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Purell Is Being Sued for False Claims. Now What?

Purell Is Being Sued for False Claims. Now What?
Meg Butler

If you are one of the few people out there, still traveling during the coronavirus pandemic–or even if you’ve restricted your sojourning to the search for toilet paper–a new class-action lawsuit has just made some upsetting allegations: at least two major brands of hand sanitizer–Purell and Target’s store brand Up&Up–have provided no scientific evidence to back up their claims at preventing COVID-19.

Does that mean those hand sanitation stations and Target by outs are for naught? What should you do instead? The short answer? It’s complicated.

No Scientific Evidence

Purell manufacturer, GOJO Industries, was sued last week in Ohio federal court by 4 individuals claiming the Purell packaging flaunts “misleading claims” about the effectiveness of its product.

The suit asserts that although Purell’s front label claims that it “kills 99.99% of illness causing germs,” that figure is not backed by scientific evidence. In fact, the suit continues, in January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the maker of Purell warning GOJO against making unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of its products.

So Does It Kill Germs or Not?

Yes. Purell and Up&Up (which is being sued for the same reason) do kill 99.9% of germs. But, there is no evidence, argues the FDA and the lawsuit, that killing some of the bacteria or viruses on your skin results in the same reduction of risk of infection or disease.

Basically, just because you kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs, doesn’t mean you’re 99.9% less likely to contract an infection like COVID-19. Or, as the federal agency put it in their letter to Purell,

“[The] FDA is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus.”

The lawsuits against Purell and Up&Up are seeking damages because both hand sanitizers suggest that they “can, therefore, prevent disease or infection from, for example, Coronavirus and flu, along with other claims that go beyond the general intended use of a topical alcohol-based hand sanitizer.”



View Comments (6)


  1. kirkwoodj

    March 23, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    This is stupid. Purell has 70% alcohol.

  2. rylan

    March 23, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Thats why you get the versions that contain alcohol, such as the Purell Advanced which is 70% alcohol. That was even stated by the CDC as an approved hand sanitizer to reduce risk of spreading coronavirus.

  3. fotographer

    March 24, 2020 at 3:03 am

    these people need to get a life.. its helps with germs not a virus…
    hopefully the judge just laughs and throw the case out…

  4. KRSW

    March 24, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Best: Soap and water. Use them if you have access to them.

    If that’s not available (not just inconvenient — truly don’t have access to them), THEN use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Lots of hospital infections are spread because healthcare workers use these short-cuts rather than truly washing their hands. Care for some C.Diff anyone? That bacterium laughs at alcohol sanitizers.

  5. bon mot

    March 25, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Care for some C.Diff anyone? That bacterium laughs at alcohol sanitizers.

    Which is why I always travel with a product made to vanquish C. Diff. My daughter finally recovered from a serious case of it after docs ignored her symptoms for years.

  6. yoga

    May 12, 2020 at 10:33 am

    In order to kill a virus on surfaces, there is called a 30 or 60 minute kill rate on Surfaces.. Meaning that the product stays wet for 30 or 60 seconds on primarily metal surfaces.The claim is that the wipes or sanitizers have a kill rate on MERS, and TB, generally

    Purell dries within about 5-10 seconds on your hands. You cannot kill pathogens in this short of time.

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