How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
When it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, nothing beats good old-fashioned handwashing.
But if water and soap aren’t available, your next best option, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Unless you have a stockpile of store-bought hand sanitizer, you’ll likely have a hard time finding any at a store or online right now. Due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, most retailers can’t keep up with the demand for hand sanitizer.
The good news? All it takes is three ingredients to make your own hand sanitizer at home. Read on to find out how.
Making your own hand sanitizer is easy to do and only requires a few ingredients:
- isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99 percent alcohol volume)
- aloe vera gel
- an essential oil, such as tea tree oil or lavender oil, or you can use lemon juice instead
The key to making an effective, germ-busting hand sanitizer is to stick to a 2:1 proportion of alcohol to aloe vera. This keeps the alcohol content around 60 percent. This is the minimum amount needed to kill most germs, according to the CDC
Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, associate professor of health science at Ball State University, shared this hand sanitizing formula.
His hand sanitizer formula combines:
- 2 parts isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (91–99 percent alcohol)
- 1 part aloe vera gel
- a few drops of clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, or other essential oil
If you’re making hand sanitizer at home, Khubchandani says to adhere to these tips:
- Make the hand sanitizer in a clean space. Wipe down countertops with a diluted bleach solution beforehand.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before making the hand sanitizer.
- To mix, use a clean spoon and whisk. Wash these items thoroughly before using them.
- Make sure the alcohol used for the hand sanitizer is not diluted.
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly until they’re well blended.
- Don’t touch the mixture with your hands until it’s ready for use.
For a larger batch of hand sanitizer, the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source has a formula for a hand sanitizer that uses:
- isopropyl alcohol or ethanol
- hydrogen peroxide
- sterile distilled or boiled cold water
DIY hand sanitizer recipes are all over the internet these days — but are they safe?
These recipes, including the ones above, are intended for use by professionals with both the expertise and resources to safely make homemade hand sanitizers.
Homemade hand sanitizer is only recommended in extreme situations when you’re unable to wash your hands for the foreseeable future.
Improper ingredients or proportions can lead to:
- lack of efficacy, meaning that the sanitizer may not effectively eliminate risk of exposure to some or all microbes
- skin irritation, injury, or burns
- exposure to hazardous chemicals via inhalation
Homemade hand sanitizer is also not recommended for children. Children may be more prone to improper hand sanitizer usage, which could lead to greater risk of injury.
Two things to be aware of when using hand sanitizer:
- You need to rub it into your skin until your hands are dry.
- If your hands are greasy or dirty, you should wash them first with soap and water.
With that in mind, here are some tips for using hand sanitizer effectively.
- Spray or apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand.
- Thoroughly rub your hands together. Make sure you cover the entire surface of your hands and all your fingers.
- Continue rubbing for 30 to 60 seconds or until your hands are dry. It can take at least 60 seconds, and sometimes longer, for hand sanitizer to kill most germs.
According to the CDCTrusted Source, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that meets the alcohol volume requirement can quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands.
It can also help destroy a wide range of disease-causing agents or pathogens on your hands, including the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
However, even the best alcohol-based hand sanitizers have limitations and don’t eliminate all types of germs.
According to the CDC, hand sanitizers won’t get rid of potentially harmful chemicals. It’s also not effective at killing the following germs:
- Cryptosporidium, which causes cryptosporidiosis
- Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff
Also, a hand sanitizer may not work well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. This may happen after working with food, doing yard work, gardening, or playing a sport.
If your hands look dirty or slimy, opt for handwashing instead of a hand sanitizer.
Knowing when it’s best to wash your hands, and when hand sanitizers can be helpful, is key to protecting yourself from the new coronavirus as well as other illnesses, like the common cold and seasonal flu.
While both serve a purpose, washing your hands with soap and water should always be a priority, according to the CDC. Only use hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available in a given situation.
It’s also important to always wash your hands:
- after going to the bathroom
- after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- before eating
- after touching surfaces that could be contaminated