What to Look For Before Buying Hand Sanitizer in Bulk
What to Look For Before Buying Hand Sanitizer in Bulk
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers filled their carts—online and otherwise—with bulk hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and other products that could help to keep germs at bay.
Now, several months into the pandemic, purchasing hand sanitizer in bulk is a lot harder than simply opening up Amazon.com. Both scarcity and rising prices have forced consumers and businesses alike to turn to wholesalers and other suppliers to meet the unrelenting demand.
But the problem is, not all these wholesalers are created equal. There are a slew of new brands pumping out hand sanitizer, and without proper oversight, the product you end up with might not be all that effective in protecting against the novel coronavirus.
Whether you operate a pharmacy, a small retail store, or any other kind of business, you need to be sure that any bulk hand sanitizer purchase is safe and effective for the public. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together a guide to purchasing hand sanitizer in bulk, which includes important information, such as:
- The CDC’s hand sanitizer recommendations
- Avoiding alcohol-free hand sanitizers
- Paying attention to expiration dates
- Spotting suspect or unproven claims
With a better understanding of what to look for, you can make sure your next bulk hand sanitizer purchase doesn’t leave you with a case of buyer’s remorse.
CDC Hand Sanitizer Guidelines
Before purchasing hand sanitizer in bulk, it’s important to understand the most effective formula for protection against the novel coronavirus. The best source for this information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Though the CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible, it notes that hand sanitizer can be an effective alternative—especially in clinical settings like hospitals. When used correctly, hand sanitizer can inactivate many types of microbes on the hands, helping to prevent the spread of germs.
However, not all hand sanitizers are created equal, which is why the CDC has created specific guidelines for hand sanitizers.
First and foremost, hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. Both ethanol and isopropanol are types of alcohol with disinfecting properties. Since both ingredients perform essentially the same function, they are often the primary ingredient in over-the-counter hand sanitizers. However, there are some slight differences between the two when rubbed on skin, such as how quickly they evaporate.
Regardless of which ingredient is used, studies have shown that hand sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are the most effective at killing germs.
However, alcohol is not the only ingredient found in hand sanitizer. Water is also necessary to destroy or inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. In short, water acts as a catalyst to denature the proteins of cell membranes. Water is also important in slowing evaporation time, which enhances effectiveness.
As for other ingredients you might come across, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed benzalkonium chloride eligible for use in hand sanitizer when used along with both ethanol and isopropanol. However, the CDC notes that current evidence indicates that benzalkonium chloride has less reliable activity against certain bacteria and viruses than either ethanol or isopropanol.
In other words, you don’t need a degree in chemistry to make a bulk hand sanitizer purchase, you simply need to know which ingredients to look out for.
Avoiding Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizers
The CDC has made clear that effective hand sanitizers should have an alcohol concentration between 60–95%. However, panic over the spread of COVID-19 has caused a lot of worried consumers to stock up on alcohol-free hand sanitizers as well.
For instance, some hand sanitizers sold by brands like Purell and Germ-X rely on benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient, instead of alcohol. And if you search for “hand sanitizer” on Amazon, you’ll be met with multiple listings for alcohol-free products.
As the CDC has noted, the use of non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers is a problem because these products may not work equally well for different types of germs, or they may simply reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.
Therefore, you should always check the active ingredient and alcohol content of a hand sanitizer before making any purchases—especially if you’re buying hand sanitizer in bulk.
Checking Expiration Dates
Even if you’re able to find an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with the right alcohol concentration, you still need to do some due diligence and check for an expiry date.
Over time, the alcohol content in hand sanitizer evaporates. And once the alcohol content drops below 60%, it’s far less effective at killing germs. As a result, hand sanitizers generally have an expiry date of about three years after the manufacture date. In fact, the FDA requires brands to include an expiry date on their hand sanitizer products.
When purchasing hand sanitizer in bulk, you should always check for this expiry date to ensure that the product you’re buying has not been sitting in a warehouse for years.
Beware of Unproven Claims
There’s no doubt that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a powerful tool in protecting people from the spread of coronavirus. However, many companies have exaggerated the power of hand sanitizer, suggesting that the product can prevent, treat, or even cure COVID-19. These kinds of false claims are in violation of both Health Canada and the FDA’s guidelines, and both agencies have begun cracking down on these companies.
Even big-name brands such as Purell have been guilty of making these claims. Back in January of 2020, the FDA came after Purell for claims on the company’s website and social media accounts that said, “Purell Products are proven to reduce absenteeism” and Purell “kills more than 99.99 percent of the most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA.” According to the FDA, there are no reliable studies to back those claims that Purell products have produced a corresponding reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or viruses.
While Purell may have changed its marketing and removed any false claims, the FDA and Health Canada aren’t able to keep an eye on every hand sanitizer brand out there. And with so many companies now producing hand sanitizer, smaller brands can easily fly under the radar, leveraging false claims as a way to sell their products to panicked shoppers.
When buying bulk hand sanitizer, keep an eye out for any of these suspicious claims about COVID-19 prevention or treatment. Not only should you avoid purchasing these products, but you should also report the seller to the appropriate authorities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading fear and panic, it’s made the process of buying hand sanitizer in bulk significantly more challenging for pharmacies and other small retailers. But if you do your research and pay attention to what you’re buying, you can ensure you’re getting a safe and effective product for your customers.