DIY Hand Sanitizer with Alcohol: An Alternative When Hand Washing Isn’t An Option
This flu season is especially scary. As the Coronapocalypse continues to claim lives and spread throughout the world, it’s more important than ever to take protective measures against this new strain of the flu. The top two ways to do this include handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers when soap and water aren’t available. With hand sanitizer unavailable in many locations due to the outbreak, you can make an effective DIY hand sanitizer at home. Keep reading to learn how to make a simple, 2-ingredient homemade hand sanitizer recipe for use when tested, commercial hand sanitizers are unavailable.
With the new virus now a pandemic, people are literally freaking out. Everywhere. And there are three sides to this entire event. At least for those of us living in the United States. They are:
- The people who believe the reports of the coronavirus are nothing more than fear mongering.
- Those who have a healthy outlook that most people will be okay, but precautions need to be taken especially if you are in a risk group.
- And finally, the individuals who believe this is the start of the apocalypse.
There have been a lot of crazy photos and reports on social media. I’ve seen tons of pictures where big box stores and wholesale clubs who are entirely sold out of hand sanitizer, cleaning products and toilet paper. Not that the flu and toilet paper have anything in common necessarily. But there are folks who are literally preparing for the end of days. And while I can see TP being a priority in day to day life, I just never imagined folks would value it like gold when the zombie virus finally takes hold. (Although I’m definitely filing this information for later.)
On the flip side of this, I’ve also seen memes indicating that women ages 30-50 are most likely to carry the virus without symptoms. And therefore, they should quarantine themselves away from men and children, for a period of fourteen days, at their local wineries. With all cell phones confiscated upon arrival. (I mean, why not? We women totally deserve a break from home life.)
In the end, while the Coronapocalypse is indeed a pandemic, it’s not the world’s — or even our nation’s — top killer. That would be cardiovascular disease. And yet, no one is out there panicking about cutting their meat consumption and increasing their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. No, the coronavirus is apparently a hell of a lot scarier. Perhaps because of its immediacy, and its ability to infect even the healthiest of hosts.
Of course, the two week quarantine protocol they’re enacting basically everywhere does cause concern. (But as such, two weeks still does not require 96 rolls of toilet paper!) As does the large percentage of deaths that first began in China. And if you’re at risk, either due to age or health issues, then you definitely want to take precautions to avoid becoming one of the 2% of the infected population dying from this new virus. (The flu, on average, kills .2% of those infected during an average flu season in comparison.)
While hand sanitizer is flying off the shelves, and is no longer available in many locations, it’s not the end all be all to flu prevention. It still remains, and the CDC holds to this, that hand washing is the #1 preventive measure you can take against this new virus. (Learn more here.) Still, if hand washing isn’t an option — and when it is you need to do so for at least 20 seconds — then hand sanitizer can offer some level of germ destroying power until you can get your hands on some soap and water. Therefore you may want to keep it in your bag as backup when you’re traveling or attending a public event. Or, simply avoid traveling and events until this whole thing boils over. (Really, why the hell is anyone flying into Colorado for a ski trip while harboring a deadly virus anyway? Am I right?)
It is also important to note, however, that if your hands are visibly dirty, hand washing is necessary. (That hand sanitizer isn’t going to do squat.) In which case, tossing a bar of soap and few bottles of water into your bag, in lieu of hand sanitizer, is probably an even better idea. But, I get it. Staying home isn’t a realistic option for most of us. Jamming your mom bag full of even more crap? Well, we expect that anyway.
(Read the recommendations for utilizing handwashing and hand sanitizers as protective measures against the virus from the World Health Organization.)
How to Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer
If you can’t find hand sanitizer right now, or there’s some serious price gouging happening that you refuse to tolerate, then you can make your own DIY hand sanitizer. It is important to note, however, that unless your DIY hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol, then it’s not going to be effective. You can make your own DIY hand sanitizer using two types of alcohol. One is isopropyl alcohol, which is also known as rubbing alcohol. The other is ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. Ethyl alcohol is the type of alcohol used to make the alcohol we drink, such as grain alcohol, vodka or everclear. Both isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol come with varying levels of alcohol content. As well, they both have drawbacks.
Isopropyl Alcohol vs. Ethyl Alcohol for Making DIY Hand Sanitizer
Isopropyl alcohol is great for disinfecting surfaces. 70% isopropyl alcohol is recommended when sanitizing surfaces. (Source.) So while you may have the 91%+ in your arsenal for melt and pour soap making — hello, fellow soapers! — opt for the lower percentage when disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces. If you already have it on hand, you can use 70% isopropyl alcohol to make a DIY hand sanitizer as well, but with some caution.
It is extremely important to note that isopropyl alcohol is poisonous when consumed. This is especially the case where children are concerned, as isopropyl alcohol can poison children in even small amounts. As such, it’s not recommended that you use a DIY hand sanitizer with isopropyl alcohol on small children who may lick their hands after the application. (You can learn the symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning here.)
Likewise, ethyl alcohol can also poison children through ingestion. (And, unless, it’s been denatured, is illegal in a number of states.) Small children could potentially become drunk or even develop alcohol poisoning through the ingestion of a DIY hand sanitizer made with ethyl alcohol. (I once came across an ex-physician who would drink a gallon of the old school, ethyl alcohol hand sanitizers when working at the hospital to feed his alcoholism.) Therefore, as the coronavirus seems to spare children from death, unlike adults, you may want be diligent about having young children wash their hands, rather than using a hand sanitizer.
It is also important to note, that any DIY hand sanitizer with a high level of alcohol, can be especially drying to skin. As dry skin is prone to cracking, which allows germs to more readily enter the body, you may want to stock up on moisturizers, and not just hand sanitizer, to prevent dryness.
As safety is a concern where children may have access to hand sanitizers, I chose to use vodka with 75% alcohol content, rather than 70% isopropyl alcohol to make my DIY hand sanitizer. However, you may use either one or the other according to your preference, in my homemade hand sanitizer recipe, found below.
Using Alcohol or Vodka to Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer
Despite Virginia being well known for its moonshine, 190 proof Everclear, which is 95% alcohol, is illegal where I live. Therefore, my homemade hand sanitizer recipe uses 150 proof vodka which contains 75% alcohol. Fortunately, you can readily purchase 150 proof alcohol, providing you’re at least 21 years of age, even if you’re in one of those states where 190 proof alcohol is illegal. This means, however, that you do need to use a larger percentage of vodka in your DIY hand sanitizer in order for it to be effective.
Vodka with a high alcohol content is also important if you’d like to add essential oils to your DIY hand sanitizer. As essential oils don’t mix well with water, low proof alcohol, witch hazel or vinegar, you risk causing irritation, sensitivity and even an allergic reaction if including them in your DIY hand sanitizer. Therefore it’s important to both properly dilute and ensure a solid emulsion when formulating a homemade hand sanitizer, or other skin care formulation, using essential oils. However, there is no evidence that adding essential oils improves the effectiveness of hand sanitizer.
DIY Hand Sanitizer with Vodka or Grain Alcohol
You honestly only need two ingredients to make a DIY hand sanitizer. Aloe vera gel and 150 proof vodka or grain alcohol. A formulation calling for two parts 70% alcohol to one part aloe gel was recommended by my local news station, in order to meet the guidelines set for an effective hand sanitizer in that it contains at least 60% alcohol. However, as they didn’t use weights it all gets very confusing. Therefore, I now recommend using a 3 to 1 ratio unless you’re really good at math, and are able to verify the weight of your ingredients, in order to err on the side of caution. (See the addendum below.) If desired, you can also add an essential oil blend as you see fit. You can also substitute the grain alcohol or vodka, if desired with 70% or higher isopropyl alcohol.
2 oz. aloe vera gel
6 oz. 150 proof vodka or grain alcohol (or 4 oz. for 195 proof)
Measure out both the aloe vera gel and vodka in fluid ounce. (If you don’t have high proof vodka in your area, you can use Everclear 151.) Combine in a glass bowl.
Then mix the ingredients well, until thoroughly combined. There should be no lumps once the hand sanitizer is evenly mixed throughout.
Once you have a smooth hand gel, spoon your sanitizer into a 6 oz. container (or several smaller containers) of your choice. (I used these containers from SKS Bottle & Packaging.)
Notes: Using a lower percentage of alcohol at a three to one ratio to aloe vera gel will create a thinner gel than if using 195 proof alcohol. Therefore, you should adjust your container accordingly. Alternately, you can use 70% isopropyl alcohol (assuming the weight of your aloe vera gel works with the math, see addendum below) or 91% isopropyl alcohol at two parts alcohol to one part aloe vera gel for a thicker gel hand sanitizer.
Be sure to wash your hands frequently. When soap and water are not available, rub your alcohol based hand sanitizer on hands until dry to help protect against viruses, when a tested, commercial product is unavailable.
Adding Essential Oils to Hand Sanitizer
Essential oils aren’t necessary for an effective DIY hand sanitizer. The key is, as previously stated, ensuring the alcohol content of your homemade hand sanitizer is 60% or more. There is no indication that essentials oil can or will protect you from the coronavirus, or other cold and flu viruses. If you do decide, however, that you’d like to include essential oils in your formulation, you can add one of the following essential oils blends to my homemade hand sanitizer recipe when blending the alcohol with the aloe gel. You should also increase the alcohol in your DIY hand sanitizer by triple the amount of essential oils added.
Immunity Boost Essential Oil Blend:
Thieves Essential Oil Blend:
It’s important to note that both clove and cinnamon essential oils are known skin irritants. Therefore, this blend is used in a lower concentration, and should be used with caution.
- 10 drops Clove essential oil
- 9 drops Lemon essential oil
- 5 drops Cinnamon essential oil
- 4 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
- 3 drops Rosemary essential oil
Addendum: The correct way to figure the amount of alcohol needed for a DIY hand sanitizer is to use weight measurements. I used volume to simplify this recipe for those without access to a digital scale. Aloe gel by weight is not 2 oz. It’s 1.75 oz. While vodka seems to weigh less than water, around 1.5 oz. per 2 fluid oz.
I have a screenshot of a chart here that explains the math for figuring out the amounts you need to end up with the desired amount of alcohol in your final product. If you are using a product with 99% alcohol say, you can decrease the recipe to 2 parts alcohol to 1 part aloe gel.
For further reading on how alcohol based hand sanitizers are formulated, you can learn more here.
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