Has the threat of illness sent you running to the store for soap and hand sanitizer only to find the shelves empty? If so, you're not alone. The shortage has prompted people to search for DIY hand sanitizer recipes online, but are those recipes safe and effective?
Is homemade hand sanitizer effective?
Hand washing is still the most effective way of cleaning your hands. Using soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds removes not only germs but the dirt and gunk where bacteria live.
Also, using soap and water won't dry out your hands as much as alcohol will. BUT, as you are probably aware, hand soap is becoming just as hard to find as Purell, et al.
If you can find commercial hand sanitizer, use that instead of a do-it-yourself version since you know that the formula is scientifically sound and the proportions are correct.
But, desperate times call for extreme measures. When soap and commercial sanitizers are hard to come by, or prices are sky-high, something is better than nothing. Right?
What are the active ingredients in hand sanitizer?
The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is 70% ethyl alcohol. For a hand sanitizer to be effective, it must contain 60% to 95% alcohol, according to the CDC.
No, that doesn't mean that you should take a bottle of vodka from your liquor cabinet and rub it on your hands. We're not talking about that kind of alcohol.
Alcohol-based hand rub. An alcohol-containing preparation designed for application to the hands for reducing the number of viable microorganisms on the hands. In the United States, such preparations usually contain 60%–95% ethanol or isopropanol.cdc.gov / Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings.pdf; page 3
Since the concentration of alcohol must be at least 60%, if you use 70% isopropyl alcohol and dilute it with 50% aloe vera gel, your alcohol concentration is only 35%, which isn't concentrated enough to disinfect your hands. This is why it is important to get your hand sanitizer recipes from a reputable source that is backed by science.
DIY Hand Sanitizer Recipe
If you find yourself in a situation where making a DIY hand sanitizer is the only option, please do not use an alcohol-free sanitizer recipe. The CDC recommends using either soap or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Because of that, the homemade hand sanitizer recipe included here does contain at least 60% alcohol.
Note: the ingredients to make hand sanitizer are becoming almost as scarce as hand sanitizer itself.
Take precautions, but don't panic
It's easy to freak out over illnesses we have never encountered before and don't have known vaccines or treatments for, but keep a level head about the spread of infectious diseases.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- When washing your hands isn't possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- When a commercial hand sanitizer isn't available, make a DIY hand sanitizer that is backed by scientific evidence based on CDC recommendations for proper handwashing.
- Finally, be part of the herd, not the hoard. DON'T BUY ALL THE HAND SANITIZER. Seriously. Don't. If you find some in the store, buy what you need plus a spare and leave some for others. If you buy out the store, then other people can't properly clean their hands, which continues to spread disease and renders your stockpile almost useless.