Hand sanitiser (also known as hand rub) is a rinse free solution to clean hands when soap and water are not available.
About hand sanitiser
There are three types of hand sanitisers currently available on the Australian market.
Therapeutic hand sanitisers
These hand sanitisers are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Therapeutic hand sanitisers must comply with specific requirements outlined by the TGA.
For more information, see the TGA website at: Hand sanitisers and COVID-19.
Cosmetic hand sanitisers
These hand sanitisers, or antibacterial skin preparations, are considered to be 'general consumer products' (cosmetics) and are not regulated by the TGA if they:
- are for personal or domestic use only and not for use in a health care setting (this includes aged care facilities)
- have claims that are limited to particular levels of activity against bacteria or germs (for example, kills 99.9 per cent of germs)
- have no claims against viruses
- that contain only low-risk ingredients (i.e. does not contain a substance included in Schedules 2, 3, 4 or 8 of the Poisons Standard)
- are not presented for use in connection with disease, disorders, medical conditions or certain medical procedures.
Cosmetic hand sanitisers must also meet the mandatory standard for Cosmetics ingredients labelling.
To address Australian shortages of hand sanitiser, the TGA has temporarily exempted hand sanitiser that has been made using the World Health Organisation-recommended handrub formulation from the usual regulatory requirements for therapeutic goods.
For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers may produce this hand sanitiser, provided they exactly follow the formulation, production, testing, record-keeping and labelling requirements outlined in the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods-Hand Sanitisers) Determination 2020.
For more information, see: Supplying safe hand sanitiser.
Risks and injuries
The ACCC is aware of incidents of hand sanitiser ingestions due to children confusing the packaging with food items. As many hand sanitisers are alcohol-based, containing 60 per cent or more ethanol, accidentally ingesting even a small amount may cause serious health issues.
- When buying hand sanitiser, check the ingredients label for any ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction to you or your family.
- For hand sanitiser to be effective, it needs to have high ethanol content (ideally more than 60 per cent) or another active ingredient. If this information is not available on the packaging (for example, 'contains 60 per cent ethanol'), ask the retailer or supplier.
- If the ingredients are not listed on the product or provided in other forms prior to purchase, or the supplier is unable to answer your questions, think twice about purchasing the product and report it to the ACCC.
- If you have children at home, look for hand sanitiser that has child-resistant packaging or other closures that make it difficult for children to access the product.
- If you are using your own bottles at an in-store hand sanitiser refill station, ensure you mark your bottles clearly to avoid confusion with other household or food items.
- When purchasing hand sanitiser in bulk to refill existing or new bottles, choose appropriate refill bottles that do not resemble food or beverage products.
- Keep hand sanitiser out of reach of children at all times. Children should only apply hand sanitiser under adult supervision.
- Hand sanitiser is for external use only.
- If ingested, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Keep hand sanitiser away from any type of open flame as its ingredients are highly flammable.
- Stop using hand sanitiser if it causes skin irritation.
- For more safety information on hand sanitisers and hand hygiene, see the Therapeutic Goods Australia and the Department of Health websites.