Is antibacterial hand sanitiser effective against viruses?

At the few public places that have still been open in the past few weeks, almost all of them have several bottles of hand sanitiser readily available. But what piqued my interest was the number that were clearly labelled “anti-bacterial”.

Antibacterial hand sanitiser, image sourced from PixaBay.

After all, they’re almost exclusively there to protect against the spread of a virus: COVID-19.

So, are they effective at killing viruses just as well as bacteria? Are they better, or worse?


In the end it’s not too complicated. It comes down to the alcohol content of the hand sanitiser. Most hand sanitisers are alcohol-based and are considered adequate protection if they contain over 60% alcohol.

However, some antibacterial hand sanitisers have antibacterial compounds called quaternary ammonium compounds, most frequently benzalkonium chloride. These compounds are most effective against bacteria (although still less effective that most alcohol solutions) and provide little protection against viruses. And I’d avoid them simply to try and reduce antibiotic resistance!

So when it comes down to it, the big factor here is alcohol content! For protection against the current pandemic, soap and water (for 20 seconds, minimum) is your best bet. Failing that, get a good alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol and make sure that it’s dry on your hands before you do anything else.


So I hope you enjoyed this short insight into what you should actually be looking for in the current situation (not that you can actually buy much hand sanitiser at the moment, though).

2 thoughts on “Is antibacterial hand sanitiser effective against viruses?

  1. Good piece of Info. To add further hand sanitizers should be used as alternatives when soap and water aren’t available. Using sanitizer on Dirty and greasy hands proves to be ineffective as they cannot penetrate oil and grease as does soap and water. Washing hands is always a better option!


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