A brief history of hand sanitizer

Long before hand sanitizers existed, people knew alcohol could be used to sterilize. From the ancient Egyptians who used it to treat eye infections to the physicians over the next 7,000 years who used it to treat wounds.

It wasn’t until the germ theory of disease became more prevalent in the late 19th century that scientific evidence arose to prove alcohol’s antimicrobial properties. By 1888, physicians began to use it to sterilize surfaces and their hands before medical procedures.

But the story of the invention of hand sanitizer as a product is a little murkier…

According one blog by hand sanitizer maker Doc Shulz, in 1966, a nursing student named Lupe Hernandez from Bakersfield, California discovered that alcohol could be delivered in gel form — a gel that would eventually be commercialized by Purell in 1988.

But investigations since have been unable to confirm claims that Hernandez was the inventor.

Hartmann, a German company, also claims to have invented the first marketable and alcohol-based hand disinfectant in 1965:  Sterillium, a 75% ABV glycerin-based sanitizer that bears only a moderate resemblance to modern-day hand sanitizer. It enjoyed only modest commercial success.  

According to CNBC, most attribute the invention of modern hand sanitizer to Goldie and Jerry Lippman, who created a waterless hand cleaner in 1946 to remove harsh chemicals from the hands of workers at a rubber plant. They formulated an effective mix of several key ingredients including:

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Mineral oil
  • < 5% alcohol

This was called “Gojo”, after Goldie and Jerry, and it was an instant hit. In 1988, the Lippmans created Purell: the most ‘s recognizable hand sanitizer in today’s market. Made from 70% ethyl alcohol with propylene glycol, the product offered the efficacy of alcohol sanitation with the convenience of a gel medium.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) began to recommend hand sanitizers for healthcare workers and in 2022, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines to recommend alcohol-based sanitizing gel as an alternative for all people when soap and water isn’t readily available.

 Today, hand sanitizer is a multi-million-dollar industry that protects people all over the world from infectious diseases.

But there’s always room for improvement. That’s why we at Ethisan we have dedicated ourselves to creating premium, ecologically friendly, all natural and effective ethanol-based hand sanitizers.

Shop here to get Ethisan on your hands!