I'm finding in the non-touristy places in China where I'm spending my time in cheaper places etc that there's often no place to wash your hands, or it's dirty, or there's no soap.

I've been recommended to buy some hand sanitizer, but the Wikipedia page doesn't link to a Chinese equivalent and Wiktionary doesn't even include an entry for hand sanitizer.

I've never been one to use it before so I'm not an expert, but I think the key things about hand sanitizer that make it different to liquid soap is that 1) it is alcohol-based and does not require water, and 2) doesn't just clean but disinfects, so is better than soap for preventing spread of diseases such as the common cold.

Google Translate offers several alternatives though:

  1. 洗手液 xǐshǒu yè
  2. 洗手 xǐshǒu
  3. 免洗洗手液 miǎn xǐ xǐshǒu yè
  4. 消毒洗手液 xiāodú xǐshǒu yè
  5. 的洗手液 de xǐshǒu yè

Of these, I don't trust 2. and 5. - the first because it translated back as "wash your hands" and the second because starting with the character doesn't seem right for a noun phrase.

So on the face of it, 1. looks most versatile with 3. and 4. just being alternative long equivalents. But is it so simple in reality.

(For me right now the term most useful in Hebei province is probably what I want.)

7 Answers 7


If you want to say hand soap (not necessarily for sanitation), you can use 洗手液. To specifically ask for hand sanitizer (for disinfection/sterilization), you may want to use 消毒洗手液. Below is an analysis for the options you've listed.

洗手液 xǐshǒu yè

(Liquid) hand soap. Here soap is in general sense, could be sanitizer, scented soap, skin smoother, etc.

洗手 xǐshǒu

(Verb phrase) to wash hand

免洗洗手液 miǎn xǐ xǐshǒu yè

Waterless hand soap. Though not explicitly stated in the name, the waterless hand soap products are mostly sanitizers.

消毒洗手液 xiāodú xǐshǒu yè

Hand sanitizer. (消毒 means to sterilize.)

___的洗手液 de xǐshǒu yè

(Incomplete phrase) hand soap of _

  • Just a nitpick you analysed all the options, but didn't actually answer the question (-; Jan 9, 2014 at 5:53
  • @hippietrail I wasn't sure if you want to express strictly 'hand sanitizer' or just 'hand soap', so I just explain the options and leave it to you to choose:)
    – NS.X.
    Jan 9, 2014 at 6:07
  • I specifically want hand sanitizer. I meant to link to the Wikipedia page but it looks like I didn't. Let me fix that. Jan 9, 2014 at 6:15
  • 1
    @hippietrail Answer updated.
    – NS.X.
    Jan 9, 2014 at 6:36
  • 2
    Regarding 免洗洗手液, why isn't it 免水洗手液?
    – user58955
    Jan 10, 2014 at 11:19

The Chinese Wikipedia article for hand sanitizer (消毒搓手液) lists the following terms for hand sanitizer:

  • 消毒搓手液: lit. disinfecting hand rub liquid
  • 搓手液: lit. hand rub liquid
  • 干洗手: lit. dry handwashing
  • 免冲水洗手液: lit. running water–free handwashing liquid
  • 免水洗手液: lit. water-free handwashing liquid
  • 免洗洗手液: lit. washing-free handwashing liquid (which is what Baidu titles their article)

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is 酒精搓手液 and alcohol-free hand sanitizer is 非酒精搓手液.


I just bought some made in China by Dettol, and the bottle says 免水洗.


It's called 免洗洗手液.

免洗 doesn't mean it's not a liquid or doesn't contain water, it means you don't need to wash the hand sanitizer off with water.

BTW I only have seen hand sanitizer in hospital in China. Unlike it is everywhere in North America (in malls, office buildings etc.)


If you use it at home or at a hotel, just buy a regular hand sanitizer--(洗手液 xǐshǒu yè). If you want to carry it with you, just buy a waterless hand sanitizer--(免洗洗手液 miǎn xǐ xǐshǒu yè).


You can just call it 干洗洗手液. For short you can say 干洗手, and in the right context you can even just say 干洗.

Not sure why there's so much hate on this post (two down votes and two votes to delete). So here's an example of usage from 2021/02/28:



Rough translation:

Continue to wear a mask, prepare hand sanitizer and keep your social distance

Here they use the word 干洗手(乾洗手).

Perhaps hand sanitizer was first popularized in Taiwan and if you consumed any Taiwanese media you would know it by this term first because you certainly couldn't find it readily available on the mainland years ago.


1.洗手液 xǐshǒu yè

This is what you are looking for.

  • 3
    I disagree. 洗手液 is mostly used for liquid soap. This is not what hippie is looking for. Jan 10, 2014 at 4:24

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