Gel or Liquid Hand Sanitizers: What’s the Difference?

Mother holding two hand sanitizers to show child

When people think about hand sanitizers, they usually think about the standard gel they see at their doctor’s office, in a teacher’s classroom, or maybe their neighborhood grocery store. It’s what they’ve often seen in public places and, therefore, what they are most familiar with.

But the gel is not the only form. There are liquids, foams, wipes, and sprays, each with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages when if comes to PPE equipment. Two of the most commonly used types of hand sanitizer are gel and liquid, but what makes them different? And are there situations or applications where one is more preferable than the other?

Getting Down to the Basics

So, here’s a quick background on gel and liquid hand sanitizers.

Gel hand sanitizer is the type of sanitizer that has a thicker, almost jelly-like consistency — hence the name gel. Liquid hand sanitizer, on the other hand, is closer to the consistency of water. You might find some air bubbles dotted throughout either germ-fighting concoction due to their alcohol content and the distinct production methods of the manufacturing company. Depending on the additives, both sanitizers can be clear or pretty much any color in the rainbow. Blue, yellow, purple, you name it.

In regard to setting, you can often find either types of hand sanitizer in busy healthcare locations such as clinics since both are easy to transfer from wall-mounted dispensers. This is a huge benefit for doctors, patients, and visitors alike. Regular consumers tend to prefer the gel format as it’s easier to dispense without spilling it everywhere. This makes it a prime choice for protection on the go or even for when you’re just chilling at home.

Their Common Ground

When it comes to the effectiveness of gel or liquid hand sanitizer, they’re pretty much on equal footing. It really boils down to proper application. According to the CDC, you need to properly coat the entire surface of your hands and then rub the product into your skin and nails until your hands are completely dry. This typically takes around 20 to 30 seconds.

Additionally, the alcohol content of the sanitizer is what you should be keeping an eye out for. A good hand sanitizer should contain alcohol. 

Let’s hear that again

A good hand sanitizer should contain alcohol. 

This is very important to note as there are quite a few brands out there pushing alcohol-free sanitizers. Your germ-fighting sanitizer can only fight germs effectively if it has at least 60% alcohol. You can find both gel and liquid sanitizers meeting this requirement. 

Where They Differ

As determined in a number of studies on hand sanitizers, there are a few big differences between the gel and liquid formats. Gels tend to take around 30 seconds before they fully eliminate bacteria and viruses, while liquids usually take around half that time. However, this delay of action for gels gives you ample time to fully cover your hands in sanitizer, allowing the product to do exactly what it’s made for.

Liquids have low viscosity so they are extremely runny and can be difficult to handle in most situations. Studies have shown that gels are often more desirable than liquid sanitizers because they generally smell less and are more portable, among other benefits. Consequently, the fact that you remember gel hand sanitizers more than liquid honestly makes sense.

In the end, the differences between gel and liquid hand sanitizers really don’t affect their superpower of fighting germs. If you’re looking to make a decision between the two, think about why you need the product and when you plan to use it. That way, you can weigh the pros and cons of either type and go with what works best for you.

At palmpalm, we understand that a number of different situations and needs may arise throughout your day. That is why we offer a variety of hand sanitizer options, from our 8oz hand sanitizer gel to our 1 gallon liquid hand sanitizer.

We are the brand that protects.