When it comes to staying healthy and avoiding germs, nothing beats good old-fashioned proper handwashing. Soap, water, and scrubbing is one of the best ways to clean your hands of all sorts of bacteria, viruses, or grime. But what if you can’t get to a sink right away? That is when portable hand sanitizer comes to the rescue! Read along to learn how to make your own effective homemade hand sanitizer, using only two ingredients: rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel.
This article will teach you how to make homemade hand sanitizer a couple of different ways, depending on whether you have a bottle of 91 to 99% strength alcohol, or the 70% alcohol version. Both recipes are strong enough to kill the current coronavirus when used correctly. Also, you can use either fresh aloe vera plant leaves or bottled aloe vera gel for this hand sanitizer recipe – whatever you have access to!
Why make homemade hand sanitizer?
There are a number of reasons that you may want to make your own hand sanitizer at home. One timely reason is the current COVID-19 global pandemic that is happening as I write this article. Every store and internet outlet is sold out of hand sanitizer! Aaron works at a grocery store and is risking daily exposure right now. Under normal circumstances we personally don’t use hand sanitizer very often, but I wanted to make some for him to bring to work during this crazy time.
Beyond the current state of affairs, creating homemade hand sanitizer has several perks! By making your own, you have the ultimate control over the ingredients that go into it. Also, if you like to regularly use hand sanitizer, making homemade hand sanitizer “in bulk” and filling reusable bottles is a great way to reduce plastic waste that the tiny disposable bottles create.
Is homemade hand sanitizer effective at killing viruses & bacteria?
This recipe creates a hand sanitizer that is 60-70% alcohol. According to the Center for Disease Control, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is effective at killing the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, along with many other types of viruses, bacteria, and germs. That is, when it is used correctly! See the instructions on how to properly use hand sanitizer in the sections to follow.
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However, please note that alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn’t kill every type of pathogen that may make you sick in other circumstances. For example, it does not kill or remove germs like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. If you aren’t familiar with it, norovirus is the highly-contagious bad guy that causes the “24 hour flu”. Chlorine bleach is the only thing that kills norovirus.
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HOMEMADE HAND SANITIZER RECIPE
Supplies & Ingredients Needed
- Rubbing alcohol, aka isopropyl alcohol. 91 to 99% strength is preferred. You can also use 70% alcohol if that is all you have, though you won’t be able to use as much aloe vera in the recipe – in order to keep the alcohol content up to 60% as desired.
- Aloe vera gel. Adding aloe vera gel to homemade hand sanitizer provides moisture and nourishment to help balance the harsh drying effects of alcohol. It also adds some thickness to your hand sanitizer for easier and more effective application, adding to the important contact time of alcohol on your skin. We use fresh aloe vera from the garden, though you can use bottled aloe vera gel from the store too. Be sure to get aloe GEL though, and not a lotion! Aloe vera plants grow easily outdoors in frost-free climates. If you don’t grow your own, you might be able to find some leaves around your neighborhood or at the local grocery store. See the instructions and video below to see how to extract the inner gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf.
- Essential oils (optional). Many essential oils have been shown to exhibit natural anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, thanks to their terpenes and the plants that they’re derived from. Therefore, rosemary, eucalyptus, cinnamon, lavender, tea tree, citrus, thyme, and oregano (among others) are all useful and welcome additions to homemade hand sanitizer. Along with fighting germs, they provide a nice aroma. We love and use this mix-pack of certified-organic essential oils.
- A small spray bottle, squeeze bottle, or other storage container.
Extracting Fresh Aloe Vera Gel
If you are using fresh aloe vera in this recipe, you’ll want to use only the inner gel portion of the leaf – leaving the fibrous outer skin behind. Watch the quick video demonstration below to see my trick on how to easily do this! (Don’t mind the blender with whole-leaf chunks in the video… we were making an aloe soil drench to feed our plants with. See this article to learn more about growing and using aloe vera in the garden.
To make homemade hand sanitizer, simply mix rubbing alcohol with aloe vera at the recommended concentrations in the chart below. Bottled aloe vera gel and rubbing alcohol may be combined by vigorously whisking them together in a bowl. However, if you’re using fresh aloe vera you will definitely want to use a blender to thoroughly mix the hand sanitizer. If you choose to use essential oils, add just a few drops.
How to Make 60% Alcohol Hand Sanitizer
Be careful to not over-dilute the alcohol (use too much aloe) by any more than listed on the chart! The given concentrations will create a hand sanitizer that is just over 60% alcohol – the minimum needed to kill coronavirus.
Once the aloe vera and alcohol are thoroughly combined or blended, transfer your homemade hand sanitizer to a spray or squeeze bottle of choice. We reused a few travel-size amber spray bottles that we had around the house, and stored the extra in a glass mason jar for refills. You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for later use, or simply in a dark cool place. The alcohol preserves the aloe, though it will turn a slight pink hue over prolonged exposure to the light. That is okay, and normal.
If you use 91 to 99% strength alcohol, your finished hand sanitizer will be slightly thicker and may work in a squeeze bottle. Otherwise, plan to use a spray bottle for easy application of more liquid-like sanitizer.
How to Properly Use Hand Sanitizer
When soap and water are not readily available, use your hand sanitizer instead! First, shake before use in case the aloe separately slight. Then spray or squeeze a generous amount of hand sanitizer into the palm of your hand. Next, rub it around until all surfaces of both hands are thoroughly wetted. I like to use a lot.
Pay special attention to finger tips, fingernails, between fingers, and even the backs of your hands. Continue rubbing your hands together (like you’re washing your hands) until they feel dry. Yet don’t wave your hands about to make it “dry faster”. A long wet contact time is good! Because alcohol can dry your skin out, you may want to follow up with hand lotion after sanitizing.
The CDC says that effectiveness of hand sanitizer decreases when hands are heavily soiled with dirt or grease. Thus, they recommend washing your hands with soap and water in those circumstances instead.
So simple, right?
In closing, I hope this quick tutorial on homemade hand sanitizer will help many of you and your families stay healthy! Please let me know if you have any questions. Also feel free to share this article with your friends and family. Stay safe out there.
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