With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread globally and a viable treatment still in the research phase, hand sanitizers are in high demand with low supply.
Many retailers have put limits on the amount of hand sanitizer bottles that shoppers can buy, but demand still remains high, leaving some people turning to homemade solutions. While making your own hand sanitizer might seem like a good alternative, it may be more complicated than you think. Read on to learn how to make hand sanitizer at home with simple ingredients like aloe vera and witch hazel.
How Hand Sanitizer Works
The main active component in hand sanitizer is alcohol. Alcohol effectively destroys the envelope protein surrounding coronaviruses. The envelope protein is a small protein membrane that essentially allows the virus to grow, spread, and survive. By destroying this membrane, hand sanitizers essentially kill the virus and render it ineffective.1
Hand sanitizers contain varying concentrations of alcohol. Concentrations as low as 30 percent have been found to possess some pathogen-killing ability, but most experts recommend concentrations of at least 60 percent to more effectively kill a broader variety of bacteria and viruses, including coronaviruses.2
How Do You Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer?
How do you make a hand sanitizer? A quick search online will show you a countless number of DIY recipes for hand sanitizer. Most of these recipes for homemade hand sanitizer comprise two ingredients: 90% or 99% isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel.
Isopropyl alcohol, better known as simple rubbing alcohol, is the active ingredient in this formula that kills coronavirus cells on your hands, while the aloe vera gel prevents your hands from drying out.
Homemade recipes usually call for two-thirds of a cup of 90% isopropyl alcohol and one-third of a cup of aloe vera gel, netting you a concoction comprising about 60 percent alcohol. If you can only find 70% rubbing alcohol, you can only add about 1 part aloe vera to 10 parts rubbing alcohol to stay above 60% alcohol in your final mixture.
Recipe for Hand Sanitizer with 60% Alcohol
Glycerin 2 grams
Gelling Agent 1.2 gram
Aloe Vera 1 gram
Witch Hazel 1 gram
Alcohol Denatured 70% (ethanol) 86 grams
Distilled Water 8.8 grams
1. Add Gelling Agent to glycerin, witch hazel and aloe vera, mix well until the powder is properly wetted 2. Add water and half the alcohol and mix again very well. 3. Add remaining alcohol and mix blend well.
Reasons to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
1. It Can Be Cheaper than Buying Pre-made Hand Sanitizer
Some vendors are charging a premium for hand sanitizer at the moment. If you can find a source of rubbing alcohol you can make hand sanitizer yourself for a lower cost.
2. You Can Choose the Bottle to Put Your Hand Sanitizer In
By making your own hand sanitizer, you can choose exactly how to store your hand sanitizer. Pumps left out in heat and sunlight will leak as the alcohol evaporates and pressurizes the container. Flip caps will pop open once alcohol evaporates and pressurizes your bottle. For these reasons we’ve chosen to use 2 oz bottles with locking “turret” style caps. These caps are resistant to leaking and 2 oz bottles can easily fit inside a pocket or purse for convenient use.
3. You Know What Ingredients are In your Hand Sanitizer
By making your own hand sanitizer, you know exactly what ingredients are in it. Some people with more sensitive skin can increase the amount of moisturizing ingredients to reduce dryness.
Reasons Not to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
1. It’s More Difficult Than It Appears
The problem is that it’s not that simple. There’s much more math and chemistry involved in store-bought, CDC-approved hand sanitizer. Homemade recipes do not take into account how the two ingredients actually interact with one another. The alcohol may become too diluted, reducing its virus-eliminating effect and making it essentially useless. Alternately, the alcohol may not be diluted enough, which can result in dry, cracked hands that may bleed, which only invites more discomfort and risk of infection.3
2. A Risk of Contamination
The goal is to create 60 percent alcohol. If you create a hand sanitizer with less alcohol it will not kill all bacteria and viruses.
Even if you do get something approaching the right ratio, you can easily contaminate your homemade hand sanitizer if you are not using clean tools and equipment you may risk contaminating your DIY hand sanitizer.3
3. Using Dangerous or Ineffective Alternate Ingredients
With so many people learning how to make hand sanitizer at home, isopropyl alcohol has actually become harder to find, which has led to people turning to other commercial sources of alcohol. This includes drinking alcohol, particularly vodka, but most forms of drinking alcohol will not meet the alcohol percentage required to effectively eliminate the virus.4
Others have turned to denatured alcohol. While this does contain ethanol, it also has other ingredients depending on the formula. We utilize SDA 40B ethanol per FDA guidelines to make our hand sanitizer. This form of denatured ethanol is safe for use as hand sanitizer.
Some denatured ethanol formulas contain poisonous compounds such as methanol. Methanol is poisonous if ingested. Other denaturants can irritate your hands or cause some severe problems if absorbed into your skin.4
What Else Can Be Done?
Wash Your HandsSimply put: wash your hands. The combination of soap and water with the actual friction of washing breaks down the lipid layers that surround the coronavirus cells, effectively killing them. This also makes handwashing increasingly more effective at disinfecting your hands than hand sanitizer.7
Use warm water and soap (it does not have to be antibacterial, but it also doesn’t hurt). Scrub up your entire hand (including the backs of your hands and between your fingers) for 20 seconds before thoroughly rinsing. Most importantly, wash your hands often. This includes after using the restroom, before and after meals, before and after preparing food, and after coming back from a trip outside.3
This lesson in handwashing applies to using hand sanitizer as well. Hand sanitizer is only effective when it is used properly. When you do use hand sanitizer, you need to rub it all over the surface of your hands, including your palms, the backs of your hands, and between each finger.
Avoid Touching Your Face
Along with regular handwashing, avoid touching your face if you haven’t just washed your hands. Your hands can be covered in bacteria and viruses. Touching your face introduces those microbes to your eyes, nose, and mouth, making it much easier for the microbes to spread into your own body.3
Wear a MaskFace masks have been shown to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. Masks work by filtering out viral particles from spreading if you are infected and preventing you from breathing in viral particles.
While there is no denying that a hand sanitizer is an important tool, it is by no means a replacement for proper handwashing. Hand sanitizer should only be used when you do not have immediate access to soap and water.
Defending yourself from the coronavirus will require a multi-faceted approach including social distancing, wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer, and washing your hands properly.