With international news about the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many stores (both online and in greater Phoenix) are having trouble keeping hand sanitizer in stock.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk for most people in the U.S. for exposure to COVID-19 is still thought to be low. However, whether you’re concerned about COVID-19, influenza, salmonella, E. coli, the common cold or any other germs that can make us sick, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs.
The absolute best way to keep your hands clean is to wash them, front and back, with soap and clean, running water for 20 seconds — that’s the equivalent of singing two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song, one run-through of your “ABCs” or, in my house, humming all the good parts of “The Imperial March” from Star Wars.
[Editor’s note: A former RAK writer makes this suggestion: To avoid wasting water, turn off the spigot while you’re lathering and singing.]
When you’re out and about, sometimes soap and clean water aren’t available. Using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Here is a simple science-based recipe to make your own hand sanitizer.
- ¼ cup pure aloe vera gel (find this in stores near the sunscreen)
- ¾ cup 91 percent isopropyl alcohol (lower concentrations of alcohol are not sufficient)
- 2-3 small flip-top bottles or spritz bottles (find them near the travel-size products)
- Whisk or fork
- Measuring cups
- Permanent marker
- Essential oils (optional)
- Make sure your bowl, whisk and funnel are very clean. Uncap your flip-top bottles and add a little isopropyl alcohol to the inside. Put the cap on and shake really well to coat all sides; then uncap and set aside to let them air dry.
- Add ¾ cup (91 percent) isopropyl alcohol and ¼ cup aloe vera gel to the bowl and whisk until fully combined.
- Add a few drops of essential oils (this is optional) to reach your desired scent, and mix well. (Note: other fragrances and dyes are not recommended, as they can irritate skin. Even some essential oils can cause allergic reactions, so use with care.)
- Using the funnel, pour your mixture into the prepped flip-top bottles and screw the caps on. This hand sanitizer has a thinner, more liquid consistency than commercial versions.
- Use the marker to label the bottle “Hand Sanitizer,” and include the date you made it. As with any chemicals, hand sanitizer should be used with adult supervision.
According to the CDC, sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers without 60-95 percent alcohol may not work equally well for many types of germs or may merely reduce the growth of germs rather than killing them outright.
In this recipe, we’re using 91 percent alcohol in 75 percent of the mixture, so the resulting alcohol concentration is about 68 percent (.91 x .75 = .6825 or 68.25 percent). If we used 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, the resulting concentration would only be about 52 percent alcohol — not high enough to meet the CDC recommendation.
It’s also important to use hand sanitizer correctly. Make sure both of your hands are covered with the gel — and don’t forget to get it between your fingers and under your nails. Then rub your hands together until they are dry. Also, if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitizer may not be effective, because germs can get trapped under this material and remain on your hands.
This recipe includes an emollient (aloe) to help protect your hands from getting too dried out from the alcohol. Dry, cracked and irritated hands can make you more susceptible to illness.
Just remember, properly washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and clean running water is still the best way to prevent the spread of disease — hands down.