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  • Writer's pictureCentral Solutions

How Much Alcohol Should Your Hand Sanitizer Contain and Other Question You Never Thought to Ask

It’s just a quick squirt when you pass by the dispenser. Most people don’t even think about the brand of hand sanitizer they use or the differences between formulas. But did you know that all instant hand sanitizer products are classified (and regulated) as Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs by the U.S. FDA? Like any over-the-counter drug, there are very detailed regulations on how it’s made, labeled, and marketed. Hand sanitizers usually use ethyl alcohol – or ethanol – as the active ingredient. The FDA allows manufacturers to list ethanol as a percentage measured by weight-to-weight (w/w), or by volume-to-volume (v/v). For instance, Central Solutions’ hand sanitizer contains 70% ethanol (v/v).

But why 70%? And if there is that much alcohol volume, isn’t there a danger of minors abusing hand sanitizer by ingesting it?

The FDA maintains that to be effective, hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% (v/v) ethanol, but some formulas use up to 90% (v/v). Contrary to popular belief, more alcohol does not necessarily mean a better product. In fact, too much alcohol can result in the sanitizer wicking-away before enough time has passed to kill bacteria. More alcohol can also increase the drying-out effect on the skin. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) references to an optimal level of 70% (v/v). This is based on the idea that there's enough alcohol to achieve the kill without the risk of the sanitizer wicking away.

As for abuse by minors, it turns out in many cases the ingestion is a result of small children eating the product, usually because the manufacturer uses a fragrance designed to mimic food, like strawberry, orange, and grape. Central does not use fragrances that mimic food and we intentionally use denatured ethyl alcohol which has an intentionally bitter taste.

Long story short, we believe that a well-formulated hand sanitizer should comply with the FDA and have enough ethanol to obtain the necessary kill, but no more than necessary, so as to lessen the drying-out effect commonly associated with ethanol. We recommend using a hand sanitizer that has a moisturizing property to it, like Aloe Vera, which helps keep the hands moisturized. Finally, steer clear of hand sanitizers that use isopropyl alcohol and food like fragrances. All use of hand sanitizers should be monitored responsibility, and (as indicated on our label) be kept out of reach of children.

For more information on how our hand sanitizer stacks up again the competition check out this independent investigation done by WBRZ regarding the effectiveness of hand sanitizers. Our DermaCen Sanitizer was shown to be the most effective.

If you are interested in our Instant Hand Sanitizer with Aloe Vera please reach out to

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