HAND sanitisers sold on popular online marketplaces are making misleading claims about alcohol content and risk leaving consumers unprotected against COVID-19 because they do not contain recommended levels.

That is the conclusion of new research which found that the worst offending hand sanitiser had an alcohol content of just 10 per cent, a fraction of the 75 per cent claimed – leaving people using it particularly exposed to bacteria and viruses.

For hand sanitiser to be effective at killing the Covid-19 virus, it should have 60 to 90 per cent alcohol content.

In the latest research by the consumer organisation Which, scientists put a range of 18 products available at high street retailers, supermarkets and online marketplaces to the test.

READ MORE: What you need to know to avoid buying hand sanitisers that fail to protect from Covid-19

And Which? said some sanitisers on the market had as little as seven per cent alcohol content and suggested that "to be safe" go for well-known brands.


Three hand sanitisers bought from online marketplaces eBay and Etsy did not contain the percentage of alcohol that was claimed on either the product listing page or the packaging, and the organisation said it fell "well" short of the recommended levels for killing off viruses.

One sanitising gel which was available for sale on eBay, claimed to have 75 per cent alcohol content, but Which said its tests showed it contained just 10 per cent.

Two other hand sanitisers, one on Etsy and another on eBay were found to contain around half of the 70 per cent alcohol levels that were claimed.

After Which? contacted eBay it said it had removed both the product listings that were flagged and that the sellers would no longer be permitted to sell hand sanitiser on the site.

The seller on Etsy said that it had removed the listing and contacted all customers to warn them of the lower alcohol content in the sanitiser and to offer a full refund.

Which? said it had shared its findings with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) for further investigation.

In the UK, hand gels should comply with EU Biocides Regulation 528/2012.

They should be able to prove that the product matches the claims, so if a product makes a certain claim, such as it kills 99.9 per cent of bacteria, then it should fulfill that claim. However, meeting claims on alcohol content isn’t required to comply with the regulation.

All of the hand sanitisers Which? tested from high street retailers and supermarkets, including Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Waitrose and Wilko, passed their tests and had appropriate levels of alcohol content to kill viruses and bacteria – matching their stated claims. And in contrast to eBay and Etsy, all of the seven hand sanitiser samples Which? tested that were bought from Amazon Marketplace did have the stated and required levels of alcohol content for killing germs.

"Consumers might want to consider that the big brand products tested from high street retailers and supermarkets all contained the recommended levels of alcohol, and that they could face more of a lottery if they are buying from lesser-known sellers on online marketplaces," Which? said.

READ MORE: What you need to know to avoid buying hand sanitisers that fail to protect from Covid-19

"We believe these latest findings raise further question marks over the checks and monitoring carried out by online marketplaces. These platforms should enhance their checks before including sellers on their sites, taking strong action against those who make misleading claims."

A recent Which? survey found that seven in 10 (73%) members use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and that, of those who buy hand sanitiser, the two most important factors are claimed effectiveness at killing germs (36%) and alcohol content (34%).

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “It’s extremely concerning that hand sanitisers readily available on online marketplaces eBay and Etsy make misleading claims about alcohol content and could leave consumers unwittingly exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

“The good news is that our research shows that if you buy hand sanitiser from a known and trusted brand, it increases the chances of it doing what you need it to, but you could face more of a lottery if you are buying from lesser-known sellers on online marketplaces.”

Etsy said: “Etsy is pleased the seller has removed the item from sale. We don't have final control over sellers' items but do ask they act with integrity as was the case here by them taking action once the issue was brought to their attention.”