Years ago, while running down a flight of stairs to catch the subway, I missed a step and flew to the ground. I didn’t fall because I was rushing to catch a train; I fell because I refused to grip the stairwell railing for fear of touching the thousands of germs clinging to it — and ironically wound up with both hands firmly planted on the even dirtier station floor. After my tumble, my dad threatened to buy me a box of disposable gloves. But I prefer to keep my neuroses a bit more buttoned up, so I chose to invest (heavily) in hand sanitizers instead.
Putting the O in my self-diagnosed OCD, I didn’t just buy one bottle, nor just one brand. I started with the basics: the generic Walgreen’s formula and Purell. But no matter how hydrating or gentle their labels claimed, my hands always felt dry from use, or smelled distinctly of alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes scent is actually the selling point when it comes to the hand sanitizers I buy (like the lavender-scented one I use before tucking in at night). But other times, an odor-free product makes a whole lot of sense (like when eating street meat … at 2 A.M.). Below, the arsenal of sanitizers I’ve bought to keep my hands clean around the clock, in practically any situation (look dad, still no gloves).
For the subway
When I commuted from Manhattan to Queens in a past life, I learned that sanitizing is a full-time job. I also learned that strangers don’t always take kindly to scented varieties, after a woman yelled at me for using some on the subway. This hardworking Nano Pure sanitizer is ideal for commuting, because I only have to apply it once (before boarding the train) to form a lasting protective layer on my skin that holds up for the whole ride.
For the gym
After an hour-long session at Orangetheory, my hands are far from the only thing schvitzing. That’s why I like to sanitize with these Zero K wipes post workout: their soothing peppermint oil cools and refreshes my hands and arms, and I can use another wipe (or three) to clean off my sweaty neck, face, and even water bottle.
For the office
A former colleague first offered me a squirt of this floral-scented secret, and I quickly found myself poaching from her supply. I’d like to think that was because it has an irresistible smell of pink pepper, patchouli, and rose, but really it was because she left her tube out in plain sight. Now that I own some, I can see why — the sanitizer’s sleek packaging doubles as actually stylish desk décor.
For when I’m running late
As my self-diagnosed OCD may suggest, I’m kind of a ball of stress. (Between morning runs on the treadmill and regular acupuncture sessions, I’ll take any help I can get.) That help includes the calming sensation delivered by this fragrant sanitizer, which I’ll apply when my heart starts racing. Its eucalyptus essential oil helps clear my mind, and its spearmint essential oil gives me an uplifting jolt (at least for as long as I remember to breathe).
For before a meal
Babyganics’ unscented and chemical-free formula doesn’t get in the way when eating — especially when I’m using my hands to stuff whatever’s on the menu into my mouth (enthusiastic Amazon reviews seem to miss this selling point). That’s why I always make sure to use it before a meal, whether it’s served at a restaurant table or curbside from a halal cart.
For meeting friends’ babies
My first rule of thumb when stopping by new parents’ places? Ask if they have wine. My second: bring an ample supply of The Honest Company’s gentle mom-approved (and celebrity-mom-approved) formula. Everything Jessica Alba’s brand puts out promises to be both safe and effective, and I’ve found this product is no exception.
For the beach
For after the beach
Epic sunburns have been a summer tradition since my middle-school days baking on Jones Beach. And if I’ve learned anything from my scalp and the top of my feet, no place is safe — hands included. This soothing aloe-vera formula gives my hands much needed hydration after a day in the sun, while cleansing them of any lingering SPF residue at the same time.
When it’s time to unplug, a relaxing spritz of this lavender-scented sanitizer readies me for bedtime — and I can sleep easy knowing my germ-free body hits the hay protected by the same plant-derived ingredients I use to clean my apartment.
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