Until a few months ago, not many people paid hand sanitizer too much thought. At present, it has become an essential commodity all around the world because of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
As per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), good hand hygiene will minimize your risk of attracting the virus. People have thus been advised to stay at home and clean their hands with soap and water. However, what happens when you have to go do some house shopping and are not in a position to wash your hands? That’s when sanitizers come in handy, literally.
Hand sanitizers kill germs, bacteria, and viruses with similar behavior to the COVID-19. It has become such a precious commodity that it’s in short supply in stores all across the globe. Meanwhile, several companies making hand sanitizer products use ingredients that pose a health risk just like the germs they are meant to protect you from.
These are some of the reasons that have motivated DIYers to come up with innovative ways of making hand sanitizer from home. Here’s how you too can make hand sanitizer with a few basic ingredients. But first, a breakdown of why hand sanitizer is a crucial daily must-have as well as how the product works.
Importance of Using Hand Sanitizer
As explained above, alcohol-based hand sanitizers help in the fight against the spread of germs and pathogens, especially in areas with high human activity. They help us keep our hands clean. However, that’s not convincing enough for most people to consider hand sanitizer as a compulsory item among their daily accessories.
If at all you’re among that group of people, here’s why you should consider hand sanitizer as a must-have.
1. It’s Convenient
Unlike soap, water is not important when using hand sanitizer. This means you can use sanitizers almost anywhere; in the office, at the produce market, or even on the bus.
Using hand sanitizer to clean your hands will take a short time plus you don’t need to use tissues or a towel to dry your hands. The sanitizer will simply evaporate and dry up on its own.
2. Doesn’t Cause Skin Irritation
If you struggle with dry skin from using soap and water to clean your hands, then hand sanitizer might just be the solution you need. A lot of people believe that because hand sanitizers have alcohol, they will dry the skin. However, most hand sanitizers are specifically manufactured to leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of hand sanitizer is that they’re easy to carry around. They come in tiny bottles that you can fit inside your pocket or bag without taking up too much space. They are great for when you need to grab a snack at a location you can’t find a wash area.
4. Can Be Used in Crowded Places
Areas with a lot of human activity such as schools or workplaces make it easy for people to transmit germs and bacteria among each other. Logistically speaking, it can be difficult installing a sink in an office especially with bathrooms being easily accessible.
What you can do, however, is have a sanitizing station with hand sanitizer and a holder keeping it in place. This will allow people to regularly disinfect their hands as they proceed with their work thus curbing the spread of germs within the area.
How Hand Sanitizer Works
The most vital ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol. Before you go to the liquor store, it’s not the kind of alcohol found in your favorite brand of vodka or gin. Some people do use vodka but it doesn’t have enough alcohol content to make effective hand sanitizer.
From a chemistry perspective, ethanol is used in making alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) is used to make disinfectants because it dissolves well in water.
Disinfectants with at least 30% alcohol content can kill pathogens, or disease-causing microbes by either destroying their cell metabolism or breaking their proteins apart. However, the more the amount of alcohol, the more effective its ability to kill pathogens.
Another positive of using alcohol is that bacteria cannot develop resistance against the chemical so its effectiveness does not depreciate with time. However, it’s worth noting that hand sanitizer should be used as a disinfectant and not as a cleaning agent.
They do a good job in killing germs but it cannot substitute the work done by soap and water when you need to remove dirt or grease from your hands. Using hand sanitizer on grimy hands will only spread out the bacteria across your hands thus causing even higher risks.
Since alcohol is rapidly absorbed by the skin, the over-use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers may cause dry and cracked skin and in extreme cases, liver damage. An alternative non-toxic and skin-safe hand sanitizer ingredient is hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid (HOCl is also safe for children and pets. The best ingredient for hand sanitizer is hospital-grade hypochlorous acid.”
Making Your Own Sanitizer
Making your own hand sanitizer is not as hard as it seems and you can do it using supplies you’ll ideally find at home or at a pharmacy. There are a few recipes that have gone viral but we’ll use the one recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Here’s what you need to do this successfully:
- Measuring spoons.
- 1 measuring cup.
- A single cup of 99% isopropyl alcohol.
- Empty spray bottles and sanitizer containers.
- About 50 ml of 98% glycerol.
- 2 teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
- 65 ml or a ¼ cup of pre-boiled water.
- A surgical mask
Step by Step Instructions
First things first; wear the surgical mask as a precaution. This process involves chemicals and you want to avoid inhaling them or inadvertently sneezing or coughing onto the formula.
Secondly, you need to take note of the concentration of isopropyl alcohol by looking at the percentages indicated on the packaging. If it reads 99.8% isopropyl alcohol, then what you have is next to completely pure alcohol. If it reads anything less such as 70%, then it is probably mixed with water. Unfortunately, such alcohol concentrations will create a product that does not meet the right standards to fight germs and bacteria.
Add a teaspoon of the alcohol into a container that has a pouring spout and add the hydrogen peroxide. In case you were not aware, hydrogen peroxide is very important in the fight against viruses, spores, and pathogens. As per the CDC, 3% hydrogen peroxide takes about 8 minutes to destroy the respiratory virus that causes the flu. The product is commercially available at just about any drugstore.
Next, add the teaspoon of glycerol and proceed to stir. It’s a non-toxic and harmless compound present in almost all hand sanitizer brands. Glycerol is important for moisturizing your hands, leaving them clean and fresh. Because the CDC recommends using sanitizer that will stay on the user’s hands for at least 20 seconds, it is also used to prevent alcohols in the product from evaporating too fast.
Follow up that step by adding a ¼ cup measure of boiled water that has been allowed to cool. Keep in mind that the more water you use, the more alcohol you’ll have to use. Make sure you do this right or you’ll end up with gallons of sanitizer. Finish this step by stirring the solution to mix together the compounds.
The next step involves pouring the solution into your sanitizer containers and spray bottles. Even if they’re clean, pour some of the leftover alcohol into the bottles and containers just to be sure especially if you’ve used them before. Wait until the alcohol has evaporated from the bottles before pouring your hand sanitizer. Another precautionary measure that might be of benefit is allowing the mixture to sit for about 72 hours so that any bacteria introduced during the process is killed.
After the process is complete, you should have enough sanitizer to last you a while and you won’t have to deal with people’s panic buying of the product. Making even bigger batches should provide enough sanitizer for you and your family.
Remember to label your bottles. It’s not likely that you might mistake your sanitizer bottles for a regular cup but accidents normally happen. You might be able to know the contents of the bottle but other people will probably not. They may even ingest the product causing alcohol-poisoning as a result.
Take Matters into Your Own Hands
Hand sanitizer is a convenient method of fighting the spread of COVID-19 as well as any other pathogens. However, it should be said that hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water according to health authorities. This is especially if your hands are heavily soiled.
If hand sanitizer is not readily accessible at your local store or you frequently visit a place such as school or work where handwashing is difficult, you can follow the procedure explained above to make your own hand sanitizer.
Compared to commercially-manufactured hand sanitizers, homemade sanitizer is not as thick. Therefore, a slight squeeze on the container should squirt out enough sanitizer without causing spillage. Remember to keep your hand sanitizer away from children. But it is important that you teach them about the product, why it is important, and how it should be used.