Are you freaking out over the virus coverage on the news? I’m not a doctor, chemist, or epidemiologist. I’m a nerdy wife and mom who researches everything to death when it feels like the world is spinning out of control. It calms me.
While this new viral outbreak is universally described as “mild” for the majority of affected patients, I have immediate family members who fall into the “pre-existing underlying health problems” category. Those underlying health problems are a common denominator (along with age) among the patients who’ve died. That is concerning.
I was surprised when I heard that gel hand sanitizers were flying off store shelves everywhere. I expected the run on toilet paper and non-perishable foods. It happens during hurricane season every year around here. Besides, food and TP are must haves if you plan to stay away from other. Staying away from people lowers your risk of catching the virus. You also need a supply of food and necessities if you need to self quarantine.
But hand sanitizer? It’s so easy to make your own.
First Things First: Why Do We Need to Buy or Make Hand Sanitizer?
Soap and water trumps hand sanitizer when it comes to cleaning germs off of your hands. When you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, the slipperiness of the soap makes it impossible for the germs to stay on your skin. The water washes them right down the drain. This is what the CDC, WHO, doctors and scientists all over the world recommend we do more frequently (and longer).
(Yo, disinfect your sinks daily! This is what I use: My Disinfecting Spray aka DIY Granite Cleaning Spray. It is also alcohol based.)
We can’t always wash our hands after touching shopping carts, door knobs, credit/debit card machines, money, or any of the other filthy things our fingers come into contact with each day.
And we can’t seem to stop touching our faces with our germy fingers. Don’t think you touch your face much? Chop up some jalapenos, without wearing gloves, and start a tick sheet. Make a tick for every time you touch your face or eyes. Trust me, you’ll realize then how much you really touch your face (like I did.)
We only need hand sanitizer to hold us over until we actually can get to a sink and soap. Not being able to stop touching our faces after handling items that could be covered in germs is why we need it.
How does it work? Alcohol denatures and coagulates proteins. It kills germs, but if your hands are covered in grease and grime, the effectiveness of the alcohol is greatly reduced. So it works best when your hands are clean. Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing!
Can I make DIY Hand Sanitizer without Aloe Vera Gel?
Yes, of course. Aloe vera gel acts as a stabilizer and somewhat of a moisturizer. (I say “somewhat” because even “moisturizing” hand sanitizer gel containing aloe vera leaves my hands dry.) You can make hand sanitizer without the aloe vera gel but it would no longer be a gel. It would be a liquid. I’ve made both versions. I put the liquid into a mini spray bottle.
Also, DIY hand sanitizer gel is more of a gel-like liquid than commercial sanitizers. The hand sanitizer manufacturers have knowledge of and access to chemical additives. Those hard to pronounce chemical ingredients give store bought sanitizers the consistency, longevity, and the scents that you probably won’t be able to reproduce at home. But, if your store’s shelves are empty and you need to make some, you can.
What do I really need to make a basic alcohol based hand sanitizer?
Well according to this CDC handwashing and hand sanitizing factsheet, you need at least a 60% alcohol solution to sanitize your hands when you are unable to wash your hands.
- 2/3 parts 91 % Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- 1/3 parts aloe vera gel (or distilled water)
- a container to put it in
This is the barebones recipe.
It might be hard to find 91% rubbing alcohol, right now. My local grocery store is even running low on 70% alcohol. If you can only find 70% alcohol, use it but use less aloe gel.
- Most vodka contains only 40% alcohol which does not meet the CDC minimum of 60% alcohol content.
This is another reason why soap, water, and 20 seconds of hand washing is best.
This is my favorite hand soap for frequent handwashing. I used it when my kids were babies. I switched it our normal homemade foaming soap to this Softsoap milk and honey hand soap. It moisturizes and cleanses. And if you are washing your hands as often as you should be, you’ll appreciate it.
My favorite hand soap is sold out everywhere! So I’ve been searching for others that aren’t crazy expensive.
Have you searched Google or Pinterest yet for DIY Hand Sanitizers?
It’s overwhelming, right? Some recipes are pretty long, have lots of ingredients, and when you add up the costs of the special bottles, labels, 100% this, pure that, essential this, you almost want to go ahead and buy from that person online selling bottles for 10x their normal cost. (That was a joke. Please don’t pay $149 for a bottle of Purell.)
A lot of the Pinterest recipes are filled with fluff and affiliate links. Yes, even mine.
If the current pandemic, and this year’s flu, wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, I wouldn’t be making such a strong sanitizing gel. The alcohol is not kind to my skin. I prefer mine much weaker, made with vodka, witch hazel, and scented with rosemary, lavender, and peppermint oils.
Yes, I normally prefer to use vodka (which does not contain a high enough alcohol content to be sanitizing) because the smell of rubbing alcohol is strong. The same goes for witch hazel. However, to meet the guidelines set by the CDC and WHO, isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol should be used.
Caution: Both isopropyl and ethyl alcohol are highly flammable. (Ethyl alcohol especially.) Keep away from fire! This means don’t pour it all over your hands then try to light your gas grill.
My variation on DIY Gel Hand Sanitizer
- Clean Small Bottle, Travel bottle – I prefer to reuse old hand sanitizer bottles or make my own. I keep several bottles of hand sanitizer in my hurricane bin that I usually pick it up at the dollar store. But I end up throwing them away after a while! Commercial sanitizing gels have an expiration date. Since my family hates the drying effect of hand sanitizer, we simply wash our hands a lot and rarely use it. Check any older bottles you have. If it is expired, clean it out and reuse it!
- 91-99% Isopropyl Alcohol – I have purchased 91% rubbing alcohol at drug stores and grocery stores. However, I rarely see any that are higher than 91%. I also noticed that our Publix was completely sold out of the 91% alcohol but had plenty of 70%. I am hoping that those who purchased all of the bottles aren’t using 90% alcohol for cleaning! The 70% strength is far more effective for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
- Aloe Vera Gel (Clear) – Aloe Vera Gel is easy to come by here in Florida. I grabbed mine from the grocery store because we needed it ASAP. It’s something normally on hand in Florida homes. Each year someone in our house stays out in the sun a little too long or doesn’t put on enough sunblock so it’s a necessary household item.
Update: If you can’t find aloe vera gel, get an aloe plant and use the gel from a leaf! They are ubiquitous in Florida. If you don’t have one or know anyone that has one, you can order live aloe plants from Amazon.
- Vitamin E Oil – I buy Vitamin E oil at the Dollar Store. A little bit lasts a long time. It is a stabilizer, preservative, and also helps combat the drying effect of the alcohol. This is not a required ingredient but you will be happy you added it.
Optional essential oils for scent (these are my favorite two oils):
- Lavender Essential Oil – I love the smell of Lavender. It calms me. And I want it to calm you too. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and stop panicking!
- Rosemary Essential Oil – I also like the smell of rosemary. It supposedly helps with memory. So I want you to try this if you have some and remember to calm down!
Mix sanitizer together:
I fill the bottle 1/3 of the way full of aloe vera gel (using a funnel). Then I add 5-10 drops of the essential oils, and about 1 tsp of the Vitamin E Oil. Finally I fill the rest of the bottle with the alcohol and gently mix it.
To use it: Pour enough of the sanitizing gel on your hands so that you can completely cover your hands and fingertips. Do not wipe your hands dry. Let the gel have time to sanitize your hands.
To make it without the aloe vera gel:
Replace the aloe vera gel with distilled water. Put into a small spray bottle. Spray all over hands. Do not wipe dry.
It’s so easy. BUT DON’T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU CAN!!!
Thank you for preventing the spread of viruses. Good hygiene isn’t just effective against novel viruses.
Don’t forget to moisturize!
Hand sanitizers, wipes, and increased hand washing can also increase your risk of catching a virus — if your hands become dry and cracked. Please do not forget that with increased hand washing and sanitizing you MUST moisturize and protect your skin.
This Eucerin lotion is unscented, cost effective, and a great unisex option.
Yes, the pandemic news, quarantines, and border closings are causes for concern. But in the days and weeks before the virus made its appearance, healthy, active children, dying within days of contracting the flu made headlines. The 2019-2020 flu season infection numbers are up 65%, with a record high of 125 pediatric flu deaths this year per the Centers of Disease Control.
My flu anxiety is no joke. However, it abates when I see all those empty shelves where the disinfectant wipes, gels, and cleaning products are normally stocked. I see people using the sanitizing wipes made available in store vestibules and wiping down their carts. Hopefully, these measures slow the spread of all the nasty viruses out there.
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