Why You Should Never DIY Your Own Hand Sanitizer

Washing your hands is always the first line of defense, but, when traveling or being out and about there might not be a sink readily available. With the shortages of hand sanitizer, should you be making your own at home? The short answer is, unless you're a chemist, probably not.

Something is better than nothing, right?

Not exactly. If you think something works you’re less likely to be vigilant and careful. Even if you follow that recipe, you can still mess it up. Mixing it at home, you can't control how the alcohol gets diluted in the final product. If you don't use enough aloe gel or glycerin you will dry out your skin which can then crack or bleed. It’s important to note that this will happen if you just pour rubbing alcohol on your skin.

On the flipside, if you don’t use enough alcohol, it’s not as effective and, according to some experts, completely useless. If you aren’t using completely sterile materials and products, you’re making a useless product. Lastly, because these at home sanitizers are becoming so popular, the ingredients are hard to come by. Never make hand sanitizer with booze, it’s just not strong enough.

It’s better to be itching to wash your hands than using a bunk hand sanitizer, nothing in this case would be better.

But WHO gave out a recipe?

The World Health Organization did give out official instructions to make disinfecting hand sanitizers for medical settings. These instructions are not meant for you but are meant for cosmetic manufacturers and companies like LVMH who are helping out shortages in hospitals.

The FDA in the US also recently issued rules on hand sanitizers with recipes but again, this is meant for labs to follow strictly. You can’t start cocktailing other ingredients as it may render the hand sanitizer ineffective. For reference, the FDA approved levels of ethanol are 80%, well above what DIY brands use.

Unless you have completely sterile water, an alcoholometer to measure the concentration of the final product and glycerol (glycerin) and a sterile lab to make said hand sanitizer… don’t do it.

But I want my hand sanitizer to smell better!

This, I get. You want your hand sanitizer to smell comforting and pretty. Essential oils, which are fragrances, can actually cause an allergic reaction as they are harsh and concentrated fragrances, particularly at the wrong dose. Burning your hands is never a good look.

What about hand “purifiers”

Unless a brand says “hand sanitizer” with the active dose of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol on the packaging as a drug, it’s not a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers are actually regulated by the government. In order to make claims like “kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria” it needs to be proven to have stable actives. Hand purifiers, hand tonics, etc. all are companies that wanted to quickly launch a hand sanitizer without ensuring it’s OTC. Stick to the brands that have active dosing and are OTC. Otherwise, just find a sink and some soap.