As winter approaches in Europe, hand sanitiser bottles once again make their way into school bags, purses and office desks.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers containing at least 60% ethanol when soap and water are not available. This guideline is based on the effectiveness of alcohol in killing germs and it also comes with a list of products and manufacturers to avoid due to safety concerns.

A quick search shows that China is the source of many of the hand sanitisers deemed unsafe by the CDC. Others trace their origins back to countries like Turkey, Jordan, Mexico, and certain US states. Such products have raised safety concerns due the possible contamination with potentially toxic types of alcohol, or because there is not enough of the active ingredient - alcohol - inside. Products with false or misleading labels, as well as labels with unproven claims, are also on the list.

In the EU, there are rules and regulations in place to ensure the safety of hand disinfectants.

The CDC advises to keep your hand sanitiser out of your eyes and away from children and pets. Since it is flammable, make sure you rub your hands until completely dry before you do anything that may involve heat, sparks or open flames.