With the current global pandemic, more and more consumers have been stocking up on hand sanitizer for germ prevention. But one unfortunate fact about many commercial hand sanitizers is that they can stain clothing.
In this article we’ll review whether hand sanitizer causes stains, what specific staining ingredients to look out for, and a non-staining hand sanitizer that we recommend.
Does Hand Sanitizer Stain?
Many commercial hand sanitizers contain a chemical compound called benzalkonium chloride. This compound has a bleaching effect and can irreversibly stain clothes.
Benzalkonium chloride is used as a surfactant in hand sanitizers, meaning it reduces the surface tension of a solution, making it easier to spread and improving the texture.
Benzalkonium chloride also goes by the trade name Zephiran, so we recommend that consumers watch out for both of these ingredients in hand sanitizer and avoid products containing them if potential staining is a concern.
Many popular hand sanitizer brands (including Purell) also contain an ingredient listed as “fragrance” to improve the smell of the product.
The term “fragrance” is essentially unregulated in the U.S., and doesn’t describe to consumers what specific chemicals are used. Without this information, it’s impossible for consumers (or researchers like us) to determine whether the chemicals used as fragrance are safe and stain-free, which is why we recommend avoiding cosmetic products entirely that include fragrance.
We know from medical research that the long-term safety of fragrance as a cosmetic ingredient is questionable, and that some compounds used in fragrance may be harmful to human health. Relevant to the topic of this article, some chemical compounds used in fragrance may be staining, and since they provide no additional safety, there’s no logical reason to purchase a hand sanitizer containing this ingredient.
Is There Stain-Free Hand Sanitizer?
We recommend hand sanitizer from a brand called Dr. Bronner. We have no association with this brand and receive no compensation if one of our readers buys their products.
We personally use this brand, and we recommend them because they use simple, non-toxic ingredients which shouldn’t stain.
The only four ingredients in Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Oil Organic Hand Sanitizer are: 62% organic ethyl alcohol, water, organic glycerin, and organic peppermint oil.
There is no Zephiran or fragrance, which means the product should have a minimal risk of staining and also be healthier overall.
Dr. Bronner’s hand sanitizer also contains over 60% alcohol by volume, which meets the CDC recommendations for hand sanitizers. Products at or above this level of alcohol are more effective in fighting disease-causing germs.
We recommend Dr. Bronner’s peppermint oil hand sanitizer over Dr. Bronner’s lavender oil hand sanitizer, as there are some sensitization issues with lavender as a cosmetic ingredient.