Hand sanitiser has been a hard-to-find commodity for some weeks, and people are increasingly turning to recipes to make their own at home.
Although everything on the internet looks credible, health experts are advising against getting your DIY on.
One, you could create a concoction that actually damages the skin on your hands.
Two, your product could very well be ineffective – and if that’s all you’re doing for hand health, you’re leaving yourself wide open there.
Washing your hands with soap and water is still the most effective way to kill germs – including the coronavirus.
Sing Happy Birthday, sing My Sharona, sing TLC’s classic No Scrubs – just make sure you’re washing ’em right. Here’s a handy little graph that demonstrates how to best clean your hands.
The science-y stuff
So what exactly is the problem with home-made hand sanny recipes?
To start with, the most effective component of hand sanitiser is alcohol.
To kill germs, Choice explains, the product has to be a minimum 70 per cent alcohol.
So while some recipes do list pure alcohol as the main ingredient, unless you’ve got a background as a budding chemist, it can be tricky to get the ratios right when you start adding in other ingredients (aloe vera; nice smelling oils are common add-ons) and making sure you keep up that alcohol percentage.
Other recipes don’t even hint at alcohol – it’s all essential oils and plant extracts.
The next problem: Most of the alcohol you can buy freely is rubbing alcohol, that’s what most recipes will suggest.
Rubbing alcohol is actually anywhere between 50 and 70 per cent pure.
So if it’s 70 per cent, and you mix it with just a smidgen of aloe or oils, it loses that 70 per cent concentration. Therefore, ineffective. Follow?
Can I use, like, alcohol alcohol?
No. You cannot.
Most spirits hover around the 40 per cent mark, so just save the gin for your quarantinis.
There’s a few recipes doing the rounds that suggest using methylated spirits or vodka.
Metho is 90 to 95 per cent alcohol, and as mentioned, vodka is about 40 per cent.
Maybe don’t trust the maths on these ones.
Just because there are lots of spirits companies dedicating their equipment to making sanitiser over artisanal products, doesn’t mean you can switch from making spag bol for dinner to a hygiene product at home.
Organic chemist and American Chemical Society member Richard Sachleben put it quite well.
“Companies spend a bunch of time and money to pay chemists specifically to formulate hand sanitisers that work and that are safe,” he told Consumer Reports.
“If you make it yourself, how can you know if it’s stable or if it works?”
All said and done, if you do know what you’re doing – don’t let us stop you.
But as we said before, washing your hands with water and soap (properly) is more effective than commercial or hand-made hand sanitiser.