Does Aftershave Kill Germs?

There are a surprising number of products we use on a daily basis that have more than one use. One such product might be aftershave.

I use the word ‘might’ as it depends – some are not fit for a particular purpose but others are. In this article, I explain how to know if the aftershave you use can kill germs and how effective it might be.

Does aftershave kill germs? Yes, aftershave can kill germs. However, the aftershave needs to have an alcohol content of over 70% for it to be really effective. Find out how you can establish the alcohol content and why this actually works in this article.

How does aftershave kill germs?

It’s quite simple really, aftershave kills germs because of the alcohol content found within it. A product that has over 70% of alcohol will kill over 99.9% of germs (bacteria, fungi and some viruses) 30 seconds after application (source).

The reason why alcohol can kill germs is because of a process known as denaturation (source). Alcohol molecules have properties that love both water and fat.

The membrane on a cell of a bacteria cell has a fat side as well as a water side, which means the alcohol molecules are able to bond with them and break down the protective membrane.

Once this happens, the core of the bacteria is exposed and will subsequently dissolve – which prevents them from functioning, and therefore the bacteria will die.

So, in summary, aftershave can kill germs as it contains alcohol, which has the ability to destroy the membrane of the bacteria which eventually kills it.

It’s not the aftershave, as such, that can kill the bacteria but the alcohol – so anything with a high content of alcohol will have the same effect.

How long does it take for aftershave to kill germs?

If the alcohol content of aftershave is more than 70% then it can destroy 99.9% of the bacteria within 30 seconds and 99.99% to 99.999% in 60 seconds.

This is actually the reason why when you disinfect a kitchen surface you should leave the solution on it for a little while.

Wiping and drying it off immediately after spraying will reduce its effectiveness. Unfortunately, this often leaves a rather sticky residue but you can wash it down with soapy water after.

Does Aftershave Kill Germs?
Not an aftershave…

When you think about it though, does anyone who applies aftershave to their face really wash it all off after less than 30 seconds?

I think that would be quite a task to achieve actually. The reason why the vast majority of people apply aftershave is to smell good – that’s why it’s applied.

It usually costs way too much for it to be applied only for it to be removed a few seconds later!

Is aftershave a disinfectant?

Firstly, there’s always a little confusion between a sanitizer and a disinfectant. So, let’s just clear this up right now.

  • Sanitizer – this will reduce bacteria by at least 99.9% if left on the surface for 30 seconds or more.
  • Disinfectant – this will destroy a far greater range of microorganisms than sanitizers.

I think it’s fair to say that because a disinfectant typically encompasses a greater amount of components that attack a wider range of microorganisms, we can say that aftershave isn’t a disinfectant (as we know it). Therefore, it’s accurate to say that aftershave should not be used in the same way that a disinfectant is used!

How can we tell what the alcohol percentage is in aftershave?

The easiest way to determine the alcohol content of aftershave (or perfume) is to have a look at the packaging. Let me give you an example from one of ours – take a look at the below photo:

Does Aftershave Kill Germs?

You can see from the above (I have circled it in yellow) that it has ‘85% vol.’ listed. It doesn’t mention that this is the content of alcohol in the liquid.

It’s amazing to think that so much of the perfume/aftershave that we use actually consists of alcohol.!

So, we can see from this that it has more than enough alcohol content to be a good sanitizer.

However, the problem is in the majority of cases, the alcohol content isn’t listed on either the bottle or the packaging. So, how do we then tell? Well, that’s where it can get tricky as the manufacturer doesn’t have to provide this information.

Does Aftershave Kill Germs?
An aftershave, but is it a sanitizer?

Sometimes you can find out through the product link on Amazon. Occasionally they may have the fragrance as a percentage (for instance 5%) – in which case you can be pretty sure the alcohol content will make up a high percentage of what’s left.

Alternatively, you can try the manufacturer’s website – however, I’ve found this hit and miss also.

So, in summary – you may not be able to determine the percentage of alcohol content in your aftershave! It will most likely be pretty high but you will not know for sure.

Why would we use aftershave as a sanitizer?

Ah, now this is a good question. I guess it depends on what their intention was. If it is to sanitize the kitchen surface then there are better (and cheaper) ways of doing this.

I guess it’s like having a bath in Champagne – you can do it but there are other, better ways of achieving the same result, right?

A reasonable use for aftershave is to sanitize your face. After all, this is where it would be typically applied after shaving.

Any kind of infections that you may be at risk from during the shaving process can be all but eliminated by applying an aftershave with a high volume of alcohol.


Hopefully, that’s made it quite clear that aftershave can be used as a sanitizer but you need to ensure the alcohol content is enough for it to actually do the job. If it’s alcohol-free or low-alcohol, then it’s just not going to work.

Let’s have a look at things the other way around. Have you ever wondered if you can use hand sanitizer as an aftershave? You may be surprised to find out the answer!

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