What are the Different Types of Hand Sanitizer Spray?

J.M. Densing

Hand sanitizer spray can be a useful way to ensure that hands are germ-free when it is not possible or convenient to wash with soap and water. It comes in a variety of different types based on the active ingredient. Various types of hand sanitizer spray include alcohol, other chemicals, or "natural" ingredients as the active agent that kills germs. In addition to the different active ingredients, hand sanitizer sprays are manufactured with various added fragrances and moisturizers or in fragrance-free hypoallergenic formulations.

Sanitizer spray is an alternative to washing hands.
Sanitizer spray is an alternative to washing hands.

Frequent thorough handwashing has been identified by experts as the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs and illness. Hand sanitizer spray is a convenient alternative when washing hands isn't practical or possible. Small portable spray bottles are available for most types of sanitizer, making it possible to kill germs on hands whenever necessary. The product is applied to hands which are rubbed together until dry; it's important to make sure the sanitizer contacts all areas of each hand.

Hand sanitizer spray is convenient to use when hand washing is not possible.
Hand sanitizer spray is convenient to use when hand washing is not possible.

One of the ways to distinguish between the various types of hand sanitizer spray is to look at the active ingredient which contains the disinfectant, or germ killing, properties. One of the most common types of hand sanitizer uses alcohol as the active ingredient. Many of the major brands are alcohol based, and this type of sanitizer is approved for use in many healthcare settings. In order to be effective, an alcohol concentration of 60 percent or higher is recommended. This type of hand sanitizer spray is supposed to kill over 99 percent of germs on hands when used properly.

Another type of hand sanitizer spray uses other chemical agents as the active ingredient. These are usually marketed as "alcohol free" and may contain ingredients such as benzalkonium chloride. This substance, also known as BAC, has been in use for many years as an active ingredient in first aid products like antiseptic sprays and antibiotic infused bandages. With proper application, these hand sanitizers are also supposed to kill at least 99 percent of germs present on hands.

Hand sanitizer sprays that are marketed as natural usually have other active ingredients that are often plant based. Many people prefer these because they are supposed to be gentler on skin as well as environmentally friendly. The active ingredients are often combinations of natural herbs and essential plant oils including thyme, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil. Some of these have been proven to be as effective as alcohol based sanitizers, but other formulas need further research.

Many types of hand sanitizer spray are manufactured with other added ingredients. Since the active ingredients, especially alcohol, can be very drying to skin, moisturizers are often added. Different manufacturers make hand sanitizer products in a variety of fragrances and colors. There are also hypoallergenic, fragrance-free versions available for those with sensitive skin.

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