How Long Do Hand Sanitizers Last On Your Hand After Use?

by Joshua Matzkin

Hand sanitizer has become a buzzword lately, thanks in large part to the novel coronavirus took the world by storm.

Although experts say hand-washing is your best hand hygiene recommendation, hand sanitizers are more convenient and, therefore, more practical.

Although hand sanitizers have always been around, the recent pandemic has spiked their popularity and demand. In turn, there’s a remarkable increase in hand-sanitizer-related inquiries. 

Lately, a recurring question is: How long do hand sanitizers last on my hand after use?

Before we discuss hand sanitizers’ effectiveness and how long it may last on your hands after application, what exactly are hand sanitizers?  

What are Hand Sanitizers?

Also called hand rub, or hand antiseptic, hand sanitizers are formulas applied to the hand to expel disease-causing organisms.

They are usually available in gel, liquid, or foam forms. These hand rubs are most recommended for situations where water and soap are scarce for a thorough hand wash. 

While hand sanitizer’s effectiveness varies, it’s widely recommended for use in many organizational settings – from schools to daycare centers and health care clinics and hospitals. 


Do Hand Sanitizers Work? 

They sure do!

However, their effectiveness is widely dependent on different factors, including; the application – i.e., the amount applied, exposure duration, and application frequency – and whether the formulation is effective against specific germs and bacteria on the user’s hands. 

Note, however, that hand sanitizers are effective in killing most bacteria and viruses. Their effectiveness is limited to factors such as contact time and alcohol percentage. Note that sanitizers may not shield you against:

  • Norovirus, 

  • Cryptosporidium

  • Clostridium difficile

Widely recommended, alcohol bases sanitizers are found to be most effective against bacteria and viruses. Although alcohol-based is preferred, alcohol-free hand sanitizers may also come handy in a pinch.

However, it is noteworthy that these products – whether alcohol or non-alcohol-based solutions – may be ineffective on visibly soiled hands.

But even with its variable effectiveness, hand sanitizers help manage disease transmission, particularly in situations where regular hand washing is impracticable. 

For instance, stats show a reduction of infectious-illness-related absenteeism in pre-schools kids. This record is similar to data from the workplace.

Hand Sanitizers vs. Hand Washing

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to remove bacteria and viruses, especially when visibly contaminated.

It’s one thing to be sure the sterilizers work as they claim. However, it is another to know how long the effect lasts on your palms after application. 

Interestingly, hand-sanitizers’ effect is short-spanned. This is one reason health experts still insist on handwashing as a more effective antibacterial weapon. But, again, for convenience, hand sanitizers come first. 

While handwashing flushes germs off your hands, sanitizers kill the bacterial and germs on your hand at that moment. After then, contact with any contaminated surface can be picked up by your hand. 

Whether you hand wash with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, your hands are bound to get soiled or come in contact with a contaminated door knob in the next minute. So, before you touch your face or eat, you may need to wash or sanitize your hands again – even if you just did recently.  

To apply sanitizers, rub content to cover your hands, from wrist to fingertips – palms and behind as well as in-between fingers. Rub until it dries up. 

Note that hand sanitizers may not work on visibly dirty hands. If your hands feel overly oily or dirty, it is recommended to wash with soap and water as opposed to using a hand sanitizer. 

Now you know how effective and convenient hand sanitizers can be – back to our primary concern…

How Long Do Hand Sanitizers Last On Your Hand? 

Against popular belief, hand sanitizers are active for about two minutes

Shocking right?

Yeah, millions of Americans feel the same, too. In fact, over half of the American population believes hand rubs last way longer than they actually do, says a new national survey. 

Knowing hand sanitizers offer relatively short-spanned protection could be really shocking to those who would swear by their sanitizers – particularly during the COVID-19 era.

To be specific, the health point survey shows that among the participants, over 50 percent thought hand sanitizers were still active after one hour – 30 times the period it actually lasts.

What Are The Active Ingredients In Hand Sanitizers? 

The active ingredient responsible for sterilizing in many hand sanitizers is isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol.

CDC advises using sanitizers with at least 60-70 percent alcohol concentration. Higher alcohol concentrations don't necessarily account for a more effective antibacterial solution, though.

Do Hand Sanitizers Expire? 

Simply, YES. 

As with other products, hand sanitizers expire. 

Alcohol, being the active ingredient in hand sanitizers, is volatile and evaporates when exposed. While hand sanitizer manufacturers use airtight containers to lock out air and prevent alcohol evaporation, some are inefficient and may have little air leaks. 

As the alcohol content ‘escapes’ over time and the alcohol percentage drops,  efficacy is reduced. 

Manufacturers usually state on product labels an estimated time range before the sanitizers’ alcohol content falls below 90 percent of the original amount specified on their label. This estimated time-frame becomes its use-before date. This expiration date is usually stated on the container or product label. 

Under the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, hand sanitizers must clearly bear an expiration date in print or have a three-year shelf life.

So, if you do not see an expiration date on your hand sanitizer, expect a three-year shelf life from the time of purchase. 

How Long Should I Rub Sanitizers On My Hands? 

When soap and water are not an option, hand sanitizer can be effective in removing bacteria and viruses from your hands.

Information flying around says you should use hand sanitizers for about 3 minutes, but this sounds a bit off. 

Should hand sanitizers stay on your palm up to 3 minutes before it dries up? Of course not. 

Besides that it would cost you a good dose of hand sanitizers to keep your hand wet for up to three minutes, there’s no basis –scientifically or otherwise – for such a recommendation.

The CDC's directive is clear enough – “Rub your hands together until they feel dry (this should take around 20 seconds)”

Conclusion- How Long Does Hand Sanitizers Last?

If you’re in the class of the 50 percent of Americans who think hand sanitizers would remain active on your hands for hours, think again.

Your hand sanitizers can only protect for – not an hour. Not half an hour – only two minutes!




Check out our MOXĒ Premium Hand Sanitizer Collection

Moxē Hand sanitizer contains 70% alcohol and is available unscented or in Citrus as well as our new Eucalyptus Mint scent!

About MOXĒ

MOXĒ is a manufacturer of innovative health and wellness products focused on complementing any lifestyle. With our holistic approach, we add custom essential oil blends in everything we create and ensure every product is made with the highest quality ingredients to support clean living and peace of mind.

Visit MOXĒ at or follow us on Instagram and Facebook: @bemoxe



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