Hand sanitizer is nearly ubiquitous in our society as of late, thanks in large part to the coronavirus pandemic. But have you ever wondered where the product came from or how it works? A transparent solution that dissolves before your eyes – it’s almost like magic!

hand sanitizer

Read on to learn more about the history of hand sanitizer, when it was invented, and how it became a crucial tool on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

Hand Sanitizer – a Brief Background

The hand sanitizer we have come to respect and love in modern times was patented in the late 20th century. To understand the true history of the product however, we must go back to the year 1875 when a scientist named Leonid Bucholz in what is now Estonia discovered that ethanol (a form of alcohol) had antiseptic properties. In the 1930s, researchers found that a concentration of 70% ethanol was the ideal amount to be most effective.

The inventors of hand sanitizer as we know it today are Goldie and Jerry Lippman, who in the late 1940s created their first product:  an orange and petroleum-based hand cleaner meant to remove grease. By the late 1980s, they had developed “a viscous isopropyl hand sanitizer” meant to dissolve and work quickly and efficiently. While it took another ten years to win a patent on the solution, the hard work paid off as hand sanitizer is now in nearly every public place one can think of.

What is Hand Sanitizer Made Of?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand sanitizer consist of (at minimum) the following four components:  isopropanol or alcohol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide, and distilled water. Concentrations of alcohol should be between 60% and 99% for the product to work properly. While alcohol can have a tendency to dry out skin, some manufacturers add ingredients meant to moisturize.

Alcohol-free hand sanitizers are not recommended by the CDC and other healthcare professionals due to the lack of antibacterial agents. For the best results, always wash hands regularly using soap and warm water.

hand sanitizer

When Did Hand Sanitizer Become Prevalent in Healthcare?

Hand sanitizer is an uber-popular product with consumers, but you’ve probably noticed it being used in nearly every doctor’s office or dental clinic you’ve been to (at least in the last two decades). In 2002, the CDC touted the efficacy of the product, specifically in healthcare settings. 

“Alcohol-based hand rubs take less time to use than traditional hand washing,” the CDC said. “In an eight-hour shift, an estimated one hour of an ICU nurse’s time will be saved by using an alcohol-based hand rub.”

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) also promoted the use of hand sanitizer in healthcare settings, particularly in under-developed countries where clean water is scarce. Before you knew it, the product became a staple of both households and medical settings.

Hand Sanitizer – a Valuable Tool in the Fight Against Disease

Alcohol-based, non-water cleanser has been in development for over a hundred years but the last two decades have seen a dramatic shift in the way the product is used, both for consumers and healthcare professionals. The hand sanitizer market is expected to reach $2.14 billion by 2027 globally, thanks in part to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

When used properly, hand sanitizer is effective at removing germs and viruses quickly. It must be at least 60% alcohol in order to have the antibacterial powers necessary to truly eliminate risk. In addition to using hand sanitizer regularly, it’s critical to wash hands in warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. This combination is the best way to reduce the spread of illnesses such as COVID-19 and help keep ourselves and those around us safe.