PURELL Hand Sanitizer ES4 dispenser

Formulation Counts: Not All Hand Sanitizer is the Same

Chuck Crawford, Ph.D.


By Chuck Crawford, Ph.D.

Chief Innovation Officer, GOJO Industries

Update: On Aug. 12, the FDA expanded their warning about hand sanitizer brands containing toxic ingredients to also include a warning about 1-isopropanol. PURELL® Hand Sanitizer is not formulated with either 1-propanol or methanol, which were included in the recent warnings from the FDA about hand sanitizer brands. The active ingredient in PURELL® Hand Sanitizer is ethyl alcohol, which we rigorously test to ensure both the alcohol and the finished PURELL® Hand Sanitizer meets FDA drug product quality requirements.


This pandemic has transformed how we think about hand hygiene – both our handwashing and hand sanitizing practices.

In 1988, our Family Enterprise, GOJO, invented PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, creating a new way for employees, patrons, students, teachers, and everyone else to clean their hands away from the sink to help reduce germs that can cause illness.

More than 30 years later, PURELL® remains America’s #1 Hand Sanitizer1 and the PURELL® brand has become very meaningful to people as safe and effective, providing powerful peace of mind. Inspired by this “gold standard,” we continue to formulate, engineer, and design new solutions that live up to the high expectations everyone has for the PURELL® brand.

Formulation is essential

At GOJO, we have a saying – really a core belief – “Formulation Counts." When it comes to developing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, while the percentage of alcohol is very important, the total formulation impacts its performance and user experience. Attributes such as antimicrobial efficacy (how fast it works and the types of germs it kills), safety, skin care (non-irritating, softening, etc.) and aesthetics (consistency, color, feel, smell) must all be designed into the formulation to ensure the product is safe, effective and pleasing to use – and they also reinforce the practice of good hand hygiene. PURELL® Hand Sanitizers deliver against all of these objectives.

For more than 30 years we have carefully formulated and tested our proprietary hand sanitizers to kill germs, be gentle on skin, have a great user experience, and be safe to use. PURELL® products adhere to high standards of product formulation and production. We conduct rigorous quality testing of raw materials (including alcohol) and the finished PURELL® Hand Sanitizer to ensure it meets FDA drug product quality requirements. In addition, GOJO has always included a denaturant in PURELL® Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer to help deter misuse.

The active ingredient in our hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol – only sourced from suppliers who offer ethyl alcohol suitable for OTC drug products. Ethyl alcohol provides the best combination of effectiveness, safety, and when formulated properly, a great user experience. It has been recognized for well over a century for its ability to kill germs quickly. It’s also sometimes called ‘nature’s disinfectant,’ and the majority of the ethyl alcohol used in our PURELL® products is derived from plants.

Many PURELL® products are fragrance free; however, where fragrance is preferred, we utilize light fragrances that reinforce the benefits of PURELL® – a healthy, safe, refreshing clean. In our PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizing Gel, the fragrance profile features citrus notes, and because we only use high quality ethanol in our products, we don’t need to use heavy fragrance to mask impurities. You may not have thought much of what hand sanitizer smelled or felt like until recently, but it is something we have always contemplated while formulating PURELL® hand sanitizer. If you like the consistency, feel, and smell of it, you are more likely to regularly use it. 

Hand sanitizer ingredients called into question

Given the number of new companies manufacturing and marketing alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS), the FDA has repeatedly issued updated guidance to protect public health and ensure the safety of those manufacturing them – ensuring products are made unpalatable to people (especially young children) to help prevent ingestion;2 ensuring products are appropriately labelled;3 confirming restrictions on the ethanol used in ABHS;4 and most recently warning about products contaminated with methanol (also known as wood alcohol), a toxic substance.5,6 PURELL® Hand Sanitizer is not formulated with methanol.

You want the best and we are doing everything to get PURELL® Hand Sanitizer to everyone

Since January, GOJO has been taking significant steps to expand our capacity to meet the sustained, unprecedented level of demand for hygiene products – particularly hand sanitizer and surface disinfectant. By running our facilities 24/7, working with our existing suppliers to dramatically increase raw materials and component supplies, and by implementing creative partnerships with other companies that have directed bottles and caps our way, GOJO is producing more than two times what we did before the pandemic started across all of our operations. Additionally, we have undertaken a massive capital expansion plan that will allow us to make many times more sanitizer than we are producing now, which includes the opening a new plant later this year that will be dedicated to manufacturing PURELL® Surface Spray.

We are shipping more than a billion doses of hand sanitizer per week in North America alone, and its going not only into healthcare and to first responders on the frontlines, but into every market and geography we serve. This includes beginning to ship more than two times 2019 levels into retailers, starting this month.

While it is impossible to predict future demand with certainty, we will be exponentially increasing supply over existing levels, which are already two times last year. We are a purpose-driven family enterprise, and we won’t rest until everyone who needs PURELL® products to keep them safe and healthy, can find them.

1. 52 Week IRI Data ending April 2018; 2017 HPIS Data; Hall & Partners, September 2017 Brand Survey.
2. Accessed July 14, 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Continues to Ensure Availability of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Addresses Safety Concerns. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-continues-ensure-availability-alcohol-based-hand-sanitizer-during
3. Accessed July 14, 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Continues to Ensure Availability of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Addresses Safety Concerns. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-continues-ensure-availability-alcohol-based-hand-sanitizer-during
4. Accessed July 14, 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Takes Action to Protect Public Health; Increase Supply of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-takes-action-protect-public-health-increase-supply-alcohol-based
5. Accessed July 8, 2020. FDA advises consumers not to use hand sanitizer products manufactured by Eskbiochem. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-advises-consumers-not-use-hand-sanitizer-products-manufactured-eskbiochem
6. Accessed July 15, 2020. FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol

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