History of hand sanitizers

In the absence of soap and water, it has become common practice to use a hand sanitizer. Urban legend states that hand sanitizer was invented in the U.S. in 1966; proof, however, is inconclusive. Published facts in the historical timeline of hand sanitizer’s evolution includes:

  • 1847 – Chlorinated lime solution for hand washing implemented in surgical settings
  • 1862 – Procedures of disinfection, sterilization and pasteurization are pioneered
  • 1875 – First non-water, non-soap cleaning agent breakthrough with ethanol
  • 1911 – 70% ethanol alcohol formulation breakthrough
  • 1936 – Isopropyl alcohol formulation breakthrough
  • 1965 – First alcohol-based hand sanitizer in production
  • 1988 – Gel-based hand sanitizer serves U.S. food service and medical sanitation
  • 1996 – Consumer gel-based hand sanitizer launches in USA
  • 2003 – World’s first non-aerosol alcohol foam hand sanitizer invented
  • 2019 – U.S. FDA issues hand sanitizer product recall, final rule on active ingredients
  • 2020 – Deadly alcohol hand sanitizer contamination, U.S. FDA issues ongoing product recall
  • 2020 – Alcohol-free sanitizing mode of action breakthrough launches worldwide


The first recorded U.S. patents for hand sanitizing occurred in 1957 and 1965 for the “rapid hand sanitizer” and “hand sanitizer” both of which are stationary devices.

Figure 1: Lincoln Stevenson U.S. Patent 2,814,081 “Rapid Hand Sanitizer” 1957. Image credits: USPTO, https://invention.si.edu/

Figure 2: U.S. Patent 3,220,424 , 1965, “Hand Sanitizer.” Image credits: USPTO, https://invention.si.edu/

These inventors noted access to soap and water as being inconvenient. Both inventors envisioned “a device for quickly and efficiently rendering the hands sanitary” and for “kitchen employees, hospital, and medical aids, etc., [to] sufficiently cleanse their hands”.

As the historical timeline for hand sanitizing innovations progressed, alcohol-based sanitizer form factors expanded. A degreasing cleanser in the automotive industry was made available in a wall-mount form factor. It is said that to this day all wall-mount hand sanitizer dispensers are a direct descendant of this design. History shows that in 1988 alcohol-based gel hand sanitizers from the U.S. were used in food service and healthcare industries. In 1996, this alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer was introduced to the consuming public. Foam hand sanitizers were introduced to the public in 2003 in the U.S.

Additional product development in hand sanitizer included incorporating appealing scents. News reports of oral consumption of hand sanitizers and poisoning, by people of all ages, occurred as a result. In 2019, the U.S. FDA issued a final ruling for three active ingredients in hand sanitizers: ethanol alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and benzalkonium chloride. From 2019-2020, alcohol-based hand sanitizers were once again in the U.S. FDA’s spotlight due to product recalls and health warnings.

With the global pandemic, new brands of alcohol-based hand sanitizer emerged on the market and product sales skyrocketed to more than 500%. Many of these new alcohol-based hand sanitizers failed with product formulation and quality testing prior to launch. This triggered an ongoing FDA product recall now involving more than 160 brands for alcohol contamination. Health-related issues and death have occurred from the latest wave of contaminated alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

In 2020, GlanHealth™ added to hand sanitizer’s historic timeline with launching extremely long-lasting alcohol-free sanitizing products that address harmful germs and bacteria.

Alcohol-free purity & peace of mind

GlanHealth™ is an industry leader in alcohol-free sanitizing, from skin to surfaces. The Company’s innovations incorporate the science of sanitizing for the benefit of consumers and businesses worldwide. By nature of being alcohol-free and persistent, the world is experiencing both purity and peace of mind with GlanHealth™.