Coronavirus: Can Hand Sanitizer Prevent the Infection? Poynter Institute and CDC Weigh In

The CDC and other medical institutions say that hand sanitizer is effective against COVID-19, the Coronavirus. A number of viral posts on social media have suggested that alcohol-based hand sanitizers will not protect against the rapidly spreading illness, but that is not true. Where soap and hot water is not available, hand sanitizer will work.

With the Coronavirus spreading around the world and the number of casualties rising, many are looking for preventative measures to take for the best chance of remaining virus-free. Many experts and organizations have said that thoroughly washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds is the best method, leaving people to wonder about hand sanitizer.

Over the weekend, some posts about hand sanitizer began to circulate saying that it was not effective against the virus. Many of these posts argued that hand saniziters are anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, but not anti-viral, and therefore would not do any good.

According to a report by The Poynter Institute's PolitiFact, this is not true. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60% are effective against the Coronavirus, but are still second-best to actual soap and water.

There are viruses which hand sanitizer is reportedly ineffective against. However, the Coronavirus is an "enveloped virus," and several studies have shown that hand sanitizer is effective against them.

Twitter user Dr. Eugene Gu explained further in a threaded post of his own, made to combat misinformation about hand sanitizer and Coronavirus. He explained that the "enveloped" layer of the virus "literally explodes" when it comes into contact with soaps and detergents, including the alcohol in hand sanitizer.

However, Dr. Gu noted that hand-washing with soap and water is still superior because it physically removes dirt and debris from the skin, unlike hand sanitizer in many cases.


At the time of this writing, the death toll for the Coronavirus stands at nine people in total, according to a report by CBS News. The virus has been found in 15 states, and more than 100 cases have been reported in total, including the fatalities.

Public spaces around the U.S. are making preparations for a pandemic, including schools, hospitals and other offices. The World Health Organization announced that the disease may be much more lethal than previously suspected, but also much less transmissable. All-in-all, experts say that it is a manageable threat as long as the right precautions are taken.