(GoHealthier.com) – As of March of 2020, many of us have had trouble finding hand sanitizer in the stores. When we could find or afford it, quality and effectiveness were sometimes in question. Fortunately, hand sanitizers are making their way back into the stores… for now. As we face the fall cold and flu season and another potential wave of COVID-19 infections, supplies might run low again. So, let’s talk about how to make our own hand sanitizer.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hand sanitizers as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs with a specified volumetric alcohol content of no less than 60%. Either ethanol or isopropanol must be used; other types of alcohol might be toxic and have caused the FDA to recall certain brands of hand sanitizer. It’s important to measure ingredients carefully to avoid making mixtures that might irritate or burn the skin, but blends can be customized with fragrances or essential oils. Find out more about the ins and outs of making your own hand sanitizer.
Here’s How You Can Make Customized Hand Sanitizer.
Most do-it-yourself hand sanitizer recipes call for alcohol and aloe gel. To overcome the smell of the alcohol, many recipes also suggest the optional addition of one or more essential oils to customize the hand sanitizer.
Alcohol is the active sanitizing ingredient. Either isopropanol (rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol) or ethanol may be used, but the alcohol concentration of the component must be 91-99% alcohol by volume (ABV), and it must not be diluted or denatured with any other types of alcohol.
Specifically, methanol (or wood alcohol) should NOT be used because it is toxic, even by skin absorption. Another toxic ingredient is 1-propanol (also called normal propyl alcohol). The name is similar to isopropanol, so it may be confusing for some, but the chemical structures are different.
To use isopropanol, choose products that are 99% pure ABV. Supplies may be available locally or purchased online. Isopropanol may be the safest, easiest and most available alcohol for some. It is very drying to the skin, however.
Alternatively, to use ethanol, look for the highest purity product you can obtain. Grain alcohol at 190 proof (95% ABV) is a good choice for this purpose. Because grain alcohol at this concentration is potentially toxic, some states don’t allow its sale, however.
Aloe gel may be purchased locally or online. It dilutes the alcohol and helps moisturize skin, and it provides the more traditional consistency we’ve become accustomed to with hand sanitizers. Test the gel on the inside of your forearm for any reaction to it before making or using a batch of hand sanitizer.
Essential oils (EOs) are a great way to customize homemade hand sanitizers. A few drops of oils like tangerine, lemon, peppermint, wintergreen, eucalyptus, balsam fir, rosemary, lavender, jasmine, cinnamon, clove or nutmeg will provide a unique aroma to your sanitizer.
EOs may cause skin irritation for some people. To test your sensitivity, dilute 1 drop of an EO in a tablespoon of olive oil and test the mixture on the inside of your forearm. If you react, either choose a different oil (and test) or exclude EOs from your mixture altogether.
Tools and Supplies
Other items we may need include:
- Disposable nitrile gloves
- Safety glasses
- A glass measuring cup with 1-ounce divisions
- 1 quart or larger ceramic or glass mixing bowl
- A clean whisk
- A ladle
- A funnel
- Enough dispensers or containers for 12 ounces of hand sanitizer
Make the Mix
Our goal is to make a hand sanitizer with more than 60% ABV, which is the minimum concentration required to be effective. To achieve this, we’ll use 2 parts alcohol to 1 part aloe gel. Even using 95% ABV ethanol and accounting for some alcohol evaporation during the mixing process, that should yield a hand sanitizer with approximately 62.5% ABV so long as the ingredients are high quality and we are careful in our formulation.
- Wash your hands and dry them using a clean towel.
- Put on the gloves and safety glasses. These precautions may help avoid skin or eye chemical burns from any splashes that might occur.
- Work in a well-ventilated area. Measure 4 ounces (½ cup) of aloe gel into the measuring cup. Add that to the mixing bowl.
- Measure 8 ounces (1 cup) of alcohol into the measuring cup. Carefully pour that into the mixing bowl avoiding splashes.
- Optionally, add a total of 12-15 drops of essential oil(s) into the mixing bowl.
- Whisk the mixture gently to combine thoroughly. Avoid splashing.
- Place a funnel into the open dispenser or container or your choice. Using a ladle, transfer the mixture from the mixing bowl into the dispenser or container via the funnel. Seal the container or dispenser when it is full. Repeat this step with containers and dispensers until the mixing bowl is empty.
This process yields 12 fluid ounces of hand sanitizer.
Warnings and Considerations
The FDA regulates commercially-made hand sanitizers as OTC drugs. As such, they only allow certain ingredients, and for those products containing alcohol, they require 60% or greater ABV with a proven shelf life of 3 years or more. They also require product testing to ensure alcohol content and efficacy.
For these reasons and because incorrectly mixed hand sanitizer may result in skin burns or irritation, the FDA recommends that consumers do not make their own hand sanitizer. Instead, they have issued guidance for pharmacies and other professionals to formulate hand sanitizers on an emergency basis.
Hand sanitizer should only be used as a last resort. Handwashing with soap and water is always preferable, whenever possible. If you must use hand sanitizer, be sure to rub your hands until they are dry for the best effect.
Maybe 2020 has been a tough year, but we’re resilient and resourceful when we need to be. There are times when handwashing isn’t feasible. Hand sanitizers kill germs and may prevent the spread of diseases like the flu, colds and COVID-19. If you choose to make your own hand sanitizer, use high-quality ingredients, measure carefully, take care in the measuring and mixing process and use the resulting product sparingly.
~Here’s to a Healthier Life
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