No Purell? No problem! When disinfecting gel sells out everywhere, you can just make some yourself with stuff you (maybe) already have at home.
Properly scrubbing your hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs and viruses, and to ensure you don’t get sick yourself. But if you don’t have access to soap and clean water, or if you’re out and about and nowhere near a sink, you should carry hand sanitizer to protect your health.
As you’re no doubt aware, bottles of hand sanitizer (Purell, Wet Ones, and the like) sell out quickly during public health crises. But don’t worry—making your own hand sanitizer is remarkably easy. You just have to be careful you don’t mess it up. Make sure that the tools you use for mixing are properly sanitized; otherwise you could contaminate the whole thing. Also, the World Health Organization recommends letting your concoction sit for a minimum of 72 hours after you’re done. That way the sanitizer has time to kill any bacteria that might have been introduced during the mixing process.
(Note: To reiterate, nothing beats washing your hands. Hand sanitizer—even the real, professionally made stuff—should always be a last resort.)
We actually have two recipes for you, and links to find the ingredients. The first is one you can make with stuff you likely already have in your cabinets and under the sink, so it’s effective in emergency situations. The second recipe is more complex, but easy to make if you have the opportunity to do some shopping and planning ahead of time.Potency Matters
You’re going to need some alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your sanitizer mix must be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective. But it’s better to get way above that. A bottle of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol is the best thing to use. Your regular vodka and whiskey are too wimpy and won’t cut it.The Quick (Gel) Recipe
Mix 3 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part aloe vera gel. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to give it a pleasant scent and to align your chakras.The Better (Spray) Recipe
The aloe mixture gets the job done, but aloe also leaves your skin annoyingly sticky. So, here’s a recipe that’s less sticky and more potent, based on the mix recommended by the WHO.
Mix 1 ⅔ cups alcohol with 2 teaspoons of glycerol. You can buy jugs of glycerol online, and it’s an important ingredient because it keeps the alcohol from drying out your hands. If you can’t find glycerol, proceed with the rest of the recipe anyway and just remember to moisturize your hands after applying the sanitizer.
Mix in 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, then another ¼ cup of distilled or boiled (then cooled) water. (If you’re working with a lower-concentration solution of rubbing alcohol, use far less water; remember, at least ⅔ of your final mixture has to be alcohol.)
Load the solution into spray bottles—this isn’t a gel, it’s a spray. You can wet a paper towel with it as well and use that as a wipe.
If you must, you can add in a splash of essential oil to your concoction to make it smell nice. Just don’t use lavender. Everyone else uses lavender, and your sanitizer is superior.
Updated March 13: We swapped some links to the ingredients since they are sold out or overpriced in some stores. Also added clarification that the boiled water should be cooled before mixing.
(This article first appeared on Wired.)