You Might Be Buying a Hand Sanitizer That Won’t Work for Coronavirus

Photo by Anna Earl / Unsplash

Written by Marshall Allen & Lisa Song. Originally published by ProPublica 

It’s tempting, especially now, to buy one of the many hand sanitizers whose label says it “kills 99.99% of illness causing germs.” But that does not mean the product will protect you against the novel coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends rubbing on hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol when you aren’t able to wash your hands. Huge pumps and multipacks of bottles are flying off store shelves. But “alcohol-free” products — which are not recommended by the CDC — are also getting snatched up in the consumer frenzy.

Some of the hand sanitizers made by the brands Purell and Germ-X rely on benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohol as the active ingredient. Such non-alcohol antiseptic products may not work as well for many types of germs, the CDC says, or may merely reduce the growth of germs rather than killing them. They may be better than nothing, experts say. But people are buying them without knowing the difference.
Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizers Are Selling Out, Despite Not Being Recommended by the CDC

These alcohol-free products are selling out, with internet price-gouging in full swing. At times, it can be hard to tell, by looking at the listings, that they’re different from the kind the CDC recommends.

Purell Hand Sanitizing Wipes have jumped in price on Amazon.com from $11.88 in January to $79.99 on Wednesday afternoon before jumping to $199.99 on Wednesday night, according to the price tracker Keepa.com. They are currently sold out.


Keepa.com

The front of the package doesn’t mention that it’s alcohol-free; the back includes small print that lists benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient and the label “alcohol-free formula.” Nowhere on the Amazon product listing does it say it’s alcohol-free.

Germ-X Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer is also sold out on Amazon, with prices surging from $10 in mid-January to $49.95 last Friday, according to Keepa.com.


Keepa.com

On eBay, 6 fluid ounces of Purell’s alcohol-free sanitizer — the equivalent of three-quarters of a cup — had a $55 price tag on Thursday night.

Read full content: https://www.propublica.org/article/coronavirus-hand-sanitizers-cdc-recommended-alcohol
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