How to Use Hand Sanitizer

Woman wearing a mask while spraying a hand sanitizer in her hands

A hand sanitizer is the quickest and the most effective way to clean your hands when soap and water are not available. It kills the bacteria and viruses present on your hands and prevents the spread of infections. Knowing how to use hand sanitizer properly is critical to ensure effectiveness.

How to Use Hand Sanitizer

To use hand sanitizer effectively, get one with alcohol content between 60% and 95%, and wet your hands thoroughly with it. Ensure you cover all surfaces, including between your fingers and under your nails. Rub the sanitizer into your skin until it is completely absorbed. Let it air dry for at least 20 seconds, and it will be fully effective.Hand holding a hand sanitizer bottle

Washing your hands with soap and water remains the gold standard for preventing the spread of infections; however, hand sanitizer is the next best thing when soap and water are not available. Be sure to use it correctly for maximum benefit and to prevent the spread of germs lingering on your hands.

Steps for Proper Hand Sanitizer Usage 

Using a sanitizer has lots of procedures that should be taken to achieve the main aim of killing all bacteria and viruses that might be on the surface of your skin. Here are some of the steps you should take when using a sanitizer.

  1. Check the bottle of the sanitizer to see the instructions that the manufacturer has given. This will help you to follow the right procedures when using it.
  2. Wet your hands and ensure that all the surfaces have been covered. This includes rubbing between the fingers and also under the nails. It also means that you should not have any dry spots on your hands.
  3. Apply the sanitizer to your hands and start rubbing it gently. You should continue rubbing it until the sanitizer has completely dried up. The process of rubbing will help to increase the effectiveness of the sanitizer.
  4. Ensure that you have used enough sanitizer so that all the surfaces of your hands are covered. If you have used too little, then you might not achieve the desired effects.
  5. After applying the sanitizer, allow it to dry on its own. Do not wipe it off with a towel or any other object. The drying process is important as it helps to ensure that all the bacteria and viruses have been killed.

How Much to Use

The amount of sanitizer that you use will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions. The details provided by the manufacturer will help you to know how much sanitizer to use so that all the surfaces of your hands are covered.

Currently, due to the coronavirus outbreak, there have been cases of counterfeit hand sanitizers in the market. This has led to people using too much sanitizer, thinking that it will increase its effectiveness. However, using too much sanitizer can actually be harmful to your skin.Woman wearing a mask while spraying a hand sanitizer in her hands

Ensure you get a safe sanitizer from a reputable source and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use it. This will help you avoid any problems that might arise from using too much sanitizer or using it incorrectly.

How Often Should You Use Hand Sanitizer?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using sanitizers as an important part of your daily hygiene routine. Hand sanitizer is most effective when used in conjunction with other hand-washing techniques, such as regularly washing your hands with soap and water.

  • When soap and water are not available: Though, washing your hands with sanitizing soap and water is always the best way to remove germs, alcohol-based sanitizers can be used when soap and water are not available.
  • Before and after contact with someone who is sick: You should use a sanitizer before and after coming into contact with someone who is sick, this will help protect you from getting sick yourself.
  • After using the restroom: Be sure to use a sanitizer after using the restroom, this will help remove any germs you may have picked up from contact with surfaces in the restroom.
  • After handling garbage: You should also use a sanitizer after handling garbage. This will help remove any germs you may have picked up from contact with the garbage.

Precautions to Take When Using Hand Sanitizer

  • Make sure the sanitizer you are using contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Do not use sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. In these cases, you should wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Sanitizers can quickly evaporate, so be sure to rub your hands together until they feel dry.
  • Do not use water to rinse off the sanitizer, as this will reduce its effectiveness.
  • If you have a reaction to the sanitizer, such as redness or irritation, discontinue use and wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Some sanitizers are highly flammable, so keep them away from fire or heat.
  • Be sure to keep the sanitizer out of reach of children. If ingested, sanitizers can be poisonous. Call poison control immediately if you suspect your child has ingested hand sanitizer.

Woman rubbing her hands after applying sanitizerFrequently Asked Questions

Is Hand Sanitizer Flammable?

Yes, most hand sanitizers are flammable. Alcohol-based sanitizers, which contain between 60-95% alcohol, are the most flammable. If you are using a hand sanitizer that is flammable, be sure to keep it away from fire or heat.

Can You Use Hand Sanitizer on Pets?

No, you should not use sanitizers on pets. If ingested, hand sanitizer can be poisonous to pets. If you think your pet has ingested the sanitizer, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center so that they can provide you with instructions on what to do.

Can You Use Hand Sanitizer on Newborns?

No, you should not use sanitizers on newborns. Newborns have delicate skin that can be easily irritated by alcohol-based sanitizers. If you must clean your hands and there is no soap and water available, use a sanitizer that is alcohol-free or contains a lower percentage of alcohol.


Hand sanitizers are a great way to keep your hands clean and free of harmful bacteria. However, it is important to use them correctly to get the most benefit from them. Be sure to follow the directions on the label to be sure you are using the product correctly.