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Sanitizer showdown 

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PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

At this point, we’ve all had it drilled into our heads that hand sanitizer is pretty important. Not as important as washing our hands, but important.

So when a couple of local distilleries switched from barreling bourbon to producing bottles of sanitizer, the public paid attention. The moves generated a lot of interest. And it got me wondering how the locally-crafted products compared to the gels pumped out by big companies.

The idea behind this review was to do a head-to-head comparison of alcohol-based sanitizers from the two big players in the local hand sanitizer game, Black Button Distilling and Iron Smoke Whiskey. But Iron Smoke owner Tommy Brunett is, understandably, too busy getting his distillery’s bottles out to local hospitals and first responders to share a bottle for this hard-hitting report. No offense taken. He’s performing a big public service.

CITY’s office, however, had a smattering of half-empty pump bottles of different hand sanitizers scattered around. And Black Button had provided a bottle of its virus-killing juice.

So, why not compare it to the biggest label, Purell, or to that generic drug store brand? Who is the best? Whose ability to sanitize will make you fantasize? Who has the moisturizing potion that won’t make you reach for lotion?

Well folks, I have spent the past half hour diligently washing, sanitizing, and repeating to get the answers you need on five different sanitizers.

Packaging: Black Button

There’s no competition among the five in this category. While Germ-X, Berkley Jensen, TopCare with aloe, and Purell all went with the classic pump bottle design, Black Button didn’t want you forgetting that, at the end of the day, they’re a liquor company. This sanitizer comes in a hefty 24-ounce spirits bottle adorned with both the Flower City and Black Button logos.

I also enjoy the ability to pour a sanitizer rather than pump it — it’s just more fun.

Scent: Purell

Purell was the clear winner of the scent category, but mostly because its only real competition was Black Button. Germ-X, Berkley Jensen, and TopCare brought nothing but a whiff of rubbing alcohol to the table. Black Button’s product, which uses alcohol distilled from corn mash, had a strong scent of unaged corn whiskey reminiscent of the distillery’s moonshine. It’s a scent I don’t particularly enjoy, but if you like your sanitizer to have a tinge of backwoods bluegrass jamboree, this may be your cup of tea (but please, don’t drink it).

The Purell, meanwhile, has a pleasant citrus scent that keeps me dutifully coming back for more.

Texture: Germ-X

I’m not sure what the good folks over at Germ-X did to create the jelly-like consistency of their sanitizer. But, boy, am I grateful for it. While the TopCare, Berkley Jensen, and Purell come off a bit syrupy and the Black Button more liquidy, the Germ-X had a wonderful non-Newtonian fluid quality.

The viscosity of the Germ-X lets you really lather up those grabbers before it dissolves and evaporates.

Moisturizing: TopCare with aloe

The addition of aloe is cheating a bit in this category, but suffice to say, the TopCare left my hands feeling baby soft. In contrast, the Germ-X, Berkley Jensen, and Purell brands all had a similar characteristic of leaving my hands feeling somewhat chapped after regular use.

The clear runner-up in this category is Black Button, which left my hands feeling somewhat fresh and supple, yet just a tad sticky.

The Winner: You and everyone around you

If you’re still not sanitizing your hands, this review is probably not going to change your habits. But I wish it would. All of these sanitizers work to help curb the spread of disease, and protect the elderly and medically vulnerable.

Stay clean out there, folks.


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