Terry Coffey, pictured Friday at her Columbus home, makes several solutions for use in the house, including an air freshening solution. Hand sanitizer is another DIY product more people are making for themselves while store supplies are low. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
March 21, 2020 9:59:55 PM
Anyone on the hunt for commercial hand sanitizer in recent days has no doubt encountered empty-shelf syndrome. An increasing number of do-it-yourselfers are making sanitizer at home to hold them over.
First and foremost, hand sanitizer of any kind is not a substitute for old-fashioned, frequent and vigorous handwashing for at least 20 seconds. That's a frontline defense against the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When water and soap are not available, however, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a next-best option. Potency matters. To be effective, they must have at least 60 percent alcohol. Bear in mind that sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Common DIY versions of sanitizer only require three ingredients. Admittedly, one of them -- 99 percent isopropyl or rubbing alcohol -- is a challenge to find, too, right now. But if you have it on hand, or can purchase it, it can be combined with aloe vera gel and essential oils (or lemon juice) for a simple sanitizer formula.
"People are coming in and getting the aloe vera gel and getting clove and peppermint, lavender, all different kinds of essential oils," said Gina Thrasher, assistant manager of GNC in Starkville. "The clove is a stronger scent; it's really wonderful."
Robert White at Robert's Apothecary in Columbus has also witnessed an uptick.
"We're seeing more requests for ingredients," he said, mentioning specifically interest in eucalyptus as well as tea tree oil, which comes from the leaves of a small tree native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.
On Thursday, Dr. Katie Curtis Windham of Pediatric Dentistry of Columbus talked about weekend plans to make hand sanitizer in quantity with Pat Curtis, her mother and administrator of the dental clinic founded by Windham's father, Dr. David K. Curtis.
"We use some of the biggest medical distributors, and right now they have completely run out of hand sanitizer, so we decided to make it," Windham told The Dispatch. "We're going to use tea tree oil in it; my dad loves the smell of it." Tea tree oil is among essential oils with antibacterial properties. Additional ones are peppermint, lavender, orange, lemongrass and citronella, among others, according to naturallivingfamily.com.
KK Norris at The Attic Vintage Clothing in Columbus has long made her own hand sanitizer, using alcohol, several drops of aloe vera gel and three drops of essential oils such as rosemary, ylang-ylang or peppermint in a 2-ounce glass bottle. The peppermint, she said, has the added benefit of "teaching you not to touch your face," as it is capable of irritating the skin.
"And if you have to, you can get concentrated mouthwash that has a 70 percent alcohol content," Norris said. She is backed up by the AARP, which recommends mouthwash in a travel-size spray bottle as a portable alternative if no other hand sanitizer is available. Just be sure it is alcohol-based and sugar-free," or you'll be a sticky mess," cautions Cheryl Bond-Nelms in an article at aarp.org.
Simple to make
Recipes vary, but a basic sanitizer recipe from Dr. Rishi Desai, chief medical officer of Osmosis and a former epidemic intelligence service officer, is circulating on multiple sites including healthline.com. It's said to be effective in killing 99.9 percent of germs after 60 seconds. It calls for 3/4 cup of isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99 percent); 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel, to help keep hands smooth and to counteract the harshness of the alcohol); and 10 drops of essential oil of choice, or lemon juice.
Pour all ingredients into a bowl, ideally one with a pouring spout, like a glass measuring container. Mix with a spoon and then beat with a whisk to turn the sanitizer into a gel. Pour the ingredients into an empty bottle for easy use; don't forget to label it.
Keep it clean
Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., associate professor of health science at Ball State University, shares additional advice at healthline.com for making sanitizer:
Sanitizer of any kind may not be effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Cover your hands thoroughly with sanitizer then allow them to dry. Keep solutions out of reach of young children; swallowing hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning.
Sites including the CDC and World Health Organization have advice on handwashing and making other disinfecting products. Learn more at cdc.gov or who.int.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.