Misinformation spreads faster than the coronavirus, and it’s important to stay vigilant as we try to stay healthy. With demand for hand sanitizer so high, not all products are equally effective at killing germs and keeping us safe.
According to the CDC, hand sanitizers should be at least 60 percent alcohol, especially if you apply it correctly as a substitute for washing hands in a pinch (but if you can wash your hands, definitely do that). Yet plenty of alcohol-free hand sanitizers are sold out or in high demand on Amazon as well, which means that customers are buying and using them, even though they don’t work as well.
Even popular brands like Purell and Germ-X sometimes use benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohol, which is less effective at killing human coronaviruses than alcohol, according to a recent study on the best ways to disinfect amid the new outbreak. ProPublica notes that many marked-up products available online don’t list whether or not the product is alcohol-free in the description, which means customers won’t know until they pay literally hundreds of dollars to acquire it and read the label.
Handwashing remains the most highly-recommended method of warding off germs and preventing their transmission. Hand sanitizers with alcohol are an alternative, but only if used properly. That means rubbing the sanitizer on both hands completely and letting them dry. Still, hand sanitizers might not remove significant amounts of dirt and grease or harmful metals and chemicals, according to the CDC. Consuming hand sanitizer in any way is harmful.