Here’s Why Your Hand Sanitizer Stinks

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly gotten more people to use hand sanitizer than ever before. But alongside that increased demand for hand sanitizer, folks have also noticed that hand sanitizer just… doesn’t really smell the same way it used to. 

In fact, that’s putting it mildly: many modern alcohol based hand sanitizers brands stink.Literally.

What gives? After all, aren't hand sanitizers still made in the same way as they used to be? Furthermore, is it possible that hand sanitizer that smells bad also stinks in other ways?

Let’s break down both of these questions and examine why hand sanitizers smell in the olfactory senseand why you should make sure it doesn’t stink otherwise, too.


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Hand Sanitizer Can Smell… and Stink.

Hand sanitizer can both smell bad and figuratively “stink” as a disinfectant product – that is, it doesn’t do a very good job of keeping you and your family safe. However, just because hand sanitizer have an unpleasant scent doesn’t mean it’ll also do a bad job at disinfecting. In fact, the two unpleasant effects are more unrelated than you might think.

Ultimately, whether alcohol based hand sanitizers stink in terms of effectiveness or literal smell usually has to do with its included ingredients and its expiration date.

The fact is,hand sanitizer can and does expire, usually around a period of between two and three years. Over time, alcohol can evaporate into the environment since no hand sanitizer container is completely airtight. This does mean that you need to periodically purchase new hand sanitizer if you want to guarantee the safety of your hands and family.

Let’s take a closer look at both issues and why they occur, plus potential solutions.

Why Does Hand Sanitizer Smell Bad Now? 

Lots of people have noticed that hand sanitizer used to be largely odorless, or at least it smelled closer to regular alcohol (i.e. rubbing alcohol) than anything else. But recently, and no doubt in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic driving up sanitizer purchases across the market, more and more people have noticed that, frankly… hand sanitizers justsmell bad these days. 

At least, this seems to be the case for any unscented hand sanitizer products. What gives?

Let’s break it down – basically, new hand sanitizer brands are made from distillers that have swapped from producing drinking alcohol to meeting the new public demand for more hand sanitizer. That swap sounds good in theory because, after all, aren’t all types of alcohol essentially the same?

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Well, not exactly.

You see, those distillers that are now trying to make a profit by producing hand sanitizer are usingdenatured ethanol. Denatured ethanol, especially in its unfiltered state, is made from corn, beets, sugar cane, and other organic sources. As you might imagine, the distillers used to use denatured ethanol for alcoholic beverage production.



Now that many of them have switched to creating hand sanitizer, it’s more profitable for those distillers to use their old sources of denatured ethanol rather than using ethanol filtered through activated carbon filtration. The problem, of course, is that denatured ethanol is usually smelly on purpose to stop people from drinking it before it has properly been mixed with alcoholic beverages.

Additional chemicals are added so that people don’t attempt to drink alcohol before it’s ready for consumption. It’s just too bad that this public safety measure is starting to become unpleasant for far more people than originally intended!


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Does Hand Sanitizer Smell Affect Efficacy? 

Not at all. In fact, hand sanitizers that smells bad can work just as well as stuff that smells good or doesn’t give an off putting smell whatsoever. The smell is just an unpleasant side effect but it doesn’t have anything to do with how well the alcohol kills germs and bacteria.

So if you’re own hand sanitizer smells bad, not to worry – you can still keep using it. You may even benefit in hindsight, since the bad smell may prevent you from lifting your hands up toward your face! This, in turn, can stop you from spreading germs from your hands to your mouth or eyes.

Will Hand Sanitizer Go Back to Normal? 

Most likely. Remember, the only reason many hand sanitizer brands smell bad in the first place is because those brands don’t normally make sanitizer – they’re only jumping on a momentary market craze due to the coronavirus pandemic. As soon as the pandemic stops and people stop needing so much hand sanitizer, it’s likely those distillers will go back to primarily producing alcohol products for beverages and other uses.

In other words, the smelliness is only temporary, but if the hand sanitizers wasn’t quality to start with, it won’tbecome quality anytime soon.

So, let's break down what you should look for to ensure you don't get a hand sanitizer that's subpar overall.

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Why Might You Be Due for a Sanitizer Upgrade?

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider reconsidering the hand sanitizer you use:

  • Your own hand sanitizer could be made with subpar ingredients.Lots of commercial hand sanitizer products are made with harsh and synthetic chemicals, plus parabens: synthetic products designed to make hand sanitizer last for longer.
  • Even worse, some of these subpar ingredients could havetoxic side effects. For instance, sulfates and many other synthetic chemicals are sometimes linked to cancer and allergic reactions in those who use sanitizers made from them.
  • Your hand sanitizer might be made without hydrating ingredients like aloe vera. This could make the hand sanitizer excessively drying to your skin, which could lead your skin to flake off or feel uncomfortable after you use hand sanitizer multiple times

What Should You Look For in a Great Hand Sanitizer? 

If you want something that doesn’t smell bad and doesn’t fail when it comes to germ removal, you should seriously considerDr. Brite’s Hand Sanitizers. Specifically, check out thecitrus version, which comes with a pleasant fragrance and doesn’t compromise whatsoever in terms of ingredient efficacy.


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In fact, this hand sanitizer product is made with70% isopropyl alcohol. That means you won’t have to deal with any smelly alcohol side effects. But it does also include important ingredients like:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Several essential oils for additional antibacterial and antimicrobial effects
  • Aloe vera to moisturize and soothe your hands when you rub the sanitizer on them

Altogether, the resulting hand sanitizer smells great, works fantastic, and won’t dry out your hands

If you need something designed for bulk use,Dr. Brite’s Unscented Hand Sanitizer also comes in a 1-gallon jug. This is a perfect choice for offices and medical centers since it uses the same isopropyl alcohol that won’t smell weird when you use it. It’s also unscented, which fares perfectly in a professional or clinical setting where floral scents might not be appropriate. 


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Your hand sanitizers might smell and stink in more ways than one. But the good news is that there’s always excellent hand sanitizer alternatives available if you are willing to look and try something new. Rather than go with the cheap hand sanitizers made by old distillers, try Dr. Brite’snon-toxic hand sanitizers and othernon-toxic cleaning essentials made with natural, organic ingredients.

It’s the best way to make sure that your hand sanitizer doesn’t smell every time you spread it on your hands, and keeps toxic ingredients at bay over the long-term. 

Stay safe out there!





1. Why do hand sanitizers smell bad?

This stinks because the new products - which are often created by distillers who have switched from producing alcoholic beverages to provide hand sanitizers - are manufactured and used using denatured ethanol.

2. How do I stop my sanitizer from smelling?

Using these innovative technologies, odors that naturally occur when maize, sorghum, barley, sugar cane, and sugar beets are used to produce ethanol are greatly reduced.

3. Why does my hand sanitizer smell like vodka?

Organic Chemistry Explained's Coster writes that ethanol is the same kind of alcohol that is present in all alcoholic beverages. Hand sanitizers ordinarily smell like liquor due to the high alcohol content of strong spirits such as vodka and tequila.

4. Can I put perfume in my hand sanitizer?

A perfume's strong scent is the most immediately apparent disadvantage of using it as hand sanitizer. Because vintage fragrances contain high amounts of alcohol, it is okay to use them as hand sanitisers, according to Ann Prosser of Oxford Biosciences.

5. How do you make Lemon hand sanitizer?

In general, there are two common concentrations of alcohol - 70% and 99 percent - so use 99 percent to ensure germ abatement. The scent you use to mask the smell of alcohol or hand sanitizer is up to you or your family.

6. Can hand sanitizer expire?

The industry norm for how long hand sanitizer lasts is typically 2 to 3 years. Even while it's not harmful to use hand sanitizer past its expiration date, it could work less well or not at all. It's best to wash your hands with soap and water whenever you can.

7. Should I throw away expired hand sanitizer?

Even if it loses some effectiveness after its expiration date, hand sanitizer will still destroy some germs. Although it can still be used after its expiration date, it won't be as effective in removing germs as a new batch.

8. What can you do with old sanitizer?

If it is not possible to properly dispose of expired hand sanitizer through recycling, reclaiming, or the episodic generation clause, you must dispose of it as hazardous waste. This entails disposing of the material in a hazardous waste landfill that is authorized. If the hand sanitizer has a label with the medication facts, it should be disposed of as a pharmaceutical.