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VERIFY: Is it true hand sanitizers need a certain level of alcohol to be effective?

Yes, hand sanitizers need to reach a certain alcohol level to be effective in killing the coronavirus. But make sure you properly read the labels.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Is it true hand sanitizers need a certain level of alcohol to be effective?

ANSWER:

Yes, hand sanitizers need to reach a certain alcohol level to be effective in killing the coronavirus, just make sure you read the label.

SOURCES:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Food and Drug Administration

Recommendation from an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine.

PROCESS:

We already know one of the ways you can get the coronavirus is by touching something that has the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Properly cleaning your hands is one way to stay healthy and mitigate the spread. But what if you’re in a pinch and can only use hand sanitizer?

According to the CDC, alcohol-based hand rubs are an effective way to remove bacteria. It recommends using one with greater than 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol.            

This is also echoed by the FDA, as hand sanitizers are over-the-counter drugs regulated by the administration. Sanitizers that meet the FDA’s conditions have a "drug facts" label you can check to see if it has the recommended ingredients and levels.

Still, it’s important to remember not to get caught up on things like "99.9% effective" because they may still be alcohol-free, meaning those sanitizers may not work as well for many types of germs.

While the alcohol-free sanitizers are better than nothing, Emily Landon, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago medicine, is noted in ProPublica saying the recommendation for hand sanitizers is based on the fact that 60 percent alcohol kills "all of the coronaviruses we know about."

She also added that alcohol-based products are her "first choice" for hand sanitizers.

So we can verify: Yes, hand sanitizers need to reach a certain alcohol level to be effective in killing the coronavirus, just make sure to check the label.

However, both the FDA and CDC said washing with soap and water is still the best way to sanitize your hands. When you can't, sanitizer can be an alternative.

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