Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is an important way to protect yourself against the coronavirus.
When you can’t access warm water and soap, hand sanitizer is the next best option.
But some hand sanitizers are ineffective and even deadly.
Making your own hand sanitizer is pretty simple, but it’s important to calculate the “recipe” correctly in order for it to be effective.
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The coronavirus pandemic has inspired people to make their own sourdough and banana bread, why not hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes too?
It’s especially not a bad idea in light of the FDA’s warnings that some hand sanitizers are useless or potentially deadly.
Those that contain the toxic chemical methanol can be poisonous — leading symptoms like drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and confusion — if they’re ingested or absorbed through the skin.
Experts also say you should also avoid those with insufficient alcohol, expired products, and any sanitizer when soap and water are available.
Insider talked to Miryam Wahrman, a biology professor at William Paterson University and the author of “The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World,” about exactly how to make your own hand sanitizer so it’s both safe and effective.
Your final product must be at least 60% alcohol to be effective
All you really need is alcohol, either isopropyl (rubbing) or ethyl (used in beer, wine, and spirits). As long as the solution is at least 60% alcohol, you can rub the liquid into your hands and let them air dry, then you’ll have effectively sanitized them.
“The bottom line is that alcohol is the active ingredient” in hand sanitizer, she said.
To make the experience a little gentler on your skin, you can moisturize after the alcohol has dried. You can also add a few drops of aloe vera to the rubbing alcohol, but make sure the liquid is over 60% alcohol so that the aloe doesn’t dilute it too much.
“If you drop below 60%, the effectiveness drops very dramatically,” Wahrman said.
OregonLive recommends mixing two-thirds of a cup of 91% isopropyl alcohol with one-third of a cup of aloe vera. You can also add eight to 10 drops of scented oil if you want to smell nice.
Ideally, you can forgo the hand sanitizer and just wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Handwashing, which removes germs from your skin, remains the best way to protect against the coronavirus and other pathogens.
Hand sanitizer, by contrast, kills most germs but doesn’t remove them from your skin, Wahrman said.
“Handwashing is the most important first step, and you shouldn’t be bashful about it,” she said.
Alcohol is also the key ingredient in disinfecting wipes
To make your own disinfecting wipes, simply take a paper towel or tissue, dab it in rubbing alcohol (or any type of solution that is at least 60% alcohol), and wipe down whatever surface you’d like to clean.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Wahrman did this to her phone daily. She also does it to remote controls when traveling.
After cleaning her phone with an alcohol-moistened tissue, “it looks nice and squeaky clean,” she said, adding, “And I know most of the germs I’ve picked up along the way have been killed and somewhat removed.”
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