Answer: Clorox Hand Sanitizing Spray, Germstar Noro, and Sterizar Hand Foamer
For everyday life, vigorous hand washing is good enough to remove most of the germs. However, if you are in a public place and can't get to a sink, or if someone in your house actually has the stomach flu, I would also recommend using an alcohol hand sanitizer spray. I do not recommend using regular alcohol hand sanitizer gels such as regular Purell® because researchers have found that the "gel" in these gel hand sanitizers "protect" norovirus. (However, they are fine if that is all you have). There are some other hand sanitizers that are very effective against norovirus. I have done some of my own experiments with these products to test their effectiveness which you can see here.
It was previously thought that norovirus was resistant to alcohol and that alcohol hand sanitizers didn't work against norovirus. Unlike most viruses, human norovirus won't grow in a petri dish. It does not want to attack cells in a petri dish, it only likes to attack people. This makes human norovirus very difficult to study. So, most researches study viruses that are closely related to human norovirus and HOPE that their results are applicable to human norovirus. One of the viruses they study is Feline calicivirus. This virus is VERY resistant to alcohol which started the "alcohol doesn't kill norovirus" thing. Now researchers are also using murine norovirus. This virus is genetically more closely related to human norovirus. Murine norovirus is killed by alcohol. So, now researchers are leaning more towards "alcohol hand sanitizers do fine killing norovirus."1. Recommendations could still change but I try to keep up with the research and post it here.
Clorox Hand Sanitizing Spray
Clorox Hand Sanitizing Spray kills norovirus. This is a liquid spray hand sanitizer with 71% ethanol. It does not contain bleach. I have seen its test data from Clorox. It was tested against Feline Calicivirus and it killed 99.3%. That is pretty good since Feline Calicivirus is very resistant to alcohol. It would have probably done better if they tested against Murine Norovirus. It is not available in most stores. You can order it on amazon. I'd suggest getting the 3 pack of these little 2 ounce bottles to carry around and also the big refill bottle. I have been using this hand sanitizer myself and I really like it. Like all alcohol sanitizers, it can sting if your hands have cuts on them. I have done some experiments with it myself which you can see here. This spray works the best if you use a lot and really soak your hands and then rub.
The company Germstar® has specifically designed a hand sanitizer that kills norovirus. It is called Germstar®Noro. It's active ingredient is 63% ethanol. So, how could this possibly work when the regular 62% alcohol products don't work very well? I contacted the company to find out. I read their ingredient list, read their test results, and e-mailed the scientist who did the tests. This is what I learned. Germstar®Noro contains an emollient complex that makes it work better. The phrase "emollient complex" probably sounds fishy to you (like an anti-wrinkle cream commercial). Basically, they have added some extra ingredients that make the alcohol work much better. They also did not add glycerin (which most alcohol hand gels contain). They found that the glycerin "protects" the viruses. I believe their results and I trust that Germstar®Noro does kill norovirus, especially since the scientist who tested Germstar®Noro (Dr. Syed Sattar) is one of the top researchers in the field2. I have used Germstar®Noro for years and I really like it. (I have also recently started using the Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray). It is a liquid that comes in a spray bottle. It dries really nice with no stickiness. Like all alcohol hand sanitizers, it stings my knuckles in the winter when they are dry and chapped. Therefore, I usually just put it on my palms and fingers. I don't eat with my knuckles, anyway. It is important to use a lot of the product and really soak your hands and rub, though, if you want to kill ALL the germs. I recommend getting the 2oz bottles for carrying in your purse or coat pocket. They also have cute dispensers for it which are great for classrooms and offices. The dispensers come in different colors. Germstar®Noro is available on amazon!
Zylast Antiseptic is a very exciting new hand sanitizer that kills the norovirus surrogate Feline calicivirus 99.97%! It also possesses some residual activity and has been shown to continue working for about 4 hours. It's active ingredient is 76% ethanol. The company claims that the "Zylast Technology" makes it kill norovirus much better than ethanol alone. They also sell the Zylast Antiseptic LOTION. The company told me that the lotion has not been tested for its ability to kill norovirus. However, they assured me that it does kill norovirus because it utilizes the same "Zylast technology". However, the ingredients are different in the lotion and I would much prefer if they actually tested the lotion for its ability to kill norovirus. The lotion is very nice and feels great on my hands, though.
76% ethanol, Water, Polyaminopropyl Biquanide, Panthenol, Hydroxyethyl Ethylcellulose, Farnesol, Peg-12, Dimethicone, and Benzethonium Chloride.
Zylast Antiseptic LOTION
.2% Benzethonium Chloride, Water, Alcohol Denat., Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Polyaminopropyl Biquanide, Dimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Benzyl Alcohol, Farnesol, Panthenol, Zinc gluconate, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Citric Acid, Polyquaternium-10, and Tocopheryl Acetate.
Amosil Q 24 hour hand sanitizers--Still waiting on the norovirus test results.
There are 4 hand sanitizers using the active ingredient Amosil Q. They are very exciting because they claim that it kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi for up to 24 hours. The amosil Q forms a layer of microscopic "spikes" on your skin that mechanically kill germs by poking holes in them. They claim the germs die instantly and it remains on your skin for up to 24 hours. The 4 products that I have found are Qore 24, Germ Free 2, Safe Touch 24, and Prefenz. I know for a fact that Qore24, Germ Free 24, and Safe Touch 24 are all exactly the same thing made by the same company. I'm not sure about Prefenze. I contacted the makers of Qore24 in October 2012. They said that they are still waiting for the norovirus test results. They also said that absolutely none of the hand sanitizer is absorbed into your skin or into your body so it is completely safe and non-toxic. I read all of their experimental results and it looks like a fabulous product. I have done some experiments myself with Qore 24. My experiments show that Qore 24 is a great hand sanitizer right when you use it. It even works well on dirty/soiled hands. However, from my results, I don't believe that it continues to keep your hands clean all day. You can see my results here. The Qore 24 company completely disagrees with me.
The company Germ-Aside also has a very exciting hand sanitizer called Sterizar Hand Foamer. Unfortunately, it is not available in the US at this time. It is only available in the UK. This hand sanitizer promises not only to kill norovirus but also claims to continue working for 6 hours! I have read their experimental procedures and test results and am very impressed. 6 hours after application, the test subjects who used the hand sanitizer had 99% less bacteria on their hands than the control people who did not use the hand sanitizer. Here is a link to all of their test results. It takes forever to download so be patient. When reading hand sanitizer test results it is important to understand what "log" means. Test results always talk about "log reduction". A log reduction of 5, means that the product kills 99.999% of germs. A log reduction of 4, means that it kills 99.99% of germs. A log reduction of 3 means that it kills 99.9% of germs. A log reduction of 2 means that the product kills 99% of germs. A log reduction of 1 means that the product kills 90% of germs. Without this information, it is impossible to understand the test results.
I contacted the makers of Purell on March 8, 2012 to see if they had any hand sanitizers that were effective against norovirus. They said that they could not provide me with any of that information.
Internet rumors say that Wet Ones® Antibacterial Wipes kill norovirus. However, this is NOT TRUE. I contacted the Playtex® company (on January 8, 2009) who makes Wet Ones® Antibacterial wipes, and they told me that their wipes have not been tested for their ability to kill norovirus or rotavirus. The active ingredient, Benzethonium Chloride HAS recently been tested for its ability to kill norovirus and it DID NOT KILL NOROVIRUS.3 There is a related compound called benzalkonium chloride which has been shown to kill norovirus in ONE research paper but it is not contained in these wipes.4 Benzalkonium chloride is contained in many foaming hand sanitizers such as Germ-X foaming hand sanitizer and Pampers Kandoo kids hand sanitizer. However, in the research paper, it took 2 hours for the benzalkonium chloride to kill norovirus so it is very unlikely that the smaller amount contained in these hand sanitizers would kill norovirus. The Germ-X foaming hand sanitizer and the Pampers Kandoo kids do not CLAIM to kill norovirus, and I don't think they do.
If anyone knows of another hand sanitizer for which there is proof that it kills rotavirus and norovirus, please let me know. phd.annie at gmail.com
Is it safe to put hand sanitizer on a child who sucks his/her thumb?
Many people wonder if it is okay to put hand sanitizer on the hands of a child who sucks his/her thumb. Most hand sanitizers are made with ethyl alcohol (ethanol). That is the same alcohol that people drink in beer and wine. So, ingesting a small amount of ethanol is not going to hurt anyone. I called the Ohio poison control center about this on March 13, 2012 and the nurse told me that it was perfectly safe for a child to eat the tiny bit of ethanol based hand sanitizer that was on his/her hand. I put alcohol hand sanitizer on my daughter and try to make her wait until her hands are dry before she sucks her thumb. I can't vouch for the safety of other ingredients that may be in your particular hand sanitizer or of all the other types of hand sanitzers. However, such tiny amounts probably aren't harmful. I am not proud of this but my 17 month old son recently ate a puff of my hair mousse, a finger full of black craft paint, desitin, a mouthful of dryer lint, and one ladybug. I called poison control each time and they said none of it would be a problem since he only ate tiny amounts. My son never got sick and was fine. I really can't take my eyes off him, though. He refuses to eat any vegetables and throws most of his food on the floor during meals. Why would you eat a ladybug but not a pea? He is much more trouble than my first two. Good thing he is so cute!
--Annie Pryor, Ph.D.