Several store brands contain the same ingredients as Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer, but professional testers and everyday users tend to prefer the way Purell smells and feels on their skin. Purell has the right amount of alcohol to kill germs effectively, plus conditioners to keep the alcohol from drying out the skin. Although some users say Purell does eventually dry out their hands, experts point out that soap and water would do more damage if used as often -- and simply using hand lotion regularly can fix this problem. Regular Purell contains no dyes and has a light fragrance that users say they find refreshing. Other Purell versions contain dyes and heavier perfumes. Although skin allergies to hand sanitizers are rare, experts say scented hand sanitizers can aggravate respiratory allergies. There are some unscented hand sanitizers with effective amounts of alcohol, including Nexcare Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer (*Est. $12 for 16.9 oz.) and EO Hand Sanitizing Gel (*Est. $8 for 8 oz.), but both are more expensive and harder to find than Purell.
An article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains what a hand sanitizer must include to kill germs. Both the Journal of Hospital Infection and the Ottawa Citizen, a Canadian newspaper, compare Purell with other brands of hand sanitizer to see which one users find most pleasing. Two TV news stations try to find out whether Purell kills more germs than other brands, but their tests are not very rigorous. CosmeticsDatabase.com and GoodGuide.com rank hand sanitizers based on the safety of their ingredients. Epinions.com invites users to review hand sanitizers.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This article has become the hand-hygiene bible for public health officials across North America. Based on decades of research, it concludes that hand sanitizers must contain between 60 and 95 percent alcohol to be effective. Purell is one of many brands that fit this definition, although the article doesn't endorse any specific products.
Review: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings, John M. Boyce, M.D. and Didier Pittet, M.D., Oct. 25, 2002
2. Journal of Hospital Infection
A French hospital tests 14 hand sanitizers to see which ones irritate skin the least. Purell is one of the winners.
Review: Tolerance and Acceptability of 14 Surgical and Hygienic Alcohol-based Hand Rubs, Girard, R. et al, July 2006
3. Cosmetics Database.com
CosmeticsDatabase.com a website operated by the Environmental Working Group, rates many skin care products based on the safety of their ingredients. Purell ranks in the middle among hand sanitizers, with a "moderate hazard" rating.
Review: Hand Sanitizer, Editors of Skin Deep
GoodGuide.com rates products based on how safe they are for human health and the environment, and how socially responsible the companies are. Purell rates fairly well among hand sanitizers, although it's not one of the best.
Review: Best Hand Sanitizer, Editors of GoodGuide.com
5. WCPO (Cincinnati)
Eight hand sanitizers are tested by 9- and 10-year-old children. Results are then compared to those of washing with plain soap and water. Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer is among three of the best products for removing germs. Test subjects started the test with varying amounts of germs on their hands, however, which may have skewed results.
Review: Hand Sanitizers or Soap and Water: Which is Best?, Editors of WCPO, Nov. 4, 2009
6. WCPO (Cincinnati)
This TV news station tests 12 brands of hand sanitizer, with the help of a university biologist. Purell is one of the best germ-killers, but the test is flawed: Subjects started with varying amounts of bacteria on their hands, possibly giving some brands an advantage.
Review: Hand Sanitizers Tested, John Matarese, May 4, 2007
7. WFTS (Tampa, Fla.)
This TV station runs a similar test of eight hand sanitizers. Purell is again a top performer -- but the test is flawed in the same way as WCPO's.
Review: Do Hand Sanitizers Really Work?, Linda Hurtado, Oct. 21, 2009
8. Ottawa Citizen
The Ottawa Citizen rates six hand sanitizers based on their scent and feel. Purell rates highly on both counts, but Turner prefers a store-brand hand sanitizer because it's cheaper than Purell.
Review: Test Site: Hand Sanitizers, Karen Turner, Sept. 19, 2009
Users rate their favorite hand sanitizers here. Purell earns one of the highest scores; users say it smells nice and it doesn't irritate or dry out their skin. Germ-X, a competing brand, gets a slightly higher score.
Review: Hand Sanitizer, Contributors to Epinions.com