empty shelves, sold out hand sanitizer
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Vodka Won't Kill Coronavirus But Experts Say These DIY Hand Sanitizers Will

by Lindsay E. Mack
Originally Published: 

As store shelves keep getting cleared out due to coronavirus fears, some people are taking sanitizing concerns into their own hands. What are the best DIY hand sanitizer options, and what do the experts want you to know about these homemade recipes? In general, you'll want to save that bottle of Absolut for your drinks, not your cleaning products.

If you're going the DIY route, make sure your homemade hand sanitizer recipe is potent enough to do the job. With hand sanitizer becoming harder to find in stores and online, some people have started to create their own sanitizer, using a combination of rubbing alcohol and aloe vera. However, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, hand sanitizers should contain "at least 60% alcohol to effectively kill microbes," Dr. Erin Nance, M.D., hand specialist and surgeon, tells Romper. Other experts recommend an even higher dose.

When making your own, "your sanitizer must be at least 70% alcohol to be effective," dermatologist Peterson Pierre, M.D., of the Pierre Skin Care Institute tells Romper. Honestly, making the stuff on your own can be a bit tricky. "Though it might be tempting, as hand sanitizer has become unavailable in many stores and pharmacies as consumers rushed in to stock up, it’s not as easy to make an effective hand sanitizer as it sounds," Dr. Gabriella Baki, Ph.D., Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Toledo, tells Romper. Not all DIY sanitizer recipes are equally effective at killing off microbes.

So why can't the kind of alcohol you drink (particularly the strong stuff) kill off germs just as well? "At 80 proof, or 40% alcohol, vodka doesn’t have enough alcohol content to be effective," says Baki. "Rubbing most spirits on your hands will not kill the germs a commercially-made hand sanitizer does." Even representatives for some drink companies, including a spokesperson for Tito's Vodka, have spoken out against using drinking alcohol in DIY hand sanitizer recipes, claiming it simply isn't effective.

In addition, the experts caution that hand sanitizer use is not the most effective way to combat viruses such as COVID-19. "First, it’s always best to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. It’s the best way to remove germs and debris. Hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water are not available," Dr. Soma Mandal, M.D., a women's health specialist, tells Romper. But if you're stuck in a situation without soap, sinks, or store-bought hand sanitizer, here are two DIY hand sanitizer recipes recommended by physicians.


Aloe Vera Hand Sanitizer

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Here's a non-sticky solution. By mixing 1/3 cup of organic aloe vera gel with 2/3 cup 70% isopropyl alcohol, you can make a DIY hand sanitizer that's pleasant on your hands, Mandal says. Simply mix the two ingredients well and store them in a waterproof container.


Dermatologist-Recommended DIY Sanitizer

Here's a recipe from Pierre. Start with ethanol 96% or isopropyl alcohol 99.8%, pour it into a large bottle, and add 3% hydrogen peroxide. "The hydrogen peroxide is to kill any bacteria that may have contaminated your preparation but is not an active ingredient in the hand sanitizer," says Pierre. "Finally, add glycerol 98%, which is used as a humectant to decrease dryness and irritation of the skin." Shake the container to combine all ingredients, then "let the bottle sit for 72 hours to allow any bacteria that may have contaminated your preparation to be destroyed," Pierre explains. After that, it's ready to go.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.


Dr. Gabriella Baki, Ph.D., Pharm.D., director of cosmetic science and formulation design at the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Soma Mandal, M.D., board-certified internist and women's health specialist

Dr. Erin Nance, M.D., NYC hand specialist and surgeon

Dr. Peterson Pierre, M.D., dermatologist at the Pierre Skin Care Institute

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