Alcohol-free hand sanitizer may work just as well for killing COVID-19

A new study from Brigham Young University has found that alcohol-free hand sanitizer may be just as effective at killing the virus that causes COVID-19 as alcohol-based products. The CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers when you don't have access to hot water and soap and the researchers speculated that recommendation was due to a general lack of research on how effective alcohol-free products may be.

Disinfecting against SARS-CoV-2 is an important way to curb the spread of COVID-19. We've seen past research into which products are effective at killing the virus on surfaces, as well as a growing body of evidence that mouthwash may kill the virus in the mouth.

The researchers behind this latest study tested various alcohol-free hand sanitizers with samples of the novel coronavirus, finding that most of the compounds were able to kill at least 99.9-percent of the virus in only 15 seconds. These hand sanitizers are already known to be effective against the influenza viruses and pathogen behind the common cold.

One of the compounds, benzalkonium chloride, was found effective in 'much lower concentrations' for killing the virus, and there's the added benefit of no stinging — an issue that surfaces when you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and discover you have a paper cut, for example. That benefit may encourage some people to sanitize their hands more often, the researchers note.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer has faced various shortages over past months, spurring an increase in production that soon resulted in widespread recalls over safety concerns. The study indicates that using alcohol-free hand sanitizers may help alleviate that shortage and reduce the odds that someone may end up using a potentially unsafe alcohol-based product.