Guidelines on Using Alcohol vs Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer for Hand Hygiene

woman cleaning her hands with sanitizer

We all know that good hand hygiene really does save lives. One of the key health messages we have heard throughout the covid-19 pandemic is around the importance of washing our hands properly to remove any potential germs from our skin. By removing germs from our hands, this stops us from contaminating other surfaces and objects we may come into contact with that may also be touched by others. However, it’s not just the coronavirus we have to consider. Good hand hygiene is vital in minimizing the spread of a whole range of infections from respiratory to stomach illnesses. This is why even after the pandemic handwashing should become a lifelong habit.

Hand washing with soap and water is often recommended as the best method for hand hygiene however this method isn’t always possible. Soap and water isn’t always readily available and therefore hand sanitizer is a suitable alternative. But with so many hand sanitizers on the market, how do you know if you’re buying one that is reliable and actually works in protecting the user and the wider community against illness? In this blog, we will take a look at the differences between hand sanitizers containing alcohol vs those without to explore which solution is actually the most effective for optimal hand hygiene.

The Differences between Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer and Non-Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer

As obvious as it may sound, the main difference is the alcohol content. Alcohol is often found in hand sanitizers due to its antiseptic qualities which can effectively kill bacteria and germs found on hands. On hand sanitizers containing alcohol, the labelled alcohol contents are often referred to as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, isopropanol or 2-propanol, whereas hand sanitizers containing no-alcohol usually display Benzalkonium Chloride combined with water and other ingredients that help to moisturize and soften the skin. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers are usually non-toxic and usually come in a foam formulation. You can usually find gel, foam and liquid formulations of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Instructions on labels should be carefully read as swallowing the product could cause alcohol poisoning while it could cause burns if it gets in the eyes. For this reason, alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be kept out of reach of children.

Which Hand Sanitizer Solution is Best?

It’s been advised by both the CDC and the World Health Organization that if hand sanitizer is used, it’s best to go for one with at least 60% alcohol as the alcohol content has been proven to kill over 99.9% of germs. Since the covid-19 pandemic though, a range of outlets have turned to manufacturing hand sanitizer to supply to the general public and therefore, it’s also wise to check that any hand sanitizer you buy has been approved by the FDA. The FDA also recommends that alcohol should not be less than 94.9% by volume or USP-grade isopropyl alcohol.

It’s also important to be careful that you are buying effective and safe hand sanitizer as non-approved products could potentially cause allergens, rashes and other reactions such as itching. As well as checking the hand sanitizer is safe, make sure you also look at the bottle or dispenser that is comes in as if it’s been tampered with, there could be a risk of cross contamination.

Important Considerations When Choosing Commercial Hand Sanitizer for Your Workplace

As hand sanitizer with over 60% alcohol content has been deemed most effective; it is usually best to opt for this solution particularly in commercial settings such as offices, manufacturing facilities, healthcare and restaurants. However, when choosing the best commercial hand sanitizer for your workplace it’s important to remember compliance. The ultimate goal is to ensure people are performing proper hand hygiene and therefore in some cases a non-alcohol hand sanitizer may be more appropriate. Considerations on which solution to choose may include:


As alcohol-based hand sanitizers can often be harsher on the skin when used frequently, providing non-alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be better particularly if the end user has sensitive skin.


Alcohol based hand sanitizers that kill germs on hands may be better in businesses such as healthcare and manufacturing facilities where minimizing the risk of infection transmission is especially important. However, in other facilities such as elementary schools where hand sanitizer may be used by young children; a non-alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be more suitable. Where there is also risk of users swallowing hand sanitizer, opting for an alcohol-free hand sanitizer may be a better choice. It’s important to think about your business and the end user to decide on the most appropriate solution that encourages hand hygiene.

Consider Using Hand Sanitizer Dispensers

Most alcohol-free hand sanitizers will often be found in a foam formulation whereas alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be found in a gel or liquid form. It’s important to know the type of formula you’re buying as this will impact the choice of dispenser you can store it in. Foaming hand sanitizer needs to be stored in a dispenser that contains a foaming mechanism to work effectively and avoid potential clogging issues. Alcohol based hand sanitizers may require dispensers that are non-corrosive, so the alcohol does not erode the insides over time.

It’s important to consider the type of dispenser that will be used as the presence of a closed cartridge dispenser in itself can encourage use and can stop cross-contamination from occurring. A dispenser that delivers just the right amount of product can also reduce the risk of spills and minimize wastage, as well as overall costs.


For many businesses, budget is an important consideration. Alcohol-free hand sanitizer can often be cheaper to buy however as alcohol hand sanitizer is more effective, it can actually end up being more cost-effective. If your employees do not eliminate the germs off their hands properly then this could lead to increased absenteeism, increased sick days and reduced productivity from illness which can all have an impact on your bottom line.

Commercial Hand Sanitizer Solutions from Citron Hygiene

Citron Hygiene supply a wide range of alcohol-based commercial hand sanitizer solutions to workplaces with various requirements. Our solutions include Purell hand sanitizer and Citron hand sanitizer; both of which are at effective at killing germs on hands when used properly.

Our commercial hand sanitizer stations are available in various wall-mounted and floor standing options so you can choose the right solution for your workplace. All dispensers are re-filled through our vendor managed service program.

To request information about our workplace hand sanitizer solutions, get in touch with our team.

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