Purell Launches a “Green” Hand Sanitizer

I want to kill two birds with one stone in this post. The first is to let everyone know there is, at long last, an eco-certified hand sanitizer.

The second is to clear up a common misconception about hand sanitizers, one I held myself until I did some research for this story.

But first, the exciting announcement from Purell: the watery gel everyone from Dick Cheney to Barack Obama uses to keep their hands “99.9%” germ-free is now available in a biodegradable formula made from 100 percent renewable plant-based ethanol in a completely recyclable PET plastic container. Whew!

The whole package has been certified by Ecologo, which confirms that the product meets its recently released “Instant Hand Antiseptic Products standard.” Accord to Joe Kanfer, CEO of GOJO, maker of Purell, it is the world’s first hand sanitizer to received certification from an independent eco-labeling program.

The new product’s light-weight packaging uses 30 percent less material, saving 250 tons of plastic a year.

Drug-resistant bacteria?

What immediately jumps to mind when I think of Purell is a mass-marketed irrational fear of germs that is directly contributing to the creation of antimicrobial-resistant superbugs.

Well, it turns out I am only half right. It is unlikely that Purell and other alcohol-based consumer antimicrobials are nurturing killer bacteria. For germs to develop resistance to a substance they need “prolonged exposure” to it. But the active ingredient in Purell, ethanol, evaporates quickly (a phenomenon anyone who has used it knows: one second you’re wondering how you’re going to this goop off your hands, the next it’s gone).

A scientific article on the subject found “no documented resistance associated with alcohol-based hand sanitizers” and “the potential for such resistance remains widely doubted.”

As for whether Purell is mass-marketing germ paranoia, it should also be pointed out that washing your hands is the number one doctor recommended way to prevent infections.

So bring on the Purell — safe, clean and now, environmentally friendly.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

9 responses

  1. I suppose we are now ignoring the other arguments against these inane products? Do we really need this level of sanitization 24/7? Wouldn't it be even more ecologically sound to simply wash our hands with some natural soaps when needed? No one needs to be 99.9% germ free except surgeons.

    1. I think that's a valid point. I guess what I was getting at is that there does not appear to be any harm to using these ethanol cleansers. But if there is then obviously we should ditch them.

  2. Kurt – your comment overlooks the fact that many times, my family and I are not around a sink and/or soap. Having dispensers available and/or carrying my little bottle with me makes it easy to clean our hands after doing anything active in the outdoors.

  3. Pingback: Does the overhead air on a plane actually make you sick? Recycled? Or does it push away the germs? | Hand Sanitizer Wipes
  4. Pingback: SCRUBS® 6- Pack by ITW Dymon | Hand Sanitizer Wipes
  5. Pingback: Does anyone know any OTHER methods of getting rid of garlic smell? | Hand Sanitizer Wipes

Leave a Reply