After reading virologist James Robb’s  What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, it was clear that disinfecting our hands frequently is the single best thing we could do. We found hand sanitizers are sold out everywhere, at local stores and online. So we took what we knew — ALCOHOL is the key ingredient used in a powerful enough proportion, at least 60% of the total — and did some research to find ways to achieve what commercial hand-sanitizers would.  Isopropyl/rubbing alcohol is in good supply so we bought the highest strength, 91% rather than 70% to make sanitizer sprays and gel.

We also bought some alcohol prep packets at the drug store. We can carry them in a pocket or purse, to wipe down grocery cart handles and our phone, among other things we touch, and our own hands. They’re pretty small so “thick” ones work better.

Hand-sanitizer sprays are basically alcohol with essential oil to mask the odor, and a few things to offset alcohol’s drying effect. The alcohol sprays work not only to disinfect hands but handles and surfaces.

Regular isopropyl rubbling alcohol is 70% alcohol is a bit above the 60% minimum called for in hand sanitizers, so it will work fine as a spray. Fill a small spray bottle with it and add a good amount of  fragrant essential oil.  We’re testing 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol in our sprays; if it proves too strong for our hands, we will dilute it slightly to be 70 to 80%.

Heart in Hand, 1875

Hand-sanitizer gel. Since the minimum-to-be-effective is 60% alcohol, we use 2 parts 91% rubbing alcohol with 1 part aloe vera gel to help allay the alcohol’s drying quality. Although aloe vera gel looks like the consistency of commercial hand sanitizers, when mixed with alcohol, the it becomes quite liquid, though definitely usable. The key is to make sure you are able to amply cover you hands with the homemade gel, which is a bit harder to do than with commercial ones. (We’re researching other gels to use as bases but those will take time to test.)

Hand-sanitizer  formula   2/3 alcohol (91%) to 1/3 aloe vera gel) plus enough essential oil to scent it

(Note: we read a lot of formulas that call for regular 70% rubbing alcohol mixed with aloe vera, making for a dilution below the required 61% alcohol which would be scarily ineffective).

As for containers, we managed to find a few mini hand-sanitizers that clip onto belt loop or bag that we’re re-filling with our homemade stuff. But you can simply buy small 1 or 2-ounce flip top or spray bottles to fill with your alcohol-based potions.

In addition to using hand sanitizers, WASHING your hands well, with hot soapy water for 20 seconds is an essential strategy.

Watching this video (with the irritating music OFF) actually helped us “get” how long and completely we need to scrub.


UPDATE:  The NY Times published the World Health Organization’s recipe for bulk hand sanitizer which uses ethanol alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, water and glycerol as a thickener.  Having the proportions, we figure we could scale it down for personal use, IF we can find the ingredients.  (To make 1 liter, we’d divide the amounts by 10).

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