Purell is one of the most commonly used instant hand sanitizers on the market. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent contracting disease or infection, and is the best way to keep from spreading disease or infection. When warm water and soap aren't available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based cleaning product, such as Purell. Purell hand sanitizer is able to kill many of the bacteria and viruses on your hands by using a careful mixture of active and inactive ingredients.

Ethyl Alcohol

The main active ingredient in Purell hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol, the primary germ-killing agent in most hand-sanitizing agents. According to the Purell company, one of the major benefits of using ethyl alcohol over other germ killing agents is that bacteria have been unable to create a resistance to ethyl alcohol. That means that regardless of how often you use the product, the bacteria continue to die.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Ingredients in Hand Sanitizer

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Isopropyl alcohol is also a germ-killing agent. Although the percentage of isopropyl alcohol is much less than ethyl alcohol, both work together to keep your hands free of the bacteria and viruses that cause infection and disease.


Carbomer is a common ingredient used to make gel-like solutions. The carbomer is added to water in Purell by sifting it in. As the carbomer combines with the water, it creates a non-foaming gel.

Tocopheryl Acetate

How Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Bacteria?

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Tocopheryl acetate is a form of the fat-soluble vitamin E. It's commonly used in skin products as an antioxidant and moisturizer 1. Its moisturizing properties can help offset the drying effect that ethyl alcohol can cause to the skin.


Glycerin is another common ingredient in skin products. It works in two ways--as a skin moisturizer that absorbs moisture from the air, and to make Purell easier to spread on the skin.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a moisturizer that works similar to glycerin. This ingredient pulls moisture from the air and deposits it into the upper layers of the skin, helping to keep skin from drying out.

Isopropyl Myrisate

Isopropyl myrisate works to thicken the consistency of the Purell gel. It also acts as an emollient to prevent the product from feeling oily.