Hand sanitisers come in different forms, including gels, creams and foams. Most products contain some form of alcohol, but a few are alcohol-free.
If you are looking to buy a hand sanitiser, there is good evidence showing that alcohol-based products (with 60%–95% ethanol or isopropanol7,8) work well against many of the viruses and bacteria that spread infections like colds, flu and diarrhoea.1,3,4,7-11
Studies have also reported that alcohol-based hand cleaners are actually less irritating and drying to the skin than soap and water.8,12,13 Brands that contain moisturisers can reduce the level of irritation even further. This is good news for people who need to clean their hands frequently.
If you do use alcohol-based hand sanitisers, remember alcohol can be toxic to children,14 so keep the containers out of reach of young ones. Take care around open flames as well, because alcohol, even as part of a hand rub, is highly flammable.
Alcohol-free hand rubs are also available, but current evidence says they may not work as well as soap and water or alcohol-based cleaners, and some may be more irritating to the skin.6-8,15,16