Hoarding and supply chain issues have caused shortages that no one could have anticipated. It’s tough right now to find things like eggs, flour, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper — and it’s also nearly impossible to find hand sanitizer.
Yep, that’s right — hand sanitizer. This alcohol-based quick-fix for combatting COVID-19 is either selling at a premium by price gougers or sold out at all of the places you’d normally expect to find it. Tap or click here to find out how soap kills the coronavirus.
That shortage has led to a lot of people trying to make their own hand sanitizer to try and stay safe from coronavirus, with DIY recipes being posted all over the internet. Before you take this science project into your own hands, you should know that it’s not a great idea to try to make your own hand sanitizer. Let’s take a look at why.
1. Officially endorsed hand sanitizer formula, but there’s a catch
There is a formula circulating on the internet for hand sanitizer endorsed by the WHO, but there’s a catch. It’s not meant for people at home who are trying to fill the void of store-bought hand sanitizer.
That formula is meant for professionals — like pharmacists — who are a.) in areas where traditional medical supplies are running low, and b.) trained in compounding formulas and have the supplies and specialized equipment to do so.
This formula needs to be followed precisely to make sure it’s effective, and if you grab a ton of supplies to go at it alone, you’re going to be depriving medical professionals on the front lines of those same supplies. Plus, you really do need specialized equipment to pull off the concocting of this DIY formula.
Do you have an alcoholometer in your kitchen/lab? No? Well, then leave this formula to the professionals, please.
2. The difficulty behind formulas
If you want to play kitchen chemist with the vodka, maybe consider trying your hand out at drink mixology, not hand sanitizer mixology. That gallon o’ vodka may be great for happy hour, but it’s probably not going to be the most effective tool at combatting the traces of coronavirus on your hands, especially considering that it’s tough to get the mixture right.
Here’s the problem. Getting the Tito’s Vodka (or other alcohol) ratio right isn’t easy to do, especially when it comes to the 60% alcohol component that it calls for. Most vodka is only about 40% alcohol, which doesn’t meet the 60% requirement for hand sanitizer.
If you aren’t using strong enough liquor, you’re going to be pouring DIY hand sanitizer on your hands that isn’t as effective as you need it to be. Plus, liquor-based formulas are also not on the approved list of recommended disinfectants and cleaning solutions. Tap or click here to see the list of disinfectants strong enough to kill coronavirus.
Overdo the alcohol ratio and you end up with one that doesn’t have enough gel in it, and your hands will, in turn, end up dried out and cracked.
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3. Is this safe for humans?
You know you wouldn’t eat something you found on the ground, right? Apply that same precaution to hand sanitizer formulas you find on the internet. Just because it’s available for you to peruse doesn’t mean you should try it.
The FDA is aware that people are trying to mix up these hand sanitizer formulas, and it has even issued some guidance on the subject.
It specifically states, “the Agency lacks information on the methods being used to prepare such products and whether they are safe for use on human skin. We further recognize that compounders, relative to untrained consumers, are more familiar with standards and methods for producing drug products.”
What that means in layman’s terms is that the FDA doesn’t know what you’re compounding in your new home pharmacy so they can’t tell you whether it’s safe — they can only tell you that compounders who are trained in the business of formulating drugs are more familiar with the methods and standards required to do so.
It’s a nice way of saying leave it to the professionals so you don’t get hurt or sick. Playing kitchen chemists could work out fine, or you could end up with a real issue on your hands. Literally.
4. Some homemade solutions are leading to burns
You’re trying to protect yourself, not burn your skin, but that’s exactly what you could end up doing if you try to go about compounding hand sanitizer on your own. There is anecdotal evidence about burns occurring from homemade hand sanitizer — including a report of a New Jersey store owner who is facing criminal charges after four children got chemical burns from the DIY hand sanitizer purchased at his store.
If you need more than anecdotal evidence, the FDA has addressed the issue too.
Per the FDA site: “FDA recommends that consumers do not make their own hand sanitizer. If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective, and there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer.
‘The agency lacks verifiable information on the methods being used to prepare hand sanitizer at home and whether they are safe for use on human skin.”
Chemical burns are serious business. You don’t want to end up with a serious burn on your skin due to hand sanitizer that isn’t formulated correctly. It’s just not worth the risk.
Related: 5 online COVID-19-related tools for tracking the coronavirus
5. Why washing your hands is better
The final reason why it’s a bad idea isn’t because of chemical burns or potentially dangerous compounding practices — it’s because washing your hands is still more effective than using hand sanitizer. It doesn’t matter if you found it on the shelf at your local grocery store or mixed it up with some alcohol in your kitchen.
That’s right — washing your hands is the most effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus and limit your chances of getting infected. Good old fashioned hand washing.
If you need a refresher course on how to properly wash your hands, this guide from the CDC will tell you everything you need to know about the science behind handwashing and how to make sure you’re doing it the right way.
If you can’t find hand sanitizer on your local retailer’s shelves or online, don’t stress out and don’t try to mix up a concoction to get you through until you can find some. At best, you’re risking a batch of ineffective hand sanitizer, and at worst, you’re running the risk of harming yourself or someone else.
Just wash your hands and use the proper precautions put in place by the people who are experts. That’s the best way to handle it.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.