Homemade hand sanitizers are all over the internet right now, but are they a good idea? I took a deep dive into the issue to separate the facts from the hype. I’ll also share a recipe for diy sanitizer if you decide you want to give it a try.
How’s the whole hand sanitizer thing going for you? Not so good over here. We were scheduled to fly out of town Monday and I spent the better part of Sunday trying to track down some (any!) hand sanitizer. No luck, there wasn’t a drop to be had. No disinfecting wipes either. So, like I often do in situations like this, I did a little research and found out that lots of people are making their own from a simple combination of alcohol and aloe vera gel. I dug into the pros and cons, and tried my best to come up with some clarity on this complicated issue.
The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water as the best way to stay healthy. Homemade hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be effective at killing microorganisms on your hands, but should be saved for those times when you can’t wash your hands or find commercially produced alcohol based sanitizer.
Experts are telling us to wash our hands often
Washing your hands with soap and water often is the number one precaution you can take against getting sick from any virus. Problem is you can’t always wash your hands when you’re out and about, in your car, strapped into your seat on a plane, etc. That’s where hand sanitizers come into play. Ok great…but what do you do when the shelves have been stripped bare of commercial products?
Here’s the bottom line
- Washing hands is your first line of defense
- Commercially produced alcohol based hand sanitizers can fill in when you can’t wash.
- Even though sanitizer is gone from store shelves right now in many areas, you can still buy it online, check Amazon.
- Homemade sanitizer can be made with 2 common ingredients but it must be made and used correctly, and should only be used as a last resort.
The problems with making your own sanitizer
- Hand sanitizer must be 60% alcohol to work effectively, so anything created at home has to be measured precisely.
- Utensils and bottles must be scrupulously clean, or they can contaminate your sanitizer.
- Alcohol needs to be mixed with aloe vera gel to prevent the raw alcohol from drying and damaging your skin. The two must be mixed efficiently so that when you squeeze the sanitizer into your hand you get the proper ratio of ingredients.
- Homemade sanitizer should only be used as a last resort in the event that you can’t wash your hands, or purchase commercially produced sanitizer.
Ingredients for homemade hand sanitizer
You must use isopropyl alcohol for this sanitizer, don’t raid the liquor cabinet, vodka will not work.
- rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) at 99% proof is recommended. This is important for effectively killing germs, so check the labels at your drug store, or purchase it online.
- aloe vera gel, which helps protect your hands from the harsh alcohol. Find this in regular drug stores.
- Some recipes call for essential oil, but this is just for fragrance, and I don’t suggest using it because some oils can be harmful to the skin.
You’ll also need
- a small bottle or bottles to decant your sanitizer into. If you’re planning to use it flying, make sure it’s no larger than 3.4 oz or 100 ml. I cleaned and recycled hotel shampoo bottles with a squeeze spout.
How to make homemade hand sanitizer
For hand sanitizer to be effective, it must have at least 60% alcohol content, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So plan accordingly and MEASURE out your ingredients, don’t eyeball it.
- Put 2/3 cup 99% alcohol in a clean bowl.
- Stir in 1/3 cup aloe vera gel. Mix well.
- Pour into small, clean bottles.
- Keep your extra sanitizer in a clean sealed jar at room temperature and refill your smaller bottles as needed.
How to use hand sanitizer
Technique is more important than technology here, and whether you’re washing your hands or using sanitizer, you’ve got to do it right!
- Shake your bottle vigorously to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Use a dime sized amount, and don’t skimp.
- Rub into your hands for 30 seconds, allowing the product to coat all areas, including between fingers and fingertips.
- Don’t wipe your hands, let the product air dry on your hands.
- Note: if your hands are soiled or greasy the sanitizer won’t be as effective, wash them first.