Does Hand Sanitizer Expire?

With the events of COVID over the past few years, many people started using hand sanitizer more than before. Hand sanitizer is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it is required by law to have a lot number and expiration date. The purpose of the expiration date is to show the time that testing has confirmed the active ingredients are stable and effective. It has been determined that the industry standard for hand sanitizer is two to three years before expiration.

Hand sanitizer’s active ingredient is alcohol, which evaporates over time, making the product less effective. The manufacturer determines how long it will take for the active ingredient to drop below 90 percent of what is stated on the label. That estimate becomes the expiration date.

According to two research studies, washing with soap and water removes germs better than sanitizer.1,2 If hands are visibly dirty or greasy, it is best to wash with soap and water rather than using sanitizer.

It is best to be aware that although hand sanitizers are safe to use after the expiration date, they may not be as effective.


  1. Grayson ML, Melvani S, Druce J, Barr IG, Ballard SA, Johnson PD, Mastorakos T, Birch C. Efficacy of soap and water and alcohol-based hand-rub preparations against live H1N1 influenza virus on the hands of human volunteers. Clin Infect Dis. Feb;48(3):285-91.
  2. Oughton MT, Loo VG, Dendukuri N, Fenn S, Libman MD. Hand hygiene with soap and water is superior to alcohol rub and antiseptic wipes for removal of Clostridium difficile. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. Oct;30(10):939-44.
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