Rinse, Gel, Foam – How Can We Choose?


We can select from a broad spectrum of alcohol-based hand hygiene products; liquid format hand sanitizers (rinses), gels and foams are available. What factors should we consider when choosing?

The first alcohol-based hand disinfectant products were rinses. They were not skin-friendly, caused skin irritation and dryness, that is why gels and foams were developed [1].

In many cases, rinses are more effective than gels [1], although the reduction factor of gels may still be good enough during routine work [2]. Modern gels meet the EN 1500 standard [3].

Rinses drip from the hands more often. In the case of gels and foams, there is a higher chance that the entire volume remains on the hands [4].

Some products dry too slowly, thereby encouraging the use of inadequate volumes. A study found that delivery format does not really influence the drying time, but alcohol concentration does [4].

Alcohol concentration alone cannot guarantee the quality of a product. Simply including alcohol at a concentration >75% will not guarantee that a formulation will meet global efficacy standards, because other ingredients may significantly influence the antimicrobial properties [5].

Some alcohol-based products can react with chlorhexidine, an antiseptic used for skin disinfection before surgery. The most commonly used thickeners for handrub gels can inactivate the long-lasting disinfection effect of chlorhexidine [6]. If the use of chlorhexidine products is part of the daily routine, product compatibility should be considered.



If healthcare workers do not like to use a product, compliance will decline. User acceptance is vital to the overall effectiveness [2].

A study reported that when they changed from rinse to gel, the number of hand rubbing events have doubled [7].

In another study, the authors advised, if products have a similar antimicrobial activity, the choice should take into account the healthcare worker’s acceptance [8].

Before you select a product, ask your team what they prefer!



Read more on this topic at HandInScan’s scientific blog.