Why does Loyola’s hand sanitizer smell like that?

Jaime Jimenez

Whether it reminds you of a bad night on Bourbon Street or leaves your hands feeling like you just came from a crawfish boil, many students are reluctant to use the Loyola-provided sanitizer because of its odor and the feeling it leaves on your hands.

Anderson Leal, senior resident assistant of Biever Hall, received numerous complaints about the odor of the sanitizer during move in from residents of the building.

“Parents kept telling me it smells like cheap tequila and chocolate,” Leal said.

At the beginning of the academic school year, families of students were concerned about what protocol Loyola was going to take to ensure the cleanliness of the resident halls due to COVID-19. Loyola has placed hand sanitizer, disinfecting spray and napkin dispensers throughout campus for the community to use.

“You can have it as soon as you get out of the elevators of each floor and right outside the restrooms and in the lobbies,” Leal said.

The jugs of sanitizer provided around Loyola’s campus come from Porchjam Distillery. The hand sanitizer is an 80% alcohol antiseptic topical solution.

Mark Tobler, Loyola University New Orleans plant ecologist, explained why some sanitizer that comes from local distilleries might have a different odor and consistency than major brand sanitizers.

“Given the situation that it was, hand sanitizer was at an extreme demand, these companies were ramping up hand sanitizer anyway” Tober said. “Whether it smelled or not was a secondary concern.”

When creating hand sanitizer companies like Purell and Germ-X go through a filtration process using carbonated charcoal. The charcoal attracts impurities and odors that leave the filtered sanitizer smelling neutral and odorless.

“Distilleries don’t have that filtration as a natural part of their operations when they’re producing alcohol,” Tobler said.

Alcohol dries out skin, so many manufactures will add other ingredients to help retain moisture which may change the consistency of the sanitizer.

“All of the commercial sanitizers will have glycerin or aloe gel that help retain the moisture in your hands when you’re using it. If you were in a hospital setting using it dozens and dozens of times in a day, if it didn’t have any of that, you would have very raw hands,” Tobler said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water, but when that isn’t available, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help decrease germ spreading.

“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs,” according to the CDC.

Loyola continues to advise members of the community to social distance, wear a mask, report their symptoms using their Campus Clear mobile app and keep their hands clean.

“I use the one that’s not stinky. I know that it’s useful but I don’t want my hands to smell,” Leal said.