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The Best Hand Sanitizers

🕚 Updated July 2022

Keeping your hands clean and germ-free with hand sanitizer is a small but effective way to protect your health and prevent the spread of germs. Check out our recommendations below to add to your bag or living space.

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  Best Individual Packets Great Moisturizing Option Best Foaming Choice Best Wipes Best Spray
Single-Use Hand Sanitizer Gel Packets
Health Hand Sanitizer with Fragrance
Foaming Pump Hand Sanitizer
Wet Ones
Antibacterial Hand Wipes
Mrs. Meyer's
Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Spray
Our SummaryThis high-volume pack of single-use hand sanitizer gels is perfect for travel or bringing on the go.If you're after a more hydrating hand sanitizer that won't dry out your hands, this cruelty-free gel is the perfect choice.This foamy pack of hand sanitizers is alcohol-free and hypoallergenic, gentle enough even for babies' skin.These hand wipes are antibacterial, perfect for killing germs on your hands with minimal mess.This hand sanitizer spray will kill germs just as effectively as gel or liquid hand sanitizer, with a much smaller risk of spilling.
ProsLarge quantity, compact, premeasured amounts, less likely to leak, 70% alcohol, free of most irritants.Moisturizing, good value, 62% alcohol, cruelty-free, pleasant nonirritating scent.Gentle and hypoallergenic, free of synthetic irritants, creates foam, three good-sized bottles, pleasant smell.Hypoallergenic, less messy, compact and portable, two scent choices, sensitive-skin options.Won't spill, travel-sized bottles, 62% alcohol content, two herbal scent options, no irritants, cruelty-free.
ConsLess eco-friendly, too small for some.May leave residue behind.Less effective, takes longer to dry.Antibacterial only.Scent may be too strong for some.
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The Best Hand Sanitizers

Medical surgical masks and hand sanitizer gel on a table.

Buying Guide for Hand Sanitizer

Close-up of hands using hand sanitizer.

Why buy hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is a type of liquid or gel designed to kill and stop the growth of certain viruses, bacteria, or other germs that have found their way onto the hands. You must pump or squeeze a little into your hands and rub it in until the liquid or gel has been absorbed into your skin. Though not as effective at sanitizing or disinfecting as washing your hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer is still worth using. Sometimes your hands get dirty while hiking, camping in the wilderness, or visiting an amusement park, so using miniature bottles of hand sanitizer that can fit into a pocket or purse is convenient for any given moment. Even bigger bottles of hand sanitizer are far more portable and easier to access than a sink. You can stash one in your car, prop it up on your desk or countertop, or store it in a large purse or backpack.

What should you look for in hand sanitizer?

  • Quantity: You’ll want to consider the capacity of the bottles (usually measured in milliliters and fluid ounces) and the number of bottles or packets. Single-serve packets or smaller bottles are the best portable choices since they’ll fit into pockets and purses without issue. In contrast, larger bottles are better suited to communal areas or if you want some handy at your desk or countertop. Hand sanitizer is usually sold in two or three bottles, but there are plenty of larger packs if you’re buying for your family or the entire office.
  • Alcohol vs. Alcohol-Free: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have much better disinfecting and germ-killing capabilities than alcohol-free ones; alcohol was used as a disinfectant back in the day for a reason. For the most effective hand sanitizer possible, look for one with an alcohol content of 60 to 95%. Anything below 60% won’t be as effective. That said, alcohol can irritate or dry out the skin on your hands, so if you have extremely sensitive skin or a medical condition that gives you dehydrated skin, an alcohol-free hand sanitizer or one with a lower concentration of alcohol may be worth the tradeoff. It won’t kill as many germs as a product with high alcohol content, but it’s still better than nothing.
  • Format: Hand sanitizer commonly comes in gel or liquid form in a bottle. It can be dispensed through a squeezable cap or a press-down pump. There are hand sanitizers that come in spray form, which some people find easier to apply or less heavy on their skin. You can always find hand wipes that also contain hand sanitizer, which is nice because they tend to be more cleansing than standard gel or liquid hand sanitizers due to wiping away dirt and grime. Just check the label and ensure the wipes contain hand sanitizer, as not all hand wipes do. These may cause more waste than other types of hand sanitizers as well.

What’s the most effective way to apply hand sanitizer?

Before applying, check the hand sanitizer’s label to see the recommended amount of sanitizer per dose. If you don’t use it enough, it will not be as effective and may not cover all your skin. Squeeze the recommended amount into one palm, press your palms together to coat them both, and then rub the sanitizer all over your hands until they’re dry. Make sure you cover the front and back of your entire hands, from fingertips to wrists, not just the palms. Don’t wipe off the hand sanitizer before it’s dry, reducing its effectiveness.

Our Picks for the Best Hand Sanitizers

Best Individual Packets

Purell Single-Use Hand Sanitizer Gel Packets

This high-volume pack of single-use hand sanitizer gels is perfect for travel or bringing on the go.

Pros: Single-serve hand sanitizer packets are an excellent, compact choice for traveling or bringing on the go, and these are among the best. From a trusted brand, each packet is small enough to slip into any pocket, wallet, or cell phone case and can be brought even on airplanes. Since they’re single-serve packets, the amount is premeasured out for you. This helps prevent you from spilling or leaking the gel by mistake or not using enough sanitizer to disinfect your hands properly. The gel contains 70% alcohol to kill more germs yet is unscented and lacks common irritants like parabens or dyes. You get 125 packets per purchase and a cardboard box to store them at home.

Cons: Since these single-serve packets are one-and-done disposable, the trash piles up quickly, so they’re not particularly eco-friendly. You may find that the single-serving size is too small for larger hands.

Bottom Line: These packets of hand sanitizer gel were explicitly designed with travel in mind. They can slip into even the smallest pocket, and you shouldn’t have to worry about over-measuring or under-measuring the proper amount to sanitize your hands.


Great Moisturizing Option

Muse Health Hand Sanitizer with Fragrance

If you're after a more hydrating hand sanitizer that won't dry out your hands, this cruelty-free gel is the perfect choice.

Pros: This hand sanitizer gel offers moisturizing properties that most lack. It contains vitamin E and lime oil to hydrate, even as the 62% alcohol content works to kill germs and sanitize your hands. Even with the built-in fragrance, these ingredients should also prevent it from irritating your hands, as said fragrances come from sweet-smelling geranium and caramelized rather than chemicals or other synthetics. The entire solution is vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, and you get a last-lasting eight-ounce bottle of it for one nice, low price.

Cons: This formula may leave a sticky residue behind.

Bottom Line: Some people find alcohol-based hand sanitizers too drying or irritating for their use. If this is the case for you, this hand sanitizer gel offers a solution. Even with the effective germ-killing alcohol content, the other ingredients ensure it hydrates better than the average hand sanitizer.


Best Foaming Choice

Babyganics Foaming Pump Hand Sanitizer

This foamy pack of hand sanitizers is alcohol-free and hypoallergenic, gentle enough even for babies' skin.

Pros: You won’t have to worry about this foamy hand sanitizer irritating your skin, even if you’re very sensitive or have allergies. It’s hypoallergenic, alcohol-free, and doesn’t contain any common synthetic irritants—no parabens, artificial fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, or dyes. It’s safe enough for even children, toddlers, and babies to use. This hand sanitizer has a pleasant, appealing natural citrus scent and has never been tested on animals, so you know it’s cruelty-free. You get three bottles with your purchase, each almost nine ounces, which is enough hand sanitizer to keep you supplied for months.

Cons: Though the lack of alcohol helps ensure this hand sanitizer’s gentleness, it does mean that this product is less effective at killing germs. It also takes longer to dry than most.

Bottom Line: If you’re after a gentle, alcohol-free hand sanitizer, you can’t go wrong with this foamy product. It’s not only hypoallergenic but dermatologist-approved, safe for even the most sensitive or delicate skin.


Best Wipes

Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes

These hand wipes are antibacterial, perfect for killing germs on your hands with minimal mess.

Pros: Since this hand sanitizer is sold in wet wipe form, it will wipe your hands clean of dirt and grime in addition to killing germs on them. Each wipe is hypoallergenic and paraben-free to be less irritating to the skin, and they come in 10 resealable wrapped packets, with two wipes each for a total count of 20 per purchase. They’re compact and portable for travel, and they won’t spill or create a mess the way that liquids or gels do when spilled. These wipes are available in two possible scents and a sensitive-skin option for those with more delicate skin.

Cons: Though these hand sanitizer wipes contain alcohol, it’s not an active ingredient, so these wipes are a bit less effective. They’re antibacterial and thus will kill most bacteria, but they won’t take care of viruses as well as those with a 60% or higher alcohol content.

Bottom Line: Hand sanitizers in wipe form come with several advantages that gels or liquids don’t possess, not the least of which is you’ll never have to worry about them spilling or causing a mess. Since they cleanse and disinfect, they’re more dual-purpose than most hand sanitizers.


Best Spray

Mrs. Meyer's Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer Spray

This hand sanitizer spray will kill germs just as effectively as gel or liquid hand sanitizer, with a much smaller risk of spilling.

Pros: This hand sanitizer comes in spray form, which you may find a preferable alternative since it’s less messy and dry quicker. The spray has a 62% alcohol content, just above the necessary amount to effectively kill most germs, yet lacks common synthetic irritants like parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors. The spray is cruelty-free, contains aloe vera to make it less drying, and comes in two herbal-based scents to add a pleasant, lingering fragrance to your hands after applying. The bottles are two ounces each, travel-friendly sized to fit in pockets or bring on airplanes, and you can buy packs of four or 12 bottles at a time, as well as an individual bottle if you want to try the spray out before buying a higher quantity.

Cons: The scent of these hand sanitizers is quite strong and may be a bit too much for some people, especially those with sensitive noses. And unfortunately, there isn’t an unscented option.

Bottom Line: This spray is an excellent choice if you want an alternative way to dispense hand sanitizer. It’s more precise to apply and dries quicker than gel or liquid hand sanitizers, yet it is equally effective.

Final Thoughts

Though less effective than washing your hands with soap and water, there are undeniable benefits to keeping a strong hand sanitizer at the ready. Spreading fewer germs is always good for the sake of your health and those around you, and hand sanitizer is a simple but generally effective way to do so.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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