Downsides to DIY hand sanitiser

Washing with plain soap and water is your best option.

Dispensing hand sanitiser onto fingers.

As the Covid-19 lockdown continues, we’ve had complaints coming in that some retailers are charging sky-high prices for hand sanitiser – up to $50!

Many supermarkets have also been short on stock.

The situation has resulted in a multitude of homemade recipes for hand sanitiser appearing online, with claims they're just as effective as commercial products.

Handwashing is still best

Proper hand hygiene is vital for limiting the spread of coronavirus, as well as colds and flu. But if you can’t find any hand sanitiser, don’t panic.

Regularly washing your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds is still the most effective way to eradicate germs.

Hand sanitiser can be useful if you don’t have access to clean water. But with most of us at home during the lockdown, that shouldn’t be a problem. Plain soap and water will get the job done.

DIY downsides

To be effective at killing germs, hand sanitisers must contain a sufficient alcohol concentration – at least 60%, the Ministry of Health advises.

Some online recipes suggest using essential oils instead of alcohol – rendering it ineffective in the fight against coronavirus, let alone any other virus.

Other articles or online posts reference the guidelines released by the World Health Organization (PDF, 305KB).

Only problem?

Those guidelines aren't aimed at the average DIY enthusiast and require materials you're unlikely to have lying around, such as an alcoholometer and large quantities of highly flammable ingredients.

Commercial hand sanitisers also contain emollients to keep your skin soft and reduce any damage. Important, because dry and damaged skin can increase the risk of bugs entering through cuts in the skin.

While many DIY recipes suggest adding aloe vera for its moisturising properties, if you don't get the ratio right you also run the risk of diluting the alcohol concentration, rendering it ineffective.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Crowd of people walking.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

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Member comments

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Steve S.
11 Apr 2020
Guidelines for home production

Fair comment that soap and water is the best remedy, but for times when they're not available, home-made hand sanitiser is a useful complement.

I think Consumer could help here by simplifying the WHO guidelines into both ethanol- and isopropyl alcohol-based recipes that can be made from ingredients already in the home, or are readily available locally/mail order when we're in the middle of the pandemic lockdown.

As you say, there's a lot of rubbish on the Internet as to how to make your own - some guidelines from Consumer would be welcome. And I'd be keen to keep on making my own when the crisis is over. Nothing like a bit of self-sufficiency and being prepared, and I'm sure it would be cheaper too.

STEPHANIE J.
11 Apr 2020
Homemade Hand Sanitiser

Yes Consumer, thanks for the warning however a recipe for Hand Sanitiser using the correct ratio of ingredients would be very useful.

John S.
11 Apr 2020
Be careful when using Isopropyl

Older than 4 years or significantly exposed to light, pure isopropyl can cause the fluid to explode on opening the bottle.
To quote from New Jersey Department of Health: "Isopropyl Alcohol may form an ignitable vapor/air mixture in closed tanks or containers. Isopropyl Alcohol can react with AIR and OXYGEN over time to form unstable peroxides that can explode. Isopropyl Alcohol forms explosive mixtures, when heated, with ALUMINUM."