I saw the following claim in an article in The Guardian - How not to catch the norovirus

Incidentally – and you can consider this a public service announcement – forget most hand gels, the majority of which will scarcely dent the norobastard

The hand gel I have on my desk claims it will kill 99.9% of bacteria but makes no specific claims about killing viruses. We have had a question on Skeptics about soap vs hand sanitizers, but that didn't cover the effectiveness of either method against norovirus.

Is hand gel effective against norovirus (specifically, the hand gel commonly sold to the public - e.g. this, this or this)?

  • 3
    “killing viruses” – how can you kill that which is not alive? ;-) … Incidentally, I’m not sure what the sceptical claim here is: none of these hand gels claim to be effective against viruses. There’s no reason to suspect that they are. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 13:50
  • @KonradRudolph It gives people a false sense of security. I see a lot of my coworkers rely heavily on hand gel but do not take any other precautions. Most people do not even know the difference between 'germs'. I just recently had a discussion about antibiotics and viruses.
    – Stefan
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 14:34
  • @Stefan Sure but that isn’t a notable claim per se. People simply don’t read the labels. But I don’t think there’s a pervasive myth, carried by any kind of media, that hand gel is an effective virus killer. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 14:41
  • @KonradRudolph the company I work for is distributing bottles of hand sanitiser to "prevent the spread of Norovirus", so I would argue that the claim is notable in the UK.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


hand-sanitisers are available which are advertised as destroying viruses.

For example

Can of Virashield

This one claimns to contain "byotrol anti-microbial technology" a proprietary product which claims

It kills and destroys bacteria and viruses but here’s the clever bit; it then dries to form an invisible barrier which keeps on working to stop germs from coming back for up to 24 hours on surfaces you use daily.

(my emphasis)

A press release of Byotrol PLC says

The research, carried out by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), on behalf of anti-infection firm Byotrol, measured Byotrol hand-foam, NHS hand-gel (Spirigel), Vick’s First Defence and Dettol hand-foam on their performance in killing dangerous viruses 24 hours after application. The tests looked at which products prevent viruses returning for up to 24 hours after application. Worryingly, the NHS “gold standard” hand-gel offered no residual effect whatsoever. After 24 hours, First Defence continued to be effective against 90 per cent of the sample, a surrogate for Norovirus (Feline Calicivirus), with Dettol hand-foam remaining 50 per cent effective and the NHS standard hand-gel offering no ongoing protection at all. Byotrol hand-foam, the only product not based on alcohol, remained effective with a 99.9 per cent kill rate, 24 hours after application. The results are in line with last year’s study at Manchester Royal Infirmary,

I can't find independent references for these claims however.

If a hand-sanitizer product doesn't even claim to destroy viruses, there are probably good grounds for suspecting that it doesn't.

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