In this article, industry
manufacturers answer common questions asked by building service contractors
How can hand sanitizer be considered green?
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be looked at as green based on their two
primary components: Ethanol or Ethyl alcohol is the primary ingredient and is
typically biobased (as an example, derived from corn), and typically the number
two ingredient is water. Both plant-based ethanol and water are considered
renewable, therefore the product can be considered green.
— Ron Shuster, product line
director, STOKO Skin Care by Evonik, Greensboro,
EcoLogo developed the standard for certifying
hand sanitizers based on a combination of factors, including the use of less
intrusive raw materials, a reduction of environmental hazards and an increase
of product recyclability.
Formulation highlights include:
• Cannot use raw materials
like Quats and triclosan, which are on the “prohibited substances” list;
• Must use biobased content;
• Must be readily
• Must be fragrance- and
Packaging highlights include:
• Bulk is excluded;
• Bottle size minimum is 8
• Shippers must contain
minimum 20 percent PCR;
• Primary packaging must be
• No secondary packaging.
— Joe Drenik, marketing
communications and services senior director, GOJO Industries, Akron,
Hand sanitizers are considered green because most of the active ingredients are
derived from natural sources. A majority of hand sanitizers do not contain
fragrances or dyes, which adds to the “environmentally-friendly” position.
There’s nothing particularly green about an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Some companies make a green “claim” for using
alcohol from “renewable resources.” In North America this usually means alcohol
derived from corn. Countries like Brazil use sugar cane to produce alcohol.
Why does hand sanitizer expire and what is its typical shelf life?
All drug products have to have expiration
dates. These dates are established based on stability testing of the active
ingredients of the drug product over a certain period of time.
— Ron Shuster, product line
director, STOKO Skin Care by Evonik, Greensboro, N.C.
Hand sanitizers, both alcohol and non-alcohol
versions, expire because the active ingredient that provides the germ-killing
action is reduced over time due to evaporation or chemical degradation. Hand
sanitizers should not be used past their expiration without a confirmatory lab
test to accurately measure if the active levels still meets the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) Monograph has been performed.
Most hand sanitizers have a three-year shelf life. The FDA requires that an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer maintain a minimum alcohol level of 62 percent to
be considered 99.99 percent effective. Some alcohol-based hand sanitizers
contain more than 62 percent alcohol to achieve a longer shelf life. Contrary
to popular belief, those hand sanitizers with more than 62 percent alcohol are
not more effective because they have higher levels of alcohol. They just simply
have a longer shelf life. Non-alcohol hand sanitizer containing Benzalkonium
Chloride (BZC) must not exceed 0.13 percent BZC.
Alcohol sanitizers are regulated by the FDA’s
Tentative Final Monograph (TFM). It states they must contain at least 60
percent alcohol to kill germs. Most manufacturers put expiration dates on their
products because there is chance that the alcohol level may drop below 60
percent, with time. For example, if the bottle cap is left open there could be
some alcohol evaporation, due to contact with air.
In theory, if a bottle is kept tightly closed between uses, the product could
be effective for several years.
Typically, manufacturers will state a two-year “shelf life” although the
product may be effective longer than that.
As long as the level of alcohol remains at or above 60 percent, the product
will work as advertised. Since the FDA is very strict with the claims that can
be made for products like hand sanitizers, most companies prefer to state a
shelf life since they cannot control how the end user or customer uses the
— Greg Hill, product manager,
hand care, Zep Sales & Service, Atlanta