This was originally typed out to a Reddit user who asked the following question. His comment was removed before my reply was complete, but I had already done all the research, so I decided to drop it in anyway.
So you are telling me sanitizer does not remove germs?
Yes, correct. Many studies have shown hand sanitizer to be largely ineffective; alcohol and Triclosan deployed via hand sanitizers allow most dangerous, disease-causing bacteria to survive. The “99.9%” that Purell talks about? That’s largely stuff that’s part of your microbiome and is supposed to be there. The .1% is mostly the stuff you don’t want, but hand sanitizer can’t touch it.
In addition (and probably more frightening), hand sanitizers may encourage antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to proliferate, while also giving them a relatively simple transmission vector (namely, your hands).
Triclosan has also been linked to higher rates of allergy diagnosis, meaning that it is actually negatively impacting your immune system.
Finally, Triclosan leeches BPA from clear bottles (like the ones it comes in), receipt paper, and other sources, causing them to be absorbed into your skin much more readily and potentially leading to higher instances of hormone disorders, cancer, heart disease, infertility, and diabetes.
So, no, don’t use hand sanitizer. When you sneeze, use a tissue if you have one, or your upper sleeve (that is to say, elbow) if you don’t.
Stay healthy out there!