I Tried Making DIY Hand Sanitiser. Here's What Happened To My Hands.
Until COVID-19, I had never considered making my own hand sanitiser. Wouldn't it just be easier to go out and buy it? Or to use soap and water?
DIY-ing your own hygienic products:
But then the coronavirus outbreak happened. Panic-buying happened. Working from home became a thing. Aaaand, I left my beloved Dr. Bronner Organic Lavender Hand Sanitiser in the office, which is off-limits until further notice thanks to my company's BCP.
Stuck at home, and in search of an alternative to Dr. Bronner, I decided oh what the heck. Let's jump on the bandwagon. Who knows, maybe I'd even concoct a substitute for my usual hand sanitiser, for like 1/10th the price.
I googled a few tutorials, hoping to find something that was 1) easy and 2) didn't look like it would give me chemical burns.
Most home tutorials only require about 3 or 4 ingredients. But okay, if you wanted to make something lab-approved, you could use this formula from the World Health Organization.
As someone who could never score above 70% on a chemistry test, I obviously said NOPE to that, and went for this simple DIY instead:
- 2/3 rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
- 1/3 aloe vera gel (to bind the alcohol)
- a few drops of scented oil (optional)
- a squeeze or pump bottle
I mixed everything together, decanted it into a bottle, added 10 drops of orange essential oil and 2 drops of tea trea oil, and bam, I was done. That being said, I couldn't find 99% isopropyl alcohol anywhere - though to be fair, I only looked in my neighbourhood mall's pharmacies - and had to settle for 70%, which is still above the CDC and MOH's recommendation of using hand sanitisers that are at least 60% alcohol.
The process was ridiculously easy. It took 5 minutes and cost nothing since I already had those ingredients at home.
HOWEVER, alcohol is extremely drying, so without emollients like glycerin or skin-strengthening compounds like Vitamin E, using this solution for 15-20 seconds at a time (as per MOH's recommendation) will make your hands feel a little weathered.
Naturally, I forgot about this and woke up looking like snake during molting season.
If only I hadn't left all those hand creams I'd received during last year's office gift exchange IN THE OFFICE.
It was time for a second attempt. This one, adapted from Wholefully, substitutes rubbing alcohol for a milder astringent called witch hazel. (You can also use vodka, if that would be easier to acquire.)
- A 50ml squeeze bottle
- 2 tablespoons of witch hazel/vodka and aloe vera gel
- 5 drops of vitamin E oil (optional)
- around 10 drops each of your favourite essential oils
- filtered, distilled, or boiled water
Eh. As you can probably tell, this solution is a lot more gooey than the one that uses rubbing alcohol. Since Wholefully's tutorial doesn't break down the ratio of aloe vera gel to witch hazel, I used two tablespoons of aloe vera, only to dilute it down to the 1 part aloe vera, 2 part witch hazel ratio in the previous recipe. And it was still gooey. I diluted it further with boiled water that had cooled down, and found the result a little sticky, but not wholly unpleasant.
This hand sanitiser was a lot less drying than the one that uses rubbing alcohol. But it takes a good 5 seconds longer to absorb, which might be a dealbreaker for people who need their hands to feel squeaky-clean.
Would I call my attempts at homemade hand sanitiser successful? Probably not, and by probably not, I mean HELL NO. I tried foisting the witch hazel solution onto a friend, who refused to try it, even in these virus-ridden times.
Maybe if I'd added some dye and glitter, or had used an Aesop-looking glass bottle instead of a $2 squeeze tube from Daiso, I could have convinced him to at least take a sniff.
At the same time, I hate letting ingredients go to waste, so if I had to pick one to keep on using, it'd be the alcohol-based sanitiser. With that much alcohol content, it feels like it's at least doing something. Even if that involves killing more skin cells than viruses.
TL;DR use soap and water instead. And send some hand cream my way.