Does Hand Sanitizer Work on the Coronavirus?

Companies can't make the claim, but hand sanitizer is still better than nothing.
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using hand sanitizer

With cases of COVID-19 escalating, guidelines for preventing infection are being shared widely. Washing your hands appears to be the top recommendation from health professionals, but what if you don't have access to soap and water? Does hand sanitizer work against the coronavirus?

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If you're wondering about hand sanitizer effectiveness, our guide offers info on using this product to help protect yourself from illness.

Wash Your Hands

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends frequent hand-washing as a preventive measure. They have extensive guidelines on how to wash your hands, as well as when to do so. While they advise that you lather your hands and then scrub them for at least 20 seconds, hand-washing isn't always possible. So is hand sanitizer effective during those times?

Hand Sanitizer Works in a Pinch

Elaine Larson, associate dean for nursing research at Columbia University, told Vox that washing your hands with soap and water is a better option if you need to clean stuff off of them. But if that isn't the case, hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. Keep in mind that it needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Treat sanitizer use the same way you'd treat hand-washing — that is, squirt the product onto your hands and rub it briskly all over them for 20 seconds or so.

The CDC recommends using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available.

However, note that alcohol-based sanitizers can have a drying effect on the skin. To help prevent your hands drying out, seek out hydrating hand sanitizers that are dermatologist-recommended. Moisturizing regularly could help, too. And if a sanitizer causes the skin on your hands to crack — or if you have cuts or broken skin for another reason — be extra cautious.

The important thing to remember is that while hand sanitizer is better than nothing, the CDC recommends only using it when soap and water aren't available. Hand sanitizers are active for as long as they remain on your hands, Larson told Vox. She said that even if your hands feel weirdly wet while doing so, you should have the sanitizer on them for at least 10 seconds (and 20 seconds is even better!).

Does Hand Sanitizer Work on the Coronavirus?

As TIME points out, "many household cleaners are proven to work against known coronaviruses." But as for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it's too new to know if these products are truly effective against it. Brian Sansoni, a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, told TIME that while they likely are still effectual in working against this coronavirus, companies can't make that claim directly.

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The uncertainty hasn't stopped stores from selling out of disinfecting products, though. Walmart stores, CVS pharmacies, and even Amazon are seeing hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes sell out quickly. And there's often no indication of when shelves will be restocked.

Readers, what preventive measures are you taking to ward off COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.


Senior Staff Writer

Julie joined DealNews in 2015. Her work has been featured on MSN, Business Insider, Lifehacker, The Motley Fool, GoBankingRates, and Moneyish. In her spare time, she enjoys baking sweets, reading thrillers, and listening to an ever-growing list of podcasts.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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5 comments
FlyingNinjaPandas
This article provides several sources (CDC included) that would be helpful to actually click on and read before providing incorrect comments. The CDC tweet here shares similar information https://twitter.com/...us/1234949770957017088?s=09 . The WHO says "The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water."

COVID-19 is the disease, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Contrary to what marlowe says, hand sanitizers are indeed effective against certain types of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Non-enveloped viruses are the ones that tend to be more resistant to alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

I'm glad to see DN spreading awareness, especially when so many comments denigrate their hard work and what I perceive as good intentions. We have this resource that compiles information from a number of webpages into one, that's valuable and a time saver.
marlowe101@outlook.com
The simple answer is NO. Okay for bacteria but not a virus such as COVID-19. The whole hand washing thing is to remove debris that may conceal a variety of unpleasant little guys like Hep-C.
supersaver77
Tito's Vodka will NOT work on the Corona virus.
vannyc
Always best to get medical related information from a reliable source like the CDC.
Pandp
staying away from large indoor events. Got some food to extend the milk in the fridge(evaporated ) couple extra cans of soup. Basically enough food to easily go two weeks on hand instead of the normal 1 week. Made sure the medicine cabinet was full of various pain killers, pepto, and some electrolyte powders.

Local stores out of hand sanitizer and gloves. Sams club limiting cases of water on low supplies in south TX