Assessment of Anti-Bacterial Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizers Commonly Used in South Africa


Hand sanitizers are used as an alternative to hand washing to reduce the number of viable microorganisms when soap and water are not readily available. This study aimed to investigate the anti-bacterial effectiveness of commercially available hand sanitizers and those commonly used in healthcare and community settings. A mapping exercise was done to select and procure different hand sanitizers (n = 18) from retailers. Five microorganisms implicated in hospital-acquired infections were selected and tested against each hand sanitizer: Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus. Twenty-one volunteers were recruited to do a handprint before and after applying the hand sanitizer. Only four out of eighteen hand sanitizers (22%) were effective against all tested bacterial species, and an equal number (22%) were completely ineffective. Seven hand sanitizers with a label claim of 99.99% were only effective against E. coli. Only five hand sanitizers (27%) effectively reduced bacteria on participants’ hands. This study showed that only a fifth of hand sanitizers were effective against selected microorganisms. The findings raise a concern about the effectiveness of hand sanitizers and their role in infection, prevention, and control if not well regulated.


open access article We thank the laboratory management for granting access to the facilities and their staff. We also thank the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) and National Health Laboratory Service for supporting the project. We are thankful to the NIOH Immunology & Microbiology, in particular Z Kirsten for her support to the project. We would also like to acknowledge Herman Myburgh’s (University of Johannesburg, Metaverse Research Unit) contribution on the graphical abstract.


hand disinfectants, microorganisms, hospital-acquired infection, infection prevention and control, precautionary measures, hand hygiene


Muleba, L., Van Wyk, R., Pienaar, J., Ratshikhopha, E. and Singh, T. (2022) Assessment of Anti-Bacterial Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizers Commonly Used in South Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (15), 9245


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research