Tips for Buying Hand Sanitizer When There Are So Many Choices
In the early days of the recent pandemic, consumers couldn’t find hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes anywhere. Hand sanitizers are regulated as an OTC, or Over-the-Counter drug in the United States by the FDA.
Because hand sanitizer was considered a front-line weapon in the fight against the serious viruses, the FDA created a special emergency update, allowing in March and updated again in April, many more manufacturers to create and sell hand sanitizer products in a liquid form if they adhere to a very specific formula. The result is liquid, or spray, sanitizing products. In order to produce a gel based hand sanitizer, explicit FDA approval for the manufacturer is needed.
From Hand Sanitizer Shortage to Sanitizer Bonanza
The emergency mandate worked. While you couldn’t find hand sanitizer online or in physical stores in March and into April, now you can’t help but see a handful of ads for sanitizer products everywhere from Facebook to Amazon.
But this isn’t all good news. Many companies with no idea how to make effective hand sanitizer, have tried to take advantage of the spike in demand for these essential products. Some companies have cut corners, and others have discovered how complicated the process of making safe and effective sanitizer products is.
Many of these new products flooding the market come from brand new businesses, and no one seems to know where they are being manufactured.
Some of these products don’t even meet CDC guidelines or conform to current scientific research or industry best practices. They are not denaturing the alcohol for example, leading to a host of problems and safety issues. Many of them do not display their ingredients list, nor do they contain registered FDA drug codes.
CDC and FDA Guidelines for Hand Sanitizer Products
The CDC and FDA have detailed requirements for hand sanitizer that makes the products both safe and effective. When a company skirts these regulations, they are endangering the public.
In one recent example, the FDA sent out a warning to hand sanitizer manufacturers that part of the manufacturing process must include adding a process to bottled hand sanitizer that makes it unpalatable.
The warning was sent out because more children had been ingesting sanitizer. When a compound is added that makes hand sanitizer unpalatable; it can help prevent children from ingesting the product. A curious child can easily get alcohol poisoning from just a small amount of hand sanitizer.
The CDC has had to remind the public that effective hand sanitizer contains at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, and drinking alcohol is not an effective substitute.
The FDA also lists another compound as an acceptable substitute for ethanol or isopropanol, called benzalkonium chloride, for health care professional-grade sanitizer. However, the latest research indicates that benzalkonium chloride is less effective against some bacteria and viruses than either of the alcohols. Many hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes use this less expensive active ingredient to drive costs down on their product.
How to Protect Your Family
What should you do to make sure the hand sanitizer you are buying for your family is going to be safe?
There are three steps you can take:
- Read labels to make sure the ingredients include at least either 60% ethanol (alcohol) or 70% isopropanol.
- Properly authorized hand sanitizer products will have a drug code listed that you can verify on FDA.gov.
- Stick with brands that are transparent about their process and ingredients
Hand sanitizer that meets the FDA and CDC / WHO requirements can help your family stay safe during these uncertain times. You need to invest a little extra time when purchasing sanitizer products to make sure you are not bringing something dangerous or ineffective into your home.