Swine flu fears have prompted a renewed interest in hand sanitizers. We found reviews that should be interpreted cautiously, however. Why? Fraudulent products claiming to fight the H1N1 flu virus have been popping up, including some hand sanitizers. In September 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to three companies that claimed their alcohol-free hand sanitizers could protect against H1N1. The makers of SkinWear and Viraban have since removed the claims from their websites, but although the Soapopular website says it has removed the claims, ConsumerSearch found the words "H1N1, swine flu" in white-on-white text on one of the website's pages as of November 2009 -- invisible to readers (unless you highlight the text), but not to a search engine.
Additionally, most hand sanitizer evaluations are incomplete. For instance, while many news shows have performed exposé-like tests, their test subjects often had different levels of bacteria on their hands. Instead, the best evaluations come from credentialed health experts at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
We ultimately found that while most natural products promise good results, experts still say traditional alcohol-based hand sanitizers (products that contain at least 60% alcohol) are the most effective at killing germs. Plus, contrary to popular belief, these products aren't as harsh as people think. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers rarely cause skin reactions; in fact, repeated user reviews show they actually refresh and soothe skin.
To learn more, and better protect yourself this cold season, check out our brand new report on hand sanitizers.