Homemade Hand Sanitizer ~ is it a good idea?

using homemade hand sanitizer

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.

a small bottle of homemade hand sanitizer

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.

Heads up!

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. 

using diy hand 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.

ingredients for homemade hand sanitizer

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.

Pouring homemade hand sanitizer into a small bottle

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.

hands using diy hand sanitizer

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    July 13, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    I made this with 2 cups 99% isopropyl alcohol and 1 cup store brand globe Vera gel (you know the green kind). The mixture was very runny as in need a spray bottle type runny. I have 99% aloe Vera gel but it was quite pricey and i use it for cuts and such. Should I have used the 99% aloe instead of the green stuff? Thanks!

    • Reply
      July 13, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      I know what you mean, my gel was loose, but my sanitizer was definitely thick enough for me to squeeze it onto my hands with a squeeze bottle. If your gel is super runny, then probably you might want to find another brand, or use the pricey stuff. I think the thicker the final sanitizer the better it coats your hands.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2020 at 2:49 am

    How do you stop the aloe vera gel, from forming around the bottom…? How do you maintain they stay mixed…?

    • Reply
      April 14, 2020 at 7:31 am

      I shake really hard and mine has stayed suspended. You can give it a good shake if yours separates.

  • Reply
    Lisa Sharp
    March 20, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for all the information and a safe backup option!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Just what everyone needs right now. Thanks for a simple, easy to make “recipe.”

  • Reply
    March 19, 2020 at 9:27 am

    This was so helpful, thanks so much for sharing. I honestly had no idea the hand gel had to have a 60% alcohol percentage! It’s so hard to buy soap or hand gel right now, so I would love to make my own! xo

  • Reply
    March 18, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    This is such great info, especially right now.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    Great information. I know a lot of people are feeling the pressure of finding Hand Sanitizer right now.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    This recipe is awesome, thank you!!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2020 at 11:36 am

    I had 70% alchahol and 99% aloe gel on hand.
    My salutation came out runny, is this normal ?
    Thank you

    • Reply
      March 18, 2020 at 12:33 pm

      I found that is is somewhat runny, but thickens as you blend it. Remember that 70% alcohol is not the same as 99%, so you could need more alcohol in your batch to make up for that, and then that would be runnier than normal.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Just read a news article about a NJ woman, a store owner who made homemade hand sanitizer and selling it being arrested because the mixture she used burned the hands of four young children. Not sure I’d want to mess with non medically approved homemade hand sanitizers at this tying time as I could never be sure the mixtures used would be 100% safe. I’d have to be a chemical scientist to know those facts.
    Not that I’m suggesting your mixture is not completely safe at all as I doubt you’d ever post it otherwise but for me it would be the uncertainty of making it and possibly causing someone I loved harm by telling them it’s okay to use it, as I could never live with myself if I ever did.

    • Reply
      March 13, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      There are stories of unethical behavior going on during this crisis, but this sanitizer is safe, you can rest assured.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Sue, getting rubbing alcohol – even on Amazon – isn’t an option at the moment. Do you have other suggestions? I’m finding tea tree oil and aloe vera gel just fine.

    • Reply
      March 12, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      I’m hoping that all the out of stock supplies are going to be coming back soon, I couldn’t find toilet paper :/ I don’t think there is another easy substitute for the alcohol, I’m afraid.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2020 at 10:18 am

    I’ve been washing my hands like a madwoman for a couple weeks now. I feel like many of us need a way to make homemade sanitizer as the commercially available ones are not to be found at this point. Thanks for the review of this, even though it’s not meant to be a first choice, it’s perfect when there’s no soap and water available.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Sorry for incorrect spelling (autocorrect) I meant aloe gel is impossible to find in stores as well, it as the actual aloe plant is in abundance in AZ could one use the gel, as it’s pure and au natural?

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 8:09 pm

      I can’t say officially because I don’t know, but I would think that the real deal from the plant should work.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    The aloe gel s important si le to find in stores, but Aloe plants are in abundance in AZ , could one use the all natural plant and its gel?

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    5 stars
    Great post, Sue. I looked for Purell hand sanitizer locally and online. None of my local stores had any in stock. What was upsetting was the price gouging on Amazon! They were selling small containers for $20, $30, and higher!

    So I ordered the alcohol and aloe vera gel and made my own at home. The recipe I used had the same proportions as yours. But your usage instructions are really helpful!

    Where can I mark the post with 5 stars? I looked but couldn;t find a way to do that.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Sandy, glad this was a help. The price gouging is insane!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    There is no alcohol or alcohol products in Santa Fe. I suspect that’s true nation wide.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      Last I checked you could still get on Amazon.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you very much, Sue!
    That´s helpful and correct. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 11:36 am

    So thoughtful of you, Sue! Thank you for searching and giving a well balanced recommendation and recipe.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      Stay healthy Alexandra <3

  • Reply
    Diana P
    March 11, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Thanks, Sue. This concoction is better than nothing in these “germy times”. You were very kind to post this.

  • Reply
    Pam Parkinson
    March 11, 2020 at 10:54 am

    Thanks, Sue. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to make this. I had the 2 ingredients already. I tend to have dry hands so I will only use sparingly when needed. Otherwise I will wash my hands as always! And moisturize!

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 10:58 am

      I think, as I hope I made clear, that this is really a back up plan when nothing better is available, but if you have the right strength alcohol and you measure correctly, it should help!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Hi thank you for the recipe, I heard if you use colida silver ionic gel and put some just inside around the end of your nose for flying really helps.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 10:41 am

      I’ve never heard about that, thanks Pam!

  • Reply
    Laurie Oestreicher
    March 11, 2020 at 10:09 am

    I made mine last Thursday after finding no wipes or sanitizers anywhere where I live, full disclosure, I live in the Middle Florida Keys, so we run out of things constantly.
    Usually head to Amazon, but none there either ?
    So made mine with 90% alcohol and aloe gel, same amounts as you recommend.
    Soft hands, smells great, effective cleaning and easy to keep small bottles of this everywhere, including our cars ?!
    Recommend all try this!

  • Reply
    Sparki Beltran
    March 11, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Thanks Sue………….stay safe!

  • Reply
    Pamela Anderson
    March 11, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I read that the aloe Vera gel doesn’t do enough to moisturize your hands and that this home made version does not have the moisturizers that are in commercial brands such as Purell and can really irritate your skin if used very much. So I would advise people of this problem.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Yes, sanitizer can be irritating if used a lot, but so can washing with soap and water. You want to make sure your hands don’t develop cracks or fissures that can allow germs etc to penetrate.

  • Reply
    Susan Turner
    March 11, 2020 at 9:50 am

    I was just doing some google research on how to make my own. I check my email only to find your post I find that amazing.
    Thanks for sharing with us it’s greatly appreciated.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2020 at 9:58 am

      There’s a lot out there, but I know it was useful for me, so I thought others would benefit from my sifting through it all!

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