Guide to Choosing the Right Hand Sanitizer: Alcohol-based vs. Alcohol-free

Hand sanitizers have become a crucial part of our daily hygiene practices, offering an efficient way to fight against germs and infectious diseases. With the availability of different types of sanitizers, it’s important for individuals and businesses, like those served by Burgos Cleaning, to understand which type best suits their specific needs. This article aims to explore the nuances of alcohol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizers, helping you make an educated choice for your health and safety.

which hand sanitizer to use

Historical Development of Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers have transformed from niche medical products to essential everyday items over the past few decades. Particularly during public health emergencies, such as the flu pandemic and the COVID-19 outbreak, their role in preventing the spread of illness has been spotlighted, underscoring their importance in our health arsenal.

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers: Detailed Insights

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which primarily use ethanol or isopropanol, are known for their quick action and broad-spectrum efficacy. The FDA recommends that these sanitizers have an alcohol concentration between 60% and 95% to ensure they are effective against a wide range of pathogens.


  • Wide-Ranging Efficacy: These sanitizers are highly effective against a variety of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses like COVID-19, making them a reliable choice for health-conscious individuals and professionals in various fields.
  • Quick and Efficient: The high alcohol content allows these sanitizers to dry quickly without leaving a residue, offering a practical hygiene solution in fast-paced environments.


  • Flammability Concerns: Due to their high alcohol content, these sanitizers pose a significant fire risk, necessitating careful storage and handling, especially in healthcare, educational, or even bank settings.
  • Skin Health Issues: Frequent use can lead to skin dryness and irritation, as the alcohol strips away natural oils, sometimes resulting in dermatitis or other skin conditions.

Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizers: A Gentle Alternative

Alcohol-free hand sanitizers, typically in a foam form, use Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK) as their active ingredient. This chemical is a quaternary ammonium compound, offering effective sanitization while being gentler on the skin.


  • Skin Compatibility: These sanitizers are often more suitable for people with sensitive skin, as they are less likely to cause dryness or irritation and are frequently enhanced with skin conditioners like vitamin E.
  • Increased Safety: The non-flammable nature of these sanitizers makes them safer, particularly in environments with children, and reduces the risk associated with accidental ingestion.


  • Dispensing Requirements: The foam format of these sanitizers often requires special dispensers, which might increase the initial investment for establishments looking to switch from traditional liquid or gel sanitizers.
  • Perception and Market Acceptance: Despite their effectiveness, alcohol-free sanitizers have struggled to gain widespread popularity in healthcare sectors due to the general categorization of “non-alcohol” sanitizers, which can be misleading and affect consumer confidence.

Comparative Studies on Efficacy

Various studies indicate that while alcohol-based sanitizers are generally more effective against a wider range of pathogens, alcohol-free options like BZK have demonstrated significant effectiveness, particularly against bacterial organisms. However, in certain cases, such as with some types of viruses, alcohol-based sanitizers may be more effective.

User Preferences and Environmental Impact

Consumer preferences vary significantly when it comes to hand sanitizers, with some individuals favoring the quick-drying aspect of alcohol-based options, while others prefer the gentler nature of alcohol-free sanitizers. The environmental impact of these products, from production to disposal, is an important consideration, particularly for environmentally conscious businesses and individuals.

Safety and Storage Recommendations

It is crucial to store both types of sanitizers properly to maintain their efficacy and ensure safety. While alcohol-based sanitizers require careful handling due to their flammability, alcohol-free sanitizers should also be stored correctly to preserve their effectiveness.

Making an Informed Decision for Your Needs

Choosing the right hand sanitizer depends on various factors including individual skin sensitivity, environmental settings, and specific requirements. For example, in educational or correctional facilities, alcohol-free sanitizers might be preferred for their safety profile, whereas healthcare settings might opt for alcohol-based sanitizers due to their comprehensive germicidal action.

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

In terms of cost-effectiveness, alcohol-free sanitizers can be more economical in the long run. They often provide more applications per gallon compared to alcohol-based sanitizers, due to the foaming mechanism that extends product use.

using hand sanitizer


Both alcohol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizers have their unique place in maintaining public health and hygiene. Burgos Cleaning recognizes the importance of informed choices in hand hygiene and is committed to providing expert cleaning advice and quality sanitation solutions. Remember, irrespective of the type of sanitizer you choose, consistent and proper usage is key to effective disease prevention and maintaining a healthy environment.