News from CRIS: Hand Sanitizer - Overview

August 16, 2021

What are hand sanitizers? 

Hand sanitizers are products that typically come in a spray or a gel that, when applied to your hands as directed, can reduce the number of potentially disease-causing germs on your hands.

What are hand sanitizer ingredients? What do they do?

There are a few core ingredients that make up many hand sanitizer products. 

Typical active ingredients:

  • Ethanol (ethyl alcohol),
  • Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or 2-propanol), or
  • Benzalkonium chloride 

The active ingredients can break apart the cell membranes of many bacteria and viruses, thus destroying them (12).
Inactive ingredients:

  • Emollients (e.g., glycerin): help moisturize skin
  • Polyacrylate (e.g., sodium polyacrylate): helps to thicken and stabilizes the ingredients
  • Color
  • Fragrance: helps improve the scent
  • Water: carrier ingredient for the other active and inactive ingredients

Are hand sanitizer products regulated?   

Yes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hand sanitizers as an over-the-counter drug. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on how to best use hand sanitizing products (1,2).


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