Do alcohol-free hand sanitizers realy work?

The pandemic created by COVID-19 virus has forced the entire world to rethink their hand hygiene. Hand sanitizers are selling like hot cakes. Some brands are even claiming their sanitizers to be alcohol-free. Is this a marketing gimmick or do these Alcohol-free sanitizers really work?

The best way to keep all harmful bacteria, viruses and germs away is by washing your hands with soap and water. But this is often not possible for everyone, making hand sanitizers the next best option in keeping the microbes away.

And as a result, the sale of hand sanitizers has skyrocketed over the past few days. It has become impossible to get your hands on commercial hand sanitizer brands like Dettol or Lifebuoy due to the rise in demand. Some of you may even have reached out for alcohol-free hand sanitizers in order to protect your skin from the drying effect of alcohol. But these hand sanitizers may not be able to protect you from the coronavirus outbreak. Read on to find out why and what you should be using instead!


The coronavirus is spread mainly due to droplets of fluids emitted from a virus-affected person’s mouth or nostrils. These can be transferred to your hand when you touch surfaces contaminated with the virus or shake hands with an affected patient.

So washing your hands with soaps or using a hand sanitizer acts as a protective measure against the disease. Sadly, not all hand sanitizers are equally effective.

There are certain guidelines and rules to be followed for creating a hand sanitizer that works efficiently in disinfecting your hands. And several brands on the market, especially the natural ones which claim to be alcohol-free prove to be less effective.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain alcohols like isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol) as a key ingredient. The alcohol helps kill the virus by deactivating the protein envelope around the virus (a process called denaturation).

Hand sanitizer containing alcohol, is a reliable way of inactivating a wide array of bacteria and germs on your hands. But a concentration of at least 60% alcohol is required to be effective in killing these germs, bacteria and viruses including the Covid-19 virus.


Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus, various beauty and wellness brands have been advertising their alcohol-free hand sanitizers as a safe way to beat the virus. These formulas use aluminium-based compounds like benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohol to tackle the virus.

While these compounds can reduce the growth of virus, they are way less effective at killing the virus compared to alcohol.

Reading the term “Alcohol-free” on the label may make you believe you are purchasing a product that is safe for you. But all such alcohol-free claims on hand sanitizers are just a greenwashing ploy to trick people into thinking they are using something natural and safe, which is completely untrue. You could actually be risking your lives by relying on such alcohol-free hand sanitizers for your safety.


Being the flag bearers of green and sustainable personal care products, we often recommend people to avoid using alcohol-based products in their skincare and hair care routine. The reason behind this is the dehydrating effect that alcohol has on your skin and hair.

But alcohol is actually non-toxic in nature. If you look at the EWG’s Skin Deep Database, it is rated 1/10 which denotes that it is completely safe for use.

And when it comes to hand sanitizers, it proves to be the most effective way to kill not just the coronavirus but several other bacteria and viruses. Yes, using it frequently through the day would make your hands dry. But this small hurdle can easily be overcome by using a hand cream or lotion. In fact, many brands even add emollients like vitamin E, aloe vera and propanediol to their formulas to reduce the drying effect and keep your skin soft and moisturized.


Your best bet at protecting yourself from the coronavirus in the absence of water is using a commercial hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it. But if you are unable to find any, you may choose to make your own DIY hand sanitizer at home.

But beware of DIY recipes that rely on ingredients like vodka, tea-tree oil or witch hazel as they are ineffective in killing the virus. (try this recipe from Healthline if you have to).

Social distancing and washing your hands frequently throughout the day will be your best defence against the corona virus outbreak. Several individuals and companies are attempting to use the corona virus outbreak as an opportunity to boost their revenues. So at times like this, it is essential for you to stay informed and do your due diligence before purchasing anything that is advertised safe and effective.

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