Why Alcohol Hand Sanitizer Are Better Than Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizers

by Alasdair Walker

The stay-safe campaign reinforcing good behaviors to combat the Covid-19 global pandemic has reached an all-time peak, and hand sanitizers have been deemed an essential. 

Among other safety measures, regular handwashing seems most prominent. Although widely considered the most efficient security against life-threatening viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens lurking around, frequent hand washing isn't always possible depending on where you are. For this reason, portable hand sanitizers are recommended when soap and water are unavailable.

But which hand sanitizers are most effective? Read on to learn why alcohol-based hand sanitizers are what leading public health organizations recommend. 

Why Use Hand Sanitizers?

Locating a faucet after every "suspicious" contact can be impossible.

Regular access to running water – and soap – in places such as public transport services, grocery stores, and schools can't always be counted on.

The CDC, WHO, FDA, and other leaders in the public health sector recommend hand sanitizers as an effective alternative to hand-washing.

In the wake of the recommendation, hand sanitizers have become a household item.

Expectedly, the  demand for these hand rubs has spiked, leading to a bunch of opportunist manufacturers coming out with sanitizers they didn't make before.

Identifying an effective hand sanitizer can be tricky. Funnily, each product on the market claims to be most-effective. This may leave you even more confused as to which really works.

woman wearing a mask at grocery store and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer to avoid getting covid-19

For safety assurance, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommend hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol concentration.

So, making a choice is pretty simple.

First, if the hand sanitizer product label says anything different, no matter how convincing it sounds, click away.

Lately, we've received tons of questions from our customers, including:

  • Which hand sanitizer should I buy?
  • Do all hand sanitizers work the same?
  • How do I know my hand rub is effective against CODVID-19?
  • Which hand sanitizer works best?
  • What's the difference between alcohol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizers?

If you feel as concerned too, no worries, most people are. Thankfully, this article helps you understand the different common categories of hand sanitizers on the market and what works best – according to CDC's recommendations.

Typically, hand sanitizers fall into two major groupings: alcohol-based and alcohol-free. Here's a quick look at the options...

Alcohol-Based Sanitizers

Isopropanol and Ethanol are the primary active ingredients in alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Although with different molecular compositions, these ingredients have common properties and are both effective against bacteria and germs.

For higher potency, the Food and Drug Administration recommends alcohol-based solutions with between 60 and 70 percent alcohol concentration.


Being flammable, the media has expressed safety concerns of alcohol-based products – particularly for use in fire-prone areas.

However, with ever-day safety regulations and common sense usage, these sanitizers are perfectly safe.

Alcohol-based solutions are toxic when ingested. Since hand sanitizers are often placed in easily accessible areas, young children's safety might be a concern. Accidental consumption may cause acute alcohol poisoning. Luckily, the FDA requires the alcohol in hand sanitizers to be denatured, which gives the alcohol an awful taste to deter children from ingesting it. 

In any case, as with other pharmaceuticals and OTC drugs, keep hand rubs out of the reach of children and supervise their usage.

Many alcohol-based hand rub users report skin dryness and cracks from repeated usage.

Typically, alcohol strips off skin moisture and leaves the hands dry. Lack of skin oil causes skin irritation and may even trigger dermatitis symptoms.

Thankfully, alcohol-based products like Moxe Citrus Hand Sanitizer Gel contain vitamin E and other skin-nourishing components to protect sensitive skin from the effects of alcohol and leaves it even more nourished.

Alcohol-Free Sanitizers

Alcohol-free hand sanitizers contain quaternary ammonium called Benzalkonium Chloride as their active ingredient.

Most alcohol-free rubs contain below 0.1% Benzalkonium concentration. 

These solutions do not enjoy much positive review within the public health sector. These options are not as effective against dreaded microbes like the coronavirus. Alcohol-based hand rubs remain highly preferred by health bodies and hence regarded as a safer option.

There are no qualifying requirements for non-alcohol products. Most products with the "alcohol-free" tag have no standard production guidelines.

This makes it somewhat tricky for these no-alcohol products to gain the endorsement of health bodies like WHO and CDC.


 Which is more effective? Alcohol or non-alcohol based sanitizer

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60-70 percent alcohol concentration.

Although some products with benzalkonium chloride have been widely marketed as effective, for your safety, stick with CDC and FDA's recommended alcohol-based hand rubs.

Would mixing alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a non-alcohol based hand sanitizer increase its potency?  

No. mixing alcohol and non-alcohol-based solutions will not produce a more effective product. Experts have reassured that an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a guaranteed weapon against exposure to germs, bacteria, and other pathogens.

What can I do if my child (or an adult) swallows hand sanitizer?

Consult your local medical experts or contact poison control immediately.

How can I prevent such accidental ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers?

Children below six may use hand sanitizers but under close supervision by adults.

Alcohol ingestion can be poisonous for children. Consuming a seemingly little amount can trigger severe health concerns in children. But no worries if your kids lick – or eats with – their sanitized hands as the alcohol evaporates quickly after the appropriate contact time.

Are hand sanitizers as good as hand washing?

Not exactly. But according to CDC, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are still effective compared with soap and water within typical clinical parameters. Here's why to consider a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable: 

  • Easily accessible
  • Demands less time
  • Can kill up to 99.9 percent bacteria
  • Moisturizes and nourishes the skin
  • No irritation with reputable formulas
  • Discourages antimicrobial resistance
  • Fast-acting to eliminate microorganisms

Verdict – which should you buy?

Both alcohol-based hand sanitizers and their non-alcohol-based counterparts are designed for the same job – to eliminate harmful microbes.

Before you choose, consider, among other vital factors, your safety and CDC research and guidelines for an alcohol-based product for the best hand hygiene.


For on-the-go users, alcohol-based solutions usually come in a portable package that helps effectively kill microorganisms and are recommended over non-alcohol based products by the FDA, CDC, and WHO. 

Wondering which product tick all the right boxes, check out MOXĒ's line of cruelty-free products.


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