5 Things to Know When Making DIY Hand Sanitizer

Make a highly effective gel quickly and easily with two household items and these simple tips.

By Timothy Dale | Updated Mar 30, 2020 5:03 PM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

How to DIY Hand Sanitizer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Amidst the current Coronavirus pandemic, many people throughout the world are taking steps to protect against infectious germs and bacteria. Wide-spread stockpiling and issues with supply and demand have left too many people without access to necessary preventative resources, such as hand sanitizer.

While it’s important to wash hands as frequently as necessary, you may not always have access to a sink, soap, or hot water. Instead of scheduling the day around hand-washing, or searching half-empty shelves of the nearest pharmacy, try making DIY hand sanitizer that meets the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Below are helpful tips and step-by-step instructions on how to make hand sanitizer using common household products.

1. Start with the right ingredients for your DIY hand sanitizer.

The process to learn how to make hand sanitizer is pretty simple, because there are only two ingredients that are essential to an effective product.

The first is aloe vera gel, which is a gelatinous substance that is taken from the aloe vera plant. While this gel does not aid in killing the COVID-19 virus, it does ensure that hands stay moisturized and healthy while using the solution.

The second ingredient is isopropyl alcohol with an alcohol content of 99 percent. This ingredient is the most important, as the alcohol is what denatures the proteins of the enveloped virus. Just remember that this ingredient cannot be alcohol that is fit for drinking.

A third ingredient that some people choose to include is an essential oil. While not essential to hand sanitizer, it can mask the strong scent of alcohol. Whether or not you use an essential oil for added fragrance is completely up to you.

2. Save the home bar for drinking; it won’t work here.

Most people understand that to create an effective hand sanitizer for protection against the COVID-19 virus you need alcohol. However, the distilled spirits in a liquor cabinet just won’t work. Whiskey, rum, or even vodka won’t create a useful hand sanitizer because the alcohol content is too low.

Like many viruses, the COVID-19 virus has an outer wrapping called an “envelope.” Studies indicate that enveloped viruses are susceptible to alcohol solutions with between 60 percent to 99 percent alcohol content. Popular whiskeys, rums, and vodkas generally have an alcohol content below 50 percent, meaning that when they are mixed into a hand sanitizer solution, or even on their own, they are simply not strong enough to kill an enveloped virus.

3. Mix one part aloe to two parts isopropyl alcohol.

Despite having only two or three ingredients, this is the step that can lead to a successful hand sanitizer (and avoids making a solution that is either too weak to be effective or too strong for the skin to handle). Take care to measure properly to ensure the hand sanitizer is both sufficient enough to kill enveloped viruses and safe enough to use on skin.

The following recipe makes a solution that has an approximate alcohol content of 61 percent, which has been shown to actually denature virus proteins faster than a 99 percent alcohol solution. However, to create a product with a higher alcohol content, simply reduce the amount of aloe vera gel to ¼ cup.

  1. First, measure out ⅓ cup of aloe vera gel and ⅔ cup of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol.
  2. Add both substances to a bowl and mix together with a whisk until they are well blended.
  3. To incorporate essential oils for aroma, add 3 to 5 drops to the solution and mix well.
  4. Once the solution is mixed, pour the mixture into a clean, empty container, such as a travel shampoo bottle or a hand sanitizer bottle.
  5. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 72 hours after completion to kill any bacteria that may have been introduced while making the hand sanitizer, per recommendations from the World Health Organization.
Tips for Making and Using a DIY Hand Sanitizer

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. Know the limit of your new DIY hand sanitizer.

It’s important to understand when a new preventative solution is necessary and when it is useful. While the alcohol content in this hand sanitizer recipe is strong enough to kill enveloped viruses, it is not great at killing non-enveloped viruses or bacterial spores.

In addition to not being able to kill everything, the CDC makes it clear that hands must be clean when applying hand sanitizer, and that the hand sanitizer must be rubbed onto hands until it has dried on the skin.

In the end, hand sanitizer is only needed in situations where there’s no access to soap and water. If at all possible, wash your hands and save the sanitizer for emergency situations.

5. When in doubt, wash your hands.

While using a homemade sanitizer may be an exciting prospect, it’s important to remember that health professionals and the CDC recommend washing hands with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer whenever possible. The reason for this is that washing with soap and water mechanically removes all types of dirt, grease, chemicals, and germs. Hand sanitizer is only effective against certain types of germs and is essentially useless in cleaning chemicals or grease from hands.

For details on how to properly wash hands, when to use sanitizer, and even how to use sanitizer, follow the CDC’s guidelines for handwashing and using hand sanitizer.