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Nascent Myth Busters: Hand Sanitizer

Post by Sebastian the Editor on March 25, 2020
A glass of water with oil being poured in

A common elementary school science experiment

Hi all, it’s Sebastian here! I was researching different hand sanitizer recipes to show Sandy and I found a common theme of terrible ideas. Some of these myths are coming from major news organizations! From trusted brands and companies! From pinterest bloggers- the most sacred institution! I’m here to bust these myths before they go any further and become hand sanitizer urban legends.

Myth #1: You can put coconut oil/almond oil/any carrier oil in hand sanitizer

Fact: Hand Sanitizer’s main ingredient is alcohol. Alcohol is water soluble. The other major ingredient is water. And as we learned in 5th grade science class, oil and water do not mix. The oil is just going to sit on top of the hand sanitizer and will do nothing. Please stop doing this as Sandy walks around ranting and hitting her head off the wall and we don’t want to see that happen.

Myth Busting Solution: Carrier oils are being suggested for use to soften the effect of alcohol on the skin. What you can use instead is glycerine. Glycerine is an unfermented alcohol and it is very gentle and softening. You can add it in 2% concentration to your hand sanitizer recipe.

 

A shelf of bottles of vodka

Save me for drinking!

Myth #2: You can use vodka to make hand sanitizer

Fact: According to the CDC, you need a minimum of 60% alcohol for hand sanitizer to be effective. In canada, vodka is only 40% alcohol, which is not enough. In the US, vodka is 60% which is only barely enough, and makes a very expensive hand sanitizer.

Tito’s Vodka had to release a statement on twitter telling people to stop using their vodka to make hand sanitizer: “Per the CDC, hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC…” with an included graphic.

Tito Vodka's Statement

Tito Vodka’s Statement

Myth Busting Solution: Use Isopropyl or Specially Denatured alcohol. Ideally, you want as close to 100% as possible to make formulation calculation easier and to ensure that you have a strong enough alcohol concentration.

 

Myth #3: Essential oils on their own are strong enough to disinfect

Fact: While some essential oils have antimicrobial properties, on their own they will not be as effective as alcohol based hand sanitizer. I’ve been very concerned lately as we’ve had a few people come into the store wanting to make hand sanitizer that contains absolutely no alcohol- only essential oils and aloe gel (The Aloe Gel is a whole other issue we’ll get to later).

With one customer who came in wanting to make alcohol free hand sanitizer, I let her know this will not be anywhere as effective its alcohol-based counterpart. She said: “I know, but any little bit helps”. This greatly concerned me as “any little bit” is not enough during a pandemic. In fact, it’s quite dangerous. Either make it to CDC standard or don’t bother. Another thing to remember is that hand sanitizers are often used several times a day. As a result, essential oils can cause irritation or sensitization over time.

Myth Busting Solution: Essential oil should be used to compliment the alcohol and to help provide a pleasant aroma. You can use essential oils at 1% concentration. Some essential oils that have antimicrobial properties are: Eucalyptus, Ti-Tree, Lemon, Lavender, Orange, Lemongrass.

 

Myth #4: Vitamin E is useful in hand sanitizer

Fact: Vitamin E won’t do anything. For one thing, it is an antioxidant, not an antimicrobial or a preservative. It helps stabilize other ingredients and prolong a product’s shelf life. Because of hand sanitizer’s high alcohol content, it isn’t going to oxidize.

Secondly, even though it is an alcohol, it is a fat-soluble alcohol.  It will not mix with water. It will sit on top, just like carrier oils will. If it does mix in, it has been altered and isn’t a natural vitamin E anymore.

Myth Busting Solution: Just don’t add Vitamin E. There’s no need.

Water with lots of bubbles

Just like you need water, so does your hand sanitizer

Myth #5: The more alcohol the better!

Fact: Alcohol on its own is not very effective at killing bacteria. It needs the oxygen in water. Secondly, without water to provide hang time, alcohol will evaporate quickly when exposed to the air.

Myth Busting Solution: Keep your alcohol concentration in the 60-65% range. Ensure you have approx. 30-35% water in your formula.

 

Myth #6: Aloe Gel will create a gel hand sanitizer

Fact: As noted in myth #2, you need at least 60% alcohol in your hand sanitizer. Alcohol will thin down the aloe gel considerably. Even if you did 60% alcohol and 40% aloe gel, it would not create a gel. You would also have the added cost as aloe gels can be very expensive.

An aloe vera plant cut in half

You may want me, but I’m hard to work with

Secondly, every aloe gel on the market is completely different from each other. The gel you get could be heavily manufactured and contain very little Aloe, or not be very shelf stable and potentially add bacteria to your hand sanitizer.

Myth Busting Solution: If you want to create a gel, you need to use guar or xanthan gum. Creating a gel, especially from a formula with such a high amount of alcohol, can be very tricky. If you aren’t already experienced in making gels, it’d be best to make a spray hand sanitizer instead.

Woman applying lotion on her hand

Hand sanitizers and lotions are not a possible fusion

Myth #7: Hand sanitizer lotions are effective

Fact: To make a lotion, you must emulsify oils and waters. This requires high heat. The high enough amount of alcohol needed to create an effective hand sanitizer would evaporate during the emulsification process. Not to mention, the evaporating alcohol could cause an explosion as the alcohol becomes a flammable gas which is incredibly dangerous. If you tried adding alcohol to an already made lotion, you still need at least 60% alcohol. This would dilute and thin out the lotion until it wouldn’t have the consistency of a lotion anymore.

Myth Busting Solution: You cannot create a lotion hand sanitizer.  You don’t need to either.

 

A simple, myth busting recipe

Finally, here’s how to make an effective hand sanitizer without any of the myth ingredients or suggestions.

Ingredients:

2/3 Cup Isopropyl or Specially Denatured Alcohol –100% or 200 Proof, or as close as possible

5ml Glycerine (1 teaspoon)

(Optional) Add up to 20 drops essential oil. Some suggestions for antimicrobial oils would be Eucalyptus, Ti-Tree, Lemon, Lavender, Orange, Lemongrass.

1/3 cup of water

Directions

  1. Measure out your alcohol and add your glycerine.
  2. Drop in essential oils if adding. Stir the mixture and ensure the essential oil mixes with the glycerine and SD alcohol.
  3. Add water to mixture.
  4. Pour into spray bottles.

Makes about 250ml hand sanitizer spray at approx. 65% alcohol concentration (if you use 100% SD or isopropyl alcohol). Spray onto hands until thoroughly wet, and rub in until dry (Approximately 30 seconds). Children under 6 yrs. to be supervised when using.

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