How to make your own hand sanitizer. Recipes for homemade hand sanitizer.
Have you ever heard someone say ‘it’s easy to take for granted how easy you can breathe, until your nose is stopped up’? That’s true about many things, including buying hand sanitizer. When I was teaching high school biology and agriculture, I always had a large pump-bottle of hand sanitizer on my desk.
I also keep small bottles of gel sanitizer in my purse or my desk drawer. Those small bottles of hand sanitizer can be found floating around my home in many different places. So when hand sanitizer started flying off of the shelves in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, I got a little worried.
I’m 5 months pregnant, and my son has Type 1 diabetes. I also have a four year old daughter and a husband that works at one of the busiest airports in the U.S. It made it seem like the numerous bottles of hand sanitizer that I had collected over the years weren’t going to be enough.
Some of you may be in a similar boat as me. You may be worried that you can’t find hand sanitizer and you’ve got people in your family that are at a higher risk for getting sick. So, what can you do to keep your hands germ-free when there isn’t hand sanitizer around?
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Make homemade hand sanitizer
I have a strong background in biology and I understand how viruses, germs and infectious diseases spread, which is part of why something like the coronavirus is so scary to me. I also know that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to mix up hand sanitizer.
In fact, you can create a potent hand sanitizer with minimal products, probably even things that you have around your house (or that you can at least still grab quickly at the grocery store). I’ve compiled the best recipes to make homemade hand sanitizer. Grab your kids and have them get involved with mixing up hand sanitizer. Really, it’s that easy ya’ll.
If you’re interested in being more prepared for craziness like what 2020 has brought, check out this emergency preparedness checklist from the Simple Prepper.
A few tips from the CDC about homemade hand sanitizer:
Before you begin mixing up hand sanitizer, make sure that your equipment is all sterilized. You don’t want to mix up hand sanitizer in a potentially germy bowl and pour it into germ-filled containers. Remember, hand sanitizer is only going to kill about 99% of disease-causing germs. You want to eliminate as many germs as possible to reduce that 1%.
When you mix up hand sanitizer, it’s best to let it sit for 72 hours before using it. This gives the hand sanitizer time to kill any bacteria or viruses that might have gotten introduced into the mix. Again, sterilizing your equipment before mixing hand sanitizer can help reduce the amount of germs that you introduce into your sanitizer or containers.
Also, hand sanitizer is better than nothing, but your best option is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to get between the fingers, around the knuckles, fingernails and backs of hands really good. Think about where bacteria and germs could hide out on your hands and scrub those places really well.
Check out this video from John Hopkins and the WHO about properly washing your hands:
When you’re making hand sanitizer, the most efficient ones contain a high percentage of alcohol. At least 60% alcohol is required for it to be effective. If you can make sanitizer that is at least 75% alcohol, it has the most germ-killing power. According to the CDC, the alcohol in your liquor cabinet isn’t strong enough. Whiskey only contains 40% alcohol and vodka is only 35-40%. These alone aren’t strong enough to sanitize your hands, much less by the time you add the other ingredients.
Homemade Hand Sanitizer Gel
This recipe is quick and can be popped into a pump bottle or small squeeze bottles.
Mix up 1 cup of alcohol with 1/3 of a cup of aloe vera gel. Add a few drops of essential oils to create a pleasant scent. Gently whisk everything together and pour into containers.
You can also choose essential oils that are known to have anti-viral and anti-bacteria properties like: cinnamon, eucalyptus, bergamot, tea tree, or lemon balm. It’s important to look for essential oils that aren’t just antibacterial. Viruses, like the coronavirus, are very different than bacteria, like E. coli. Just because an essential oil is antibacterial doesn’t mean that it is going to kill viruses also. It’s a good idea to find essential oils that are both anitviral and antibacterial.
*Note- aloe vera helps to make this mixture a gel rather than liquid and also helps protect your skin from over-drying. However, it can be sticky (think of how your skin feels after slathering on aloe vera on a sunburn). If you’re worried about the stickiness, check out the recipe below for hand sanitizer spray that doesn’t include aloe vera.
Hand Sanitizer Spray
This recipe is a little more involved, but it eliminates the need for aloe vera. This recipe is derived from one that is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sterile or distilled water
If you don’t have access to distilled or sterile water, you can quickly sterilize water at home. Clear tap water can be boiled on the stove for a minimum of one minute. This is sufficient enough to kill any microorganisms that can cause illness. If your tap water is cloudy, filter it using a water filter or coffee filters before boiling to remove any impurities.
Mix together 12 fluid ounces of alcohol with 2 teaspoons of glycerol or glycerin. Glycerol takes the place of aloe vera in this recipe and keeps your hands from drying out. It doesn’t actually kill any germs, so if you can’t find it, you can skip it. Just remember to apply lotion after using this hand sanitizer if you don’t put glycerol or glycerin in it.
Add 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Stir it up. Then add 3 fluid ounces of your distilled or (cooled) sterile water. Stir this up well and pour into spray bottles.
This creates a liquid spray, not a gel. You can use it on your hands as well as surfaces. It can also be used to add to paper towels or cloths to make homemade sanitizing wipes.
It doesn’t smell great, so you can add a few drops of essential oils to help the odor smell less like a doctor’s office.
Homemade Hand Sanitizer without Aloe Vera
Aloe vera keeps hand sanitizer from causing your skin to dry out. If you don’t want to use aloe vera or can’t find it, you can substitute the aloe vera and use witch hazel instead. Using witch hazel will help to keep your hands moisturized and less reptilian. Just swap out the aloe vera for witch hazel in the recipe.
Using witch hazel in the place of aloe vera will create a more liquid consistency and won’t make a gel.
If you have vitamin E oil, this can also be used to moisturize your skin. Simply add 1/4 teaspoon of vitamin E oil to your mixture and leave out the aloe vera or witch hazel.
Sanitizing your home without store bought sanitizers
The CDC recommends that our homes are also sanitized to help prevent the spread of diseases. Normally, we could grab some Lysol wipes and wipe all surfaces down. It’s hard to do that when the Lysol wipes are flying off of the shelves. You can keep your home sanitized without Lysol wipes, thankfully.
If you have some 70% rubbing alcohol, this can be a very effective cleaner to kill bacteria and viruses. Simply use it and a cloth or paper towel in place of normal disinfecting wipes. The scent isn’t great, and may make your home smell more like a hospital, but it will keep your surfaces germ-free. Personally, I’d rather have a hospital-smelling counter rather than one covered up with germs!
Bleach is another powerful disinfectant that you can use. Add 5 tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water and mix it up. This can be used to clean surfaces and kill germs. Since bleach is known to discolor things, I would recommend testing it out on a small area to make sure that it won’t discolor floors, countertops, etc.
I’ve seen in the past where cleaners are made using vinegar or baking soda. Although these are fine under normal circumstances, they aren’t as effective as bleach or alcohol. In times like this, you want to make sure that you’re using the best possible disinfectant. The CDC recommends staying away from vinegar or baking soda based disinfectants.