Since everyone seems to be sharing DIY hand sanitizer recipes on social media, I need to throw in some facts on the subject from the perspective of a cosmetic formulator and aromatherapist.
First, in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all antimicrobial sanitizers as over-the-counter drugs (OTC). Any and all topical products making anti-microbial claims are OTC drugs, so please don’t run out and start selling or buying any homemade DIY hand sanitizers.
Second, the FDA also regulates what claims can be made on OTC hand saniziters, in fact, Purell just got a strong warning letter from the FDA for breaking those rules. On their product pages for PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer they claimed: “Kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA & VRE” and even more unsubstantiated claims that converted their OTC product into an unapproved new drug. So believe me when I tell you that any hand sanitizer you make in your kitchen cannot be sold or labeled to prevent the Corona (COVID-19) virus…for reals.
Third, the formulas aren’t even accurate. DIYers beware, many of the DIY Recipes I have seen do not even contain the right amount of alcohol, let alone warn you that these are OTC products. Hand sanitizers on the market, that use alcohol as the active ingredient, contain 60-95% alcohol by volume. That means that if you dilute 70% isopropyl alcohol with Aloe Vera gel (or other product) you are most likely taking the percentage of your finished DIY product far below any effective level.
Be aware that rubbing alcohol, a.k.a. isopropyl alcohol, and the alcohol that you drink are very different. The alcohol that you drink is ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) and rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol (C3H8O). Another alcohol that you may see on the market is denatured alcohol. It has been denatured. It is often ethanol alcohol that has had a poison, typically methanol, added to deter people from drinking it. The Poison Control website warns that isopropyl alcohol is poisonous in small amounts to children and also poisonous for adults. Please, if you are stockpiling, be extra cautious that children do not have access to isopropyl alcohol.
Let’s look at some common alcohol based products by the numbers.
Witch Hazel USP is 14% alcohol.
Vodka is 40-95% alcohol
190 proof Everclear is 95% alcohol
When you look at alcohol you can find the percentage of alcohol in consumable liquor by checking the proof on the label. A label that reads 50% alcohol by volume is 100-proof.
Why is this important? Because you need to know how much alcohol is in a finished product, but even more importantly water and essential oils do not mix. This is just a fact of nature. So many DIY hand santizers recipes are recommending the use of essential oils. There are so many things wrong with these recipes. One, dangerous levels of essential oils are being recommended, and two, the essential oils are not being dispersed or emulsified into the finished product. Essential oils left improperly diluted and/or dispersed increase your risk of injury or sensitization. For more on the importance of essential oils safety check out The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils or my blog post Top Twelve Essential Oil Safety Rules.
Please watch this video by Petrichor Apothecary LLC-Shannon Becker, PhD, Registered Aromatherapist that clearly shows how essential oils do not mix with water, low-proof alcohols, witch hazel, or white vinegar.
So let’s talk about using essential oils to prevent or cure Coronavirus (COVID-19). Here is the most important fact to keep in mind: absolutely no essential oils have been clinically proven to destroy the Coronavirus (COVID-19). I’ve been a certified aromatherapist for over 21 years and I simply have to be honest with you, whether any salesperson or someone else in the field tells you differently.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.” CDC Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention & Treatment.
If you want to make something DIY for your own personal use please follow the guidelines put out by the World Health Organization’s Guide to Local Production of WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations. Stop watching the YouTube videos and/or following the DIY advice of anyone using their platform to tell you how to make homemade hand sanitizer. Just the fact that they are telling you that you can make a DIY hand santizer is a dead giveaway that they don’t know the first thing about hand sanitizers.
For those giving unsound formulation advice and/or selling unproven DIY hand santizers please be aware that the liability involved if you sell a product or make claims that your recipe is supposed to mitigate a disease, let alone Coronavirus (COVID-19), is unfathomable. Let’s keep safety and formulation basics in the mix before you jump into the DIY hand sanitizer craze.
Here are a few handy links that may also help in your quest to protect your family from disease and keep you up to date.