How to shop for the best hand sanitizer, according to medical professionals

From Purell to Dial, we asked experts exactly what to look for.
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/ Source: TODAY
By Chrissy Callahan

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You hear it all the time: Washing your hands is the best way to prevent spreading nasty germs. With so many soaps and sanitizers available, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you and which will be most effective.

Whenever possible, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing your hands with soap and water to kill all types of germs and harmful bacteria. But when you're away from a sink and just need to wash up quickly, hand sanitizers are a great second option you can pick up at the drugstore.

Whatever your germ-fighting needs may be, Shop TODAY has a few useful tips and products to help you stay healthy on a regular basis!

Look for hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol

Hand sanitizers are perfect for those times when you're on the go and need to clean up quickly. The CDC suggests finding a formula that has a high alcohol content (at least 60%) to kill germs.

1. Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer

Purell is a classic option, and it's a great choice thanks to the 70% ethyl alcohol in the formula.

2. Curity Alcohol Pads 200-pack

Small but mighty! Keeping your hands clean is important, but your cell phone can also get pretty filthy. After sanitizing hands before a meal, cleaning off your phone with one of these 70% isopropyl alcohol swabs can help keep germs from spreading when you inevitably reach for your device mid-meal.

3. Assured Hand Sanitizer

This hand sanitizer keeps your skin from drying out thanks to moisturizers like vitamin E and aloe, and it also includes 70% ethyl alcohol.

4. CVS Health Advanced Formula Hand Sanitizer With Aloe

This option is a great value at $4.99 for a 15 oz. bottle, and the aloe will help keep your skin from feeling drying out.

5. Equate 34 Fl. Oz. Hand Sanitizer

As you're running around to different meetings throughout the day, you might not have time to properly wash your hands at work. Storing this large bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk can help keep you safe on a hectic day. It features vitamin E and aloe for an extra touch of moisture.

Seek out other antibacterial ingredients

Alcohol is ultra-effective at fighting germs, but the ingredient can occasionally irritate certain skin types. If you choose to use an alcohol-free hand sanitizer, make sure to seek out other disinfecting ingredients and proceed with caution.

1. CleanWell Botanical Hand Sanitizer Spray

For those times when you can't wash with soap and water, Dr. Edo Paz, VP of Medical at primary care app K Health, recommends this alcohol-free, moisturizing formula that contains antibacterial ingredients like thyme oil.

"CleanWell is a great solution for hand sanitizer on the go. Its active ingredient is thymus oil, making it milder than alcohol-based sanitizers and safe for kids and those with sensitive skin," he said. "However, this ingredient may be less effective than alcohol-based hand sanitizers."

2. Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer

Babies are irresistible, but they're also super susceptible to adult germs. If you're looking for a gentle, alcohol-free hand sanitizer to keep them safe, Paz recommends this foaming product formulated with disinfecting benzalkonium chloride and plant-derived ingredients.

“The foam-based formulation helps you make sure you haven’t missed a spot. This sanitizer is fragrance-free and alcohol-free, so those with sensitive or dry skin can use this without feeling irritation,” Paz said.

Opt for regular soap and water when you can

It's easy to become dependent on those handy portable sanitizers, but in order to fight off germs most effectively, the CDC recommends washing with regular soap and water whenever you can.

"Hand sanitizer shouldn't be used as a substitute for hand-washing, which is still the recommended form of hand hygiene," NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar told TODAY.

1. Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap Refill

Need that nice lather to feel like your hands are really clean? This gentle formula has you covered! It is designed to wash away bacteria without dehydrating sensitive skin.

2. Mrs. Meyer's Liquid Hand Soap

This bestselling soap is made with aloe vera, olive oil and other essential oils and is free of parabens, phthalates and artificial colors.

3. Dial Complete Foaming Antibacterial Hand Wash

Washing your hands doesn't have to be totally tedious! This four-pack of soaps from Dial comes in a range of fun scents and kills 99.99% of germs.

4. Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap

This gentle formula gets rid of dirt and bacteria and leaves hands feeling soft thanks to the inclusion of aloe.

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