15 Hand Sanitizers Our Experts Swear By
breathe / touchland / grove / pipette
Before 2020, hand sanitizer was probably one of those items you never gave a second thought—you just grabbed whatever was near the drugstore counter and threw it in your bag for emergencies. Boy, how times have changed. You now probably use the on-the-go germ-killer several times a day, and if you do find a stash on the drugstore shelves, it feels like winning the lottery. In fact, a recent Good Housekeeping Institute survey found that 90% of respondents are using hand sanitizer regularly as extra protection against the novel coronavirus, a big jump from the 60% who used it before the outbreak. A whopping 78% prefer the gel formulation, with 11% going for the spritz, and 8% using wipes.
While washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, using hand sanitizer is the next best thing, especially if you’re out and about and don’t have access to running water. According to the FDA, hand sanitizers meant for consumer use (as opposed to those used in hospitals) should contain ethyl alcohol (between 60-95% of the entire formula) or isopropyl alcohol (70-91%). Make sure the product you choose includes a Drug Fact label listing the active ingredients, and rub on the amount indicated on the bottle, then let hands air dry rather than wiping them off.
To sort out the best of the bunch, we compiled a list of hand sanitizers with the Good Housekeeping Seal, plus editors’ picks, and the go-to faves of our panelists (keep in mind that due to the COVID crisis, some of these may be temporarily out of stock). Here’s how to keep your hands germ-free without drying them out—and, in some cases even smelling like a sweet treat.
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Best On-the-Go Hand Sanitizer
Scented Anti-Bacterial Hand Sanitizer Assorted Simple Pleasures® michaels.com
These colorful bottles of hand sanitizer have been GH Seal Stars since 2015—they contain 62% ethyl alcohol, and were found in independent lab tests to kill the most common bacteria types in as little as 30 seconds. Not only do they come in a variety of appealing scents (we love Lemon Verbena and Lavender Fields), but they also have a handy loop that attaches easily to your purse or keychain.
Best Aerosol Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer Spray Breathe breathesanitizer.com
Good Housekeeping has teamed up with Starco’s hand sanitizer brand Breathe, our newest Seal Star. This brand-new product uses 75% ethyl alcohol to kill 99.99% of common germs within 30 seconds. Unlike most aerosols, which use volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to propel the mist, Breathe uses nitrogen gas, which makes up most of the air we naturally breathe (hence the name!). Like any aerosol, this one should be sprayed in a well-ventilated area—you can rest assured it’s gentle on your skin, eyes, and nose, and dries quickly.
Best Overall Gel Hand Sanitizer
Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel
Purell, formulated with aloe and vitamin E, is the classic sanitizer you probably already have in your handbag; our testers agreed this is their go-to product. They love the gel for for leaving “no sticky residue on hands” but making them”soft and not dry” even though it has a higher alcohol concentration of 70% .
Best Scented Gel Hand Sanitizer
Warm Vanilla Sugar PocketBac Bath & Body Works bathandbodyworks.com
If you can find any of the delicious-smelling gels from this popular shop, grab them! Our panelists listed French Lavender as their fave, but the Vanilla Sugar and Japanese Cherry Blossom scents will also bring a sense of delight to the daily ritual of disinfecting your hands. The gel is formulated with 68% alcohol plus shea extract and vitamin E to keep skin from drying out.
Best Unscented Gel Hand Sanitizer
Original Hand Sanitizer
“It does the job, and that is what counts,” wrote one of our panelists about this wallet-friendly classic. The thick, 63% ethyl alcohol gel is free of scents and dyes, but contains glycerin to keep hands soft.
Best Value Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer with Aloe
At 11 cents per ounce, Equate was named “best bang for your buck,” by one of our panelists—and we agree! This 63% alcohol containing gel, with aloe leaf juice to keep hands soft, was also given props for being easy to apply and absorbing quickly without dripping on the floor.
7 Hand Sanitizer Spray
GH Beauty Director April Franzino likes this 62% alcohol spritz for its no-mess application and quick-drying formula—she even uses it to spray on shopping-cart handles. “The essential-oil-based scents smell more like body products than the strong alcohol aroma of other formulas,” Franzino adds.
8 Hand Sanitizer
Grove Collaborative grove.co
While shopping from home during the lockdown, GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral discovered that the online “green” retailer Grove Collaborative had many of her favorite brands in stock; some of their store-brand products such as their lip balm and this portable gel hand sanitizer became her new favorites. Aral loves the citrus scent of this 62% alcohol sanitizer and its “non-drying” formula, thanks to ingredients such as glycerin, aloe vera juice, and coconut and jojoba oils.
9 Hand Sanitizer
Aral discovered this brand when she was spending hours on the internet to find hand sanitizers from reliable sources. “When my order arrived from artnaturals in early April, I felt like I had found gold,” Aral says. She likes that the lightweight formula has a lower active level (62.5% alcohol) and is scent-free, “perfect for my teen daughter’s sensitive nose!”
10 Hand Sanitizer
Intelligent Nutrients intelligentnutrients.com
Intelligent Nutrients is committed to using Certified Organic and food-grade ingredients as much as possible—with 62% alcohol as the active, the spritz goes on clean while lifting your mood with with a blend of peppermint and vanilla essential oils. Our Beauty Lab experts found the scents “herbaceous and refreshing.”
11 Hand Sanitizer
GH Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann discovered this brand before COVID-19 hit our shores. She loves the unique packaging design, which reminds her of a perfume bottle rather than a hand sanitizer. The rectangular shape is easy to fish out of a big tote bag, and the minty fragrance is refreshing rather than artificial. “Aloe Vera and glyceryl ester make this fast-drying mist easy on my hands even though it contains 67% ethyl alcohol” says Wizemann.
12 Hand Sanitizer
One of GHI moms’ favorite brands for babies, Pipette has recently launched a 65% alcohol hand sanitizer. Assistant Beauty Editor Katie Berohn likes that the gel formula has the brand’s signature humectant squalene (a.k.a powerful hydrator), as well as glycerin in it. “It doesn’t strip my hands as much as normal sanitizers do,” she says, “I even feel like it helps them retain moisture.” While it goes on slightly sticky initially, the formula dries down in about 10 seconds and leaves a pleasant skin feel behind, Berohn says.
Best Hand Sanitizer Wipes
Finding a pack of hand-sanitizing wipes these days is like discovering Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket—but if you spot these 62% alcohol wipes, be sure to grab a box. The pretty little packets fit in any pocket or purse, and the lavender essential oils calm you down while it cleans you up.
14 Hand Sanitizer
This sprtitz uses moisturizing glycerin, soothing eucalyptus, antibacterial tea tree oil (along with 62% ethyl alcohol) to create a blend that won’t leave fingers sticky. It’s packaged in a recyclable and reusable glass bottle to help protect the environment, too.
15 Hand Sanitizer
True Botanicals truebotanicals.com
Like all the True Botanical products, this 65% alcohol hand sanitizer is Made Safe certified, meaning it has been formulated without potentially harmful ingredients. To get one of these purse-perfect pump bottles, all you need to do is place an order from the True Botanical website. They’ll not only include this sanitizer as a gift with your order, but they’ll also donate one to Baby2Baby, an organization dedicated to supplying children impacted by COVID-19 with the essentials they need.
Marisa Cohen Marisa Cohen is a Contributing Editor in the Hearst Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting, and the arts for dozens of magazines and web sites over the past two decades. Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Good Housekeeping Institute Director, Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab Birnur Aral is the director of the Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees all Lab tests and applications for the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal and the GH Innovation emblem.
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