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Choosing hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants to use during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

As a member of the public, you may choose to use hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants for your own and your family's protection at home or elsewhere during the coronavirus pandemic.

As an employer, you may also choose to provide hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants for your workers or others to use. These are biocidal products and are regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Whether you are a member of the public or also an employer, you should ensure that the products you use are suitable.

Hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants are biocidal products and are regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Whether you are a member of the public or also an employer, you should ensure that the products you use are suitable for your needs. There are many alcohol- and non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants available on the UK market. HSE cannot recommend any specific products.

Identifying suitable products

Biocidal products, such as hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants, are beginning to be regulated in the UK under the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) to make sure that when they are used properly, they do not harm people, pets or the wider environment.

This means that some products need to be authorised before they can be supplied and used, while for others this is not yet required.

Individual disinfectant products that need to be authorised under the BPR are assessed by HSE for their potential risks to people and the wider environment. Products that have been authorised by HSE can be found in the following databases:

Hand sanitisers will be listed under Product Type 1 and surface disinfectants will be listed under Product Types 2, 3 and/or 4 depending on the specific area of use eg general surfaces, those relating to animals, and food areas respectively.

HSE does not carry out an assessment of the effectiveness or risks from individual disinfectant products that do not yet require authorisation under the BPR. This does not mean that those products cannot be used, however they will not appear in the databases eg ethanol products can be supplied and used in the UK even though HSE have not yet assessed or authorised them.

There are many alcohol- and non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants available on the UK market. Whether an employer decides to use an alcohol- or non-alcohol-based hand sanitiser should be based on their risk assessment and any sector specific guidance, eg from the Department of Health and Social Care or the Department for Education. You can find more information on GOV.UK’s coronavirus pages.

Safety and effectiveness of products

Whether or not a product needs to be authorised by HSE, it is the responsibility of product manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that their products are suitably safe and effective, including meeting any necessary testing standards. It is therefore recommended that you discuss your requirements with product manufacturers to determine if a product meets your needs.

Product manufacturers and suppliers are also responsible for providing information and instructions for the user on the product label. You must always make sure that you read and understand the label before using a product and follow the label instructions carefully to ensure that you are using the product safely and effectively.

There is information about the BPR regulatory requirements for supplying and manufacturing hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants during the coronavirus pandemic.

This page is reviewed regularly and updated to reflect any changes in the guidance.

Page last reviewed: 28 May 2021

Next review due: 30 June 2021

2021-05-28