All Hand Sanitizers Are Not Created Equal
Those little pumps of hand sanitizer have become inescapable in the past decade, and for good reason. They are as effective as hand washing without being as time consuming since you don't need water, sinks, and paper towels. They are great to have around the house, and essential in commercial settings where lots of different people are coming into indirect contact. While all hand sanitizers do effectively kill germs, they come in different varieties which each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers
The property that distinguishes any given hand sanitizer is its active ingredient. The majority of hand sanitizers on the market use a chemical called ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is a very effective sterilizing agent that kills germs by structurally destroying them the same way hand washing does and kill 99.9% of germs on contact.
Unfortunately, ethyl alcohol is poisonous, and if accidentally ingested can cause severe digestive problems, especially in infants and toddlers who frequently put their hands in their mouths. It also has a strong odor which many find unpleasant.
Triclosan Hand Sanitizers
This class of hand sanitizers use a chemical called triclosan and others to poison the bacteria rather than physically destroy them and are one alternative to the often strong smelling alcohol based sanitizers. There has been some recent controversy over its use in recent years as some scientists theorize that the habitual use of triclosan products (which include tooth paste and other hygiene products) may increase cancer risk.
Thymol Hand Sanitizers
These hand sanitizers use a plant based antibacterial agent called Thymol. Thymol is non-toxic to humans derived from the common Thyme plant. It is often recommended by doctors for families with children who frequently put their hands in their mouths. It does however have a strong herb-like scent.
Any of the above sanitizers are all effective at killing bacteria, the choice all comes down to who will most likely be using it.