Spray

  • Price: $
  • Pros: A spray bottle is portable and travel-friendly, and an unscented version is available.
  • Cons: Each bottle only contains 2 ounces.

Gel hand sanitizers can leave a sticky residue. Hand sanitizer sprays are an alternative that feels more lightweight on the skin, and they’re easy to use.

Honest makes a hand sanitizer spray that comes in four different scents, including an unscented version for those who prefer fragrance-free cosmetics.

Best aloe

PURA D’OR Superior Hand Sanitizer Gel

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Contains moisturizing aloe vera, antioxidant-rich vitamin E, and antibacterial tea tree oil.
  • Cons: Essential oils may be irritating, and it has a strong fragrance.

If you use hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day, you’re likely familiar with the drying effect this good hygiene habit can have. Hand sanitizers formulated with aloe are a bit more soothing.

This option contains aloe vera to moisturize dry hands. It also contains coconut, glycerin, and vitamin E for extra nourishment.

Best fragrance-free

Pipette Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $
  • Pros: Fragrance-free formula is gentle on sensitive skin and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
  • Cons: Product label comes off easily, according to some user reviews.

For babies, children, and people with sensitive skin, opt for a fragrance-free hand sanitizer. This formula is hypoallergenic, non-sticky, and nondrying.

It comes in a variety of sizes, including portable travel-friendly sizes and jumbo sizes to refill smaller bottles.

Best clean ingredients

100% Pure Hand Sanitizer Spray

  • Price: $
  • Pros: It dries quickly and is made with plant-based ingredients.
  • Cons: The bottle only contains 1.7 ounces.

This hand sanitizer spray is made with 62 percent ethyl alcohol and other plant-based, clean ingredients. It dries down quickly and feels moisturizing on the hands due to the presence of glycerin and aloe vera.

The ingredients are simple and mostly organic.

Best high-potency

SupplyAID 80% Alcohol Hand Sanitizer Gel

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: Formula is stronger than others.
  • Cons: This could cause your hands to feel dry and isn’t travel-friendly.

An effective hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol to kill germs and bacteria. This one has a whopping 80 percent.

It also contains aloe vera to help offset any dryness that results from the high alcohol content.

Best alcohol-free

safeHands Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $
  • Pros: Active ingredient is just as effective at killing germs as ethyl alcohol.
  • Cons: It has a strong chemical smell, according to some user reviews.

Repeated use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer can lead to dry hands. Alcohol-free hand sanitizers are made with benzalkonium chloride, an antiseptic that kills germs but doesn’t dry out your skin.

The formula also comes in travel-friendly bottles and wipes.

Best plastic-free

by Humankind Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: It comes in aluminum bottles to reduce single-use plastic waste.
  • Cons: More expensive than other brands for less product.

Hand sanitizers in plastic bottles create a lot of waste if not properly recycled. These hand sanitizer bottles are made with aluminum to cut down on plastic waste. They also come in multiple scents, including an unscented version.

Each bottle contains 2.4 ounces of product with 65 percent alcohol.

Best mist

Touchland Power Mist

  • Price: $
  • Pros: The vegan formula is moisturizing and effective at killing germs.
  • Cons: Bottle only contains 1 ounce of product. Very expensive per ounce.

A hand sanitizer mist has a smooth stream compared to sprays, which aren’t always the most accurate.

Touchland hand sanitizer mists come in visually appealing packaging, a variety of fun scents, and in a micro-mist form. Each bottle has enough product for 500 sprays.

Best foaming

Life Is Simple Foaming Hand Sanitizer

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Alcohol-free formula doesn’t dry out hands and is made with gentle, moisturizing ingredients.
  • Cons: May have a sticky texture, according to some user reviews.

If you’re a fan of foaming hand soaps, you’ll appreciate a foaming hand sanitizer. They’re not as common as gels, liquids, and sprays, however.

This foaming hand sanitizer comes at a great value and ships in leak-prevention packaging. It uses alcohol-free benzalkonium chloride to kill germs and aloe to restore moisture.

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, Khubchandani says, 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 practices (CGMPs) or the guidelines from the Food and 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 of 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 2018 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.

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


  • 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


  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 (WHO), uses isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and sterile distilled or boiled cold water.

Is soap or hand sanitizer better?

Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to get rid of germs and bacteria. If you’re in a pinch, hand sanitizer is a good portable option. Hand sanitizer should not replace regular handwashing, but it’s an effective method when it’s your only option.

Is rubbing alcohol better than hand sanitizer?

Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer share a lot of the same properties, but they should not be used in the same ways. If used alone, rubbing alcohol is likely to dry out your hands. Hand sanitizers usually contain moisturizing ingredients, and the alcohol is diluted in water to make it more tolerable on the skin. Rubbing alcohol is better to use on hard surfaces. You can use rubbing alcohol to make your own hand sanitizer at home.

How long does it take for hand sanitizer to kill germs?

It takes about 20 seconds to thoroughly rub hand sanitizer into your hands. The process is pretty quick when used as directed.

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.