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How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

Updated on March 23, 2020
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I'm an avid DIY'er and have been making personal care products for years.

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Looking for hand sanitizer?

If you're currently looking for hand sanitizer in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus at work or school, good luck. Most grocery stores ran out of hand sanitizer in early March. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target have yet to restock their shelves after customers bought out all kinds of household essentials, including toilet paper, milk, flour, and baby wipes.

Luckily, hand sanitizer is a very easy item to make at home using everyday ingredients that you probably already stock in your medicine cabinet, such as denatured alcohol and aloe vera gel. Another ingredient, glycerol, is used in a variety of personal care products like toothpaste and hair conditioner. It is available at stores like Target. Hydrogen peroxide is another common household item, and is used to treat wounds or to bleach clothing.

While glycerol and hydrogen peroxide do have antiacterial and anti-spore properties of their own, the strongest antiseptic is alcohol. So, the key to making effective hand sanitizer is in the final alcohol concentration. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hand sanitizer contain at least 60% alcohol by volume in order to stave off microbes such as C.difficile, norovirus, and SARS-CoV-2.

Simple Hand Sanitizer Recipe

To create this basic hand sanitizer, you're going to need isopropyl alcohol, aloe vera gel, and some essential oil. That's it. The inexpensive isopropyl alcohol is sold at 95%, which is the concentration you'll need to satisfy the CDC recommendation of 60% or higher alcohol for hand sanitizer. Technically, you don't need the essential oil- but it's nice to have it for fragrance, and so your hands don't smell like antiseptic.

The recipe is as follows:

Isopropyl Alcohol

Aloe Vera Gel

Essential oil (e.g., mint, tea tree, orange)

Mix isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel in a 3:1 ratio by volume. Once this is mixed, add 2-3 drops of your preferred essential oil. That's it. Now you have basic hand sanitizer that is not only anti-microbial, but also much safer than most commercially sold sanitizer.

The World Health Organization recommends letting homemade hand sanitizer sit for at least 72 hours, post-prep, in order to allow the alcohol to kill any viruses or bacteria that may have been introduced into the sanitizer during its mixing.

Sanitizer spray recipe

If you are in need of a more dilute and less tacky sanitizer, such as for cleaning countertops, door knobs, etc., the following recipe, which is derived from a sanitizer recipe published by the WHO, generates a spray form of sanitizer. Paper products can also be soaked in this solution and then used instead of commercial sanitary wipes.

The ingredients are fairly basic:

Several different ingredients, including glycerol and hydrogen peroxide are used in this spray recipe. Why?

Glycerol, which is also known as glycerin, is a sweet and fatty liquid that helps dissolve other substances and is a humectant (i.e., it maintains moisture). It's also a common food additive. Having it present in this recipe helps keep surfaces wet when they are sprayed, enabling them to be cleaned more thoroughly.

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer and is sometimes used to bleach delicate fabrics like silk. It's far more environmentally-friendly than chlorine bleach and can be applied directly to skin in its diluted form. It has also been found to inactivate bacterial and viral spores, and so it acts as an additional sanitizer.

To make the antiseptic spray, mix six ounces of the isopropyl alcohol with one ounce of glycerol/glycerin. Add 1/2 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, followed by 1.5 ounces of distilled/boiled water. If you happen to be working with 90% or below alcohol, add less water in order to maintain the 60% total alcohol recommended by the CDC.

Once the solution is made, pour it into a spray bottle (for spraying), or store it in a sealed glass jar (for use with a napkin or sponge).


Don't forget to wash your hands

Hand sanitizer is useful if you have no access to soap and water, or are on-the-go. However, there is no substitute for washing your hands with soap and water, especially if they are covered in oil, dirt, or other contaminants (e.g., heavy metals). Hand washing not only breaks up bacterial cell walls due to the chemistry of the soap, it also physically flushes away viruses, prions, and chemicals that may be sticking to your skin.

Keep away from children

In 2015, the Georgia Poison Center announced that thousands of children are hospitalized because of sanitizer product ingestion. Many sanitizers are brightly colored, flavored, scented, or come in attractive packaging, and this leads to children wanting to "try" them. However, ingestion of even a few squirts of sanitizer can lead to alcohol poisoning and death.

Therefore, if you make a batch of hand sanitizer, be sure to lock it up and/or monitor its use in your home. School teachers should be extra careful when leaving hand sanitizer out for use by their students, because many overdose cases have occurred in the classroom.

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