For people who swear by Purell, the FDA has some bad news. Hand sanitizers do not actually kill and eliminate ebola or flu. In fact, they don’t eliminate any of the other diseases the company claims in its ads. This is such a problem that the FDA has warned Purell that it needs to either stop making false claims or apply to make hand sanitizers a drug.
Currently, hand sanitizers are classified as a topical antiseptic. This means that it is a chemical that can inhibit the growth of microorganisms on human skin. For anyone who has ever worked in a laboratory setting, you’ll know that the active ingredient in Purell (ethyl alcohol) does disinfect surfaces, at least temporarily. The fact is, diseases aren’t just spread by dirty hands touching faces. They can spread through the air via air droplets, in food or drinking glasses or via mucous membrane interactions.
Other studies have shown that Purell isn’t as effective as soap and water when it comes to actually cleaning your hands and getting the microorganisms off your skin. For most people, hand sanitizers should be used as a last resort, when there is no clean water available to you.