How to Select and Use Hand Sanitizer

To prevent the spread of germs, including COVID-19, CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because it reduces the amount of many types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not readily available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

How to Select

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers come in all shapes and sizes with different ingredients. Which alcohol-based hand sanitizer do you choose? Check the product label and follow these do’s and don’ts.

When choosing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer


  • Choose hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol (often listed on the label as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, isopropanol, or 2-propanol).
  • Follow label directions for use.


  • Choose hand sanitizers that contain less than 60% alcohol.
  • Choose alcohol-based hand sanitizers on FDA’s Hand Sanitizer Do-Not-Use List.
  • Choose hand sanitizers labeled as “alcohol-free.”
  • Choose alcohol-based hand sanitizers packaged in a container that resembles a food or beverage container.

Warning: Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Packaged Like Food or Drinks
The FDA is warning consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are being packaged in containers that may appear as food or drinks and some that contain food flavors. Eating or drinking these products can cause serious injury or death. FDA Warning

How to Use

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer


  • Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer out of your eyes.
  • Store alcohol-based hand sanitizer out of reach and sight of young children.
  • Supervise young children when they use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


  • Rinse or wipe off the alcohol-based hand sanitizer before it’s dry; it may not work well against germs.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean surfaces. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is not designed to clear or disinfect surfaces.
  • Store alcohol-based hand sanitizer above 105°F (for example, it should not be stored in a car during the summer months).
  • Swallow alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning.

Warning: Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning. However, there is no need to be concerned if your children eat with or lick their hands after using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222 to get help if someone swallows hand sanitizer.Hand sanitizer and your pet

  • Do not wipe or bathe your pet with alcohol-based hand sanitizers. If your pet gets alcohol-based hand sanitizer on their skin or fur, rinse or wipe down your pet with water immediately.
  • If your pet ingests alcohol-based hand sanitizer (such as chewing the bottle) or is showing signs of illness after accidental exposure, contact your veterinarian or pet poison control immediately.

List of hand sanitizers authorized by Health Canada

The following antiseptic/antibacterial skin cleansers or hand sanitizers meet Health Canada’s requirements and are authorized for sale in Canada.

To date, there are no hand sanitizers in Canada approved with COVID-19 related claims. Although they have not been tested for effectiveness against viruses such as coronaviruses, hand sanitizers can help reduce the risk of infection by, or spread of, microorganisms.

Inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement by Health Canada.

How to find out which antiseptic skin cleansers or hand sanitizers meet Health Canada’s requirements for sale in Canada.

  1. Locate the Natural Product Number (NPN) or Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the product label
  2. Look for that number on the hand sanitizers list

Personal practices, such as proper hygiene help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available
  • keep hand sanitizers out of reach of children and always supervise them when using hand sanitizers, as ingesting even small amounts of sanitizer can be fatal

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers must carry/include the following warnings on the label:

  • For external use only.
  • When using this product avoid contact with eyes. If contact occurs, rinse thoroughly with water.
  • Stop use and ask/consult a doctor/physician/health care practitioner/health care provider/health care professional if irritation develops.
  • Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, call a poison control centre or get medical help right away.
  • Flammability warning: Keep away from open flame and sources of heat.

As with all drug products, Health Canada recommends that users always follow the directions for use on the product label. Never eat or drink hand sanitizers as ingesting even small amounts can be dangerous or fatal.

licensing process is in place for applicants who wish to seek the necessary authorizations from Health Canada to manufacture and sell alcohol-based hand sanitizers. For more information, please contact the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate at

You can also search our databases for more information on licensed products:

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