DIY: Make Your Own Hand Sanitizing Gel

A staple in our house (and cars too) is hand sanitizer. Not just now in times of the Coronavirus, but just any other regular day. Especially with little kids who love playing outside, but also put their dirty fingers in their mouth or start sucking their thumb as soon as they sit down in the car.

With all hand sanitising gel being sold out everywhere, it can be a real struggle to find some yourself. But did you know that you can also easily make hand sanitizer at home? It’s quite easy to make, once you know what you need for it.

But first…Your main priority should be to frequently wash your hands with disinfectant soap and water. I know, sounds like basic hygiene but there’s a big difference in quickly washing your hands and properly washing and cleansing your hands. 

How to wash your hands properly

Here’s a quick lesson in how to wash your hands the right way, according to the CDC. There’s 2 things you need for it, which is running warm water and soap. Don’t have warm water? Just use cold water, since that’s always better than not washing your hands at all. The surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from your skin, and somehow you tend to scrub your hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs. And with the use of running water, you’ll be able to rinse off the germs, dirt and soap. Plain and simple, right?!

5 easy steps for washing your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together with the soap, making sure the soap covers your entire hands.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You could even hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice, as a reminder for the time.
  4. Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. All done!

But What If There’s No Water? Or Soap? Or Both?

When you’re out shopping, going on an adventure, travelling or doing other things in public. it’s always good to have something on hand that you can use without water and soap. Those moments, it’s just easier to have other options, such as a disinfectant hand gel. That way you won’t have to wait until you get home, to fight off germs on your hands. Especially during the cold and flu season, or with the spread of more serious viruses such as Covid-19. And with the massive run on hand sanitiser, it’s handy to know how to make your own.

Store-bought, scientifically-formulated hand sanitizers are a solid next option when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water. But if you – like so many people right now – have issues finding hand sanitizer at the store, you can make your own. It’s super easy, but it’s always extremely important to keep perfect measurements in mind. In store-bought hand gels all of the chemicals are obviously perfectly proportioned already. So when you decide to make hand sanitizing gel at home, keep a close eye on the proportions. But don’t forget that store-bought ones also contain other ingredients that might not be considered healthy, so making it yourself is always a good idea anyway.

A recipe from the WHO shows us just how easy it is to make a hand sanitzer at home (they call it handrub). They add hydrogen-peroxide to the mixture, but for a standard hand sanitzer you don’t need to do this. The WHO does so to make sure that the handrub helps you get rid of viruses and bacteria, and because the spores of bacteria are resistant to alcohol (but not to hydrogen-peroxide). For the use of a hand gel to fight off coronavirus, you don’t need the hydrogen-peroxide. This is also hardly ever the case with store-bought hand gel and sanitizers.

What You Need to Make Disinfectant Handrub

To make a handrub that’s also disinfectant, it’s important for you to add alcohol to it. Get yourself a bottle of isopropyl, 99% rubbing alcohol or ethanol (grain alcohol) for this, since others can be toxic. You can also use 70% alcohol but you must change the proportions of the recipe. This is the active ingredient in any hand sanitizer recipe, and it needs to comprise at least 60% of the product in order to be an effective disinfectant.

  • 120 ml Bottle of isopropyl or 99% rubbing alcohol
  • 1,5 ml glycerine 
  • 8-10 drops Essential oil (for example Tea Tree, which helps kill certain bacteria, viruses and fungi)

The Process Of Making Hand Sanitizer

  1. Start by sanitizing all of your tools (glass bottles/squeeze tubes, liquid measuring cup, and a spatula) in hot water or a dishwasher. There’s no point in making something that’s meant for sanitizing in an unsanitary way!
  2. Add the glycerine to the bottle of alcohol and shake it. 
  3. Add essential oil to it (optional) and shake some more.
  4. That’s it! You can use it directly from this bottle or pour it into a bottle with spray cap on it.

Note that this is a thin and quite runny sanitizer, perfect for using as a spray that dries up just as any other hand sanitizing gel. If you prefer a thicker substance, you can add 5 gram Xantham gom to it. If the gel is still not thick enough for your liking, carefully add some more xanthan gom until you get it to the correct thickness.

Good to know

Hand sanitizer, especially alcohol-based can be drying on your hands, so make sure to moisturize! However, the added glycerine in this formula helps with preventing your hands from becoming too dry.

With creating your own hand sanitizer it is extremely important that you work precisely with the measurements. The alohol in it, is there for a very specific reason (to kill bacteria and viruses). Too little alcohol in your mixture will result in a handrub that’s just that, a handrub without the desinfeting properties. On the other hand, a too high amount of alcohol can cause skin irritation. This article is written after I made a few bottles of hand sanitizing gel for use in our home, since there’s a huge shortage of handrubs in the stores. Obviously, washing your hands is the preferred method of cleaning your hands. But when there’s no running water and no more store-bought hand gel, I’d say that making your own is a pretty damn good option. Better this than nothing at all!

I’ve made a few bottles of handrub with both 99% alcohol and 70% alcohol (see photo). Both are good. However, I did adjust the “recipe” of the one with 70% alcohol in it, since the amount of alcohol vs glycerine needs to be correct for it to be a disinfectant. So those stories going around telling you that Vodka can be used to make hand sanitizer? No no! Don’t do that! There’s only 40% alcohol in wodka, so that’s not enough.

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