With stores running out of hand sanitizer many people are tuning to DIY hand sanitizer recipes. But are they really effective? Honestly, no!
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Is DIY Hand Sanitizer Safe?
We love to share natural recipes with you on this blog and after sharing our homemade foam soap recipe, we considered doing a DIY hand sanitizer recipe. After lots of research we realized that there is no safe way to make your own hand sanitizer.
The two big problems with making your own hand sanitizer are first, ineffective ingredients and second, the ratio of mixed ingredients. Keep reading to learn why these are such a problem.
DIY Hand Sanitizer Ingredients
Homemade hand sanitizers recipes use many different ingredients but there seem to be 4 main ingredients that provide germ killing power: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, witch hazel, and essential oils. Let’s look at all four ingredients a bit closer.
Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is grain alcohol and the primary ingredient in alcoholic drinks. Most DIY hand sanitizer recipes calling for ethanol use vodka or Everclear.
The average proof of Vodka is 80, while Everclear is 190 proof. In the United States the system used to determine proof in alcohol is two times alcohol by volume. That means 80 proof is only 40% alcohol. Everclear is 90% alcohol.
Since you need 60% alcohol to be effective (more on that below) then that quickly crosses Vodka off the list. Everclear is a high enough proof to work.
Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol can vary in concentrations. If the percentage is high enough then yes you can use rubbing alcohol to make hand sanitizer. You would need to start with a higher percent so when you add in other ingredients you’ll end up with a high enough concentration to actually kill germs.
The mixing of ingredients is a big part of the problem when making your own hand sanitizer. More on that in a minute.
Witch Hazel is an astringent which means it can shrink skin tissue. Because witch hazel is made from the bark and leaves of the plant it is full of tannins that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. This, however, does not mean it kills germs.
There is no evidence that witch hazel works as an antiseptic. While store bought witch hazel usually contains a low amount of alcohol, it’s not nearly enough to kill anything and will not work as a hand sanitizer.
While I do believe essential oils have many benefits and I use them in lots of homemade recipes, there isn’t sufficient evidence that proves essential oils should be used in DIY hand sanitizer as the main way to kill microbes.
There are studies that show there is potential for certain essential oils to have antibacterial and antiviral properties but the research is lacking. Not one essential oil has been proven to work on all germs.
Plus, research is lacking must-know information like how much essential oil is necessary to work and for the length of time it should be used for. Real world application isn’t known.
A lot of essential oil advocates use thieves oil or similar oils in their homemade hand sanitizer but the essential oil alone simply isn’t enough. Young Living has their own thieves hand sanitizer and while thieves oil is one of the ingredients, it’s not the main one. Alcohol, water, and aloe make up the first 3 ingredients.
Alcohol in Hand Sanitizer
You need at least 60% alcohol to effectively kill bacteria and viruses according to the CDC. Alcohol works because it can denature microbe proteins, meaning it breaks up weak links in the proteins and cellular metabolism is disrupted.
If a recommendation of at least 60% alcohol is needed then many people wonder if a higher percentage is better? When referring to alcohol on its own the answer is no. Higher concentrations evaporate too quickly without the water needed to help protein denaturation happen at a faster rate.
Most commercial hand sanitizers have added ingredients like water, glycerine, or aloe vera. These additions help break down proteins faster and help keep hands from drying out too much.
The Two Problems with DIY Hand Sanitizer Recipes
So you should already be seeing the problem with some of the DIY hand sanitizer recipes out there. They don’t contain enough alcohol to kill microbes.
Everclear and 99% rubbing alcohol are your best bets when making your own hand sanitizer because the concentration is high enough to add aloe vera or glycerine and still come out with the 60% needed. If you don’t see either of these as the top ingredients in the DIY hand sanitizer recipe then run!
Ingredients are only the first problem when it comes to making hand sanitizer at home. The ratio is another problem. Most people do not use the correct ratio of alcohol to other ingredients to keep homemade hand sanitizer at the 60% it needs to be.
A recipe of 2/3 90% alcohol to 1/3 aloe vera is the only recipe I would personally try if you really need hand sanitizer. Otherwise just wash your hands like the CDC recommends.
Do DIY Hand Sanitizers Work?
I’ve noticed a big trend on blogs that have a DIY Hand Sanitizer recipe. They have recently added disclaimers saying that their hand sanitizer recipe has not been tested or they have updated the homemade recipe to now include alcohol.
This tells me that you really can’t trust most of the DIY hand sanitizer recipes out there. Skip the DIY stuff and just wash your hands. Make sure to moisturize regularly so that skin isn’t too dry after multiple washes a day or try our DIY foaming hand soap that has moisture included in the recipe.