Is It Safe To Use Vodka as a Hand Sanitizer?

The short answer from an infectious disease specialist
Using vodka to wash hands

Q: I’ve heard that using alcohol (like vodka) to kill germs is the same as using hand sanitizer. Is that true?  

A: There are a lot of different recipes out there for using alcohol to make your own homemade hand sanitizer, a trend that started when it was in short supply at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Some distilleries even provided their alcohol for the makers of hand sanitizer because of the high demand.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

So, while it can be true that alcohol works as a substitute hand sanitizer, you have to understand that for hand sanitizer to be truly effective, it needs to be at least 70% alcohol by volume, in that particular construct. Just pouring alcohol onto your hands isn’t necessarily any good.

There are vodkas out there that go up to 95% alcohol, which would be effective, but most of the vodka you’ll see is only 20% or 30%, which won’t disinfect.

Now that hand sanitizer is widely available again for purchase, your better bet is the manufactured variety — and good old-fashioned hand-washing.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD.

Advertising Policy