In these highly contagious and sickly times that is the cold and flu season, hand sanitizer is standard, necessary equipment to help us thwart off infectious bacteria, germs and pathogens.
When soap and water are not available, there’s no better option to keep our hands clean than hand sanitizer. The most trusted hand sanitizer ingredient proven extensively to eradicate germs on hands is alcohol. But as the formula for creating the most effective hand sanitizers and consumers’ preferences continue to evolve, many hand sanitizer companies are developing nondrying, alcohol-free sanitizers. These alcohol-free sanitizers contain antimicrobials that offer long-lasting germ protection without drying hands. But the question some skeptical scientists have for alcohol-free hand sanitizers is: Do they work as well in the real, germ-plagued world as they do in the lab?
There are compelling cases for both alcohol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizers. For most folks, the compelling reasoning for their choice of hand sanitizer is what feels best on their skin. Before we break down the strengths and weaknesses of both types of hand sanitizer, let’s be clear: Both alcohol-baed and non-alcohol hand sanitizers stop germs dead in their tracks.
The Case for Alcohol-Based Sanitizers:
- They’re nearly as 100 percent reliable as the calendar. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, like Avant’s Original Instant Hand Sanitizer, wipe out 99.9 percent of most common germs in as little as 15 seconds. Powered by 60% grain-based ethanol, a renewable natural resource, leaves hands feeling clean and refreshed without the strong smell of perfume or alcohol.
- Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Controls calls them a more reliable germ killer. According to the CDC, many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60-95 percent are more effective in killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based sanitizers. Plus, there is much published research showing the real-world benefits of alcohol-based sanitizers and its use reducing illnesses and infections among students.
- The CDC reports alcohol-free hand sanitizers may not work equally well for all classes of germs.
- There’s no doubt about their effectiveness. The biggest problem in assessing the effectiveness of alcohol-free sanitizers, Hand Hygiene reports, is the lack of a standardized ingredient list.
The Case for Alcohol-free Hand Sanitizers:
- They don’t dry out hands, a fact that makes them very popular among nurses. Alcohol-free hand sanitizers don’t strip away oils in our skin that retain moisture.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the website Safe Hands conducted a study at California State University in Fresno where 20 volunteers used a alcohol-free hand sanitizer 10 times over several hours and experienced no redness or visual signs of irritation on their hands.
- They are fragrance-free, making them a preferable option for users who don’t want the oder of hand sanitizer on their hands.
- Possibly longer protection against germs: Some brands boast of up to six hours of defense against bacteria and germs after application. Zylast, a Lake Forest, Calif.-based company, uses benzethonium chloride in its products and states on its website the ingredient reduces bacteria on hands for up to six hours.
- Benzalkonium chloride, a popular ingredient in alcohol-free sanitizers like Avant’s Alcohol-Free Foaming Instant Hand Sanitizer, is a recognized antiseptic and known bacteria killer. The website SafeHands LLC of Boca Raton, Fla., calls benzalkonium chloride “tough on germs and safe for skin.”
- Quat-based (quaternary ammonium compounds) hand sanitizers are not flammable, do not sting on cuts and chapped hands and offer a pleasant scent versus alcohol-based sanitizers. But Quat-based products have not been approved by the FDA. Plus, quat-based non-alcohol sanitizers (which are becoming popular in America’s schools) have a greater risk of causing contact allergies and can leave a sticky residue on skin, according to Katharina Versluis, a marketing manager for Gent-l-kleen Products of York, Pa.
- Cost control, especially for consumers buying in bulk like schools and doctor’s offices.
Alcohol-free foam hand sanitizers are less expensive than alcohol-based sanitizers. Although a gallon of each may cost the same, users typically will get 2,000-3,000 more applications out of foaming hand sanitizers because the dispensing mechanism adds air to the solution during application, making the product go much further before running out.
The effectiveness of alcohol-free hand sanitizers is much less scientifically proven than alcohol-based sanitizers, but both are surefire germ killers and trusted allies for our hands and our health during cold and flu season. Whatever your preference, don’t leave home during this dangerous season without hand sanitizer.
18 oz Pump Bottle – Avant Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer
1000 mL Refill – Avant Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer Foam (Dispenser 9360)