How to Make a 60% Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

Washing hands with soap and water is the #1 recommended way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. But if you don’t have access to soap and water, what can you do?

>>>The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.<<<

Why? 

Because a review of 22 studies found that the following can inactivate human coronaviruses:

  • 62-71% ethanol alcohol
  • 0.5% hydrogen peroxide
  • 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (i.e., bleach)

And not only that, researchers have found that human coronaviruses can live on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic (think your mobile phone, keyboard, countertops, credit cards – you name it!) for up to 9 days!

NINE DAYS!

So your best bet to protect yourself and your kids is to keep your hands clean and disinfect surfaces with what the studies have shown can actually kill human coronaviruses.

While hydrogen peroxide and bleach may be fine for surfaces, they’re not ideal for our hands, which is why the CDC recommends a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Many of you have asked me about colloidal silver or witch hazel, and the truth is – we don’t know. And to be totally honest, I wouldn’t risk it. I can only recommend what the studies show can actually work …

Cleaning our hands thoroughly and frequently is a critical step in preventing the further spread of the 2019 novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. But with the run on Purell and other alcohol-based hand sanitizers, there aren’t many options available on the shelves that have at least 60% alcohol.

There are cautions with making your own hand sanitizer, as it can be challenging to get the right proportions to have enough alcohol to effectively combat Coronavirus, but not too much to dry your hands out until they’re raw and cracked. However, if you don’t have access to running soap and water, and can’t find a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, the best option if you’re in a pinch may be to make your own. 

I’ve had many questions on how to make your own 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, so here are some options. All you need are 2 ingredients: Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol + Aloe Vera Gel. (If you’re allergic to aloe or just can’t find any, you can use vegetable glycerin instead). All you need to know is the right proportion of isopropyl rubbing alcohol to aloe vera gel to make it at least 60% alcohol. Remember, your hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol to have activity against Coronavirus. So using a little bit of math, here are 3 recipe options using the different percentage rubbing alcohols you’ll find:

Option 1 with 99% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol:

  • 2 parts alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel

(For example: 2/3 cup alcohol + 1/3 cup aloe vera gel)

Option 2 with 91% Isopropyl or Rubbing Alcohol:

  • 3 parts alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel

(For example: 3/4 cup alcohol + 1/4 cup aloe vera gel)

Option 3 with 70% Isopropyl or Rubbing Alcohol:

  • 9 parts alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel

(For example: 90ml or 3 ounces of alcohol + 10ml  or 2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel)

Pour into a dispenser bottle and shake well to mix. If you’re using multiple bottles, you can mix first in a bowl then transfer with a funnel.

>>> Please note: Option 3 is very runny, and may work better for use in a spray bottle <<<

If desired, you may consider adding any of the following essential oils that studies have found to have possible antimicrobial activity against Coronavirus, Influenza, and the many other circulating cold and flu viruses:

  • (Sage) Salvia officianalis
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Tea Tree
  • Peppermint 
  • Cinnamon
  • Eucalyptus
  • Oregano
  • Your favorite!

** Please note – some of these essential oils may be irritating to sensitive skin. Use sparingly – 1 or 2 drops may be enough. Before using, do a patch test by applying a small amount on forearm and waiting 24 hours to see if there is any reaction.**

PLEASE: remember to rub your hands vigorously after applying your alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 30 seconds, making sure you get your palms, back of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails – just like you would if you were washing with soap and water!

And remember, washing hands with soap and water is the preferred method of keeping hands clean. To make sure you and your kids are washing your hands effectively to reduce Coronavirus spread, be sure to read my article Handwashing and Coronavirus: Are you doing it the right way?

As always, I love hearing from you so please be sure to leave any comments below. And please share this article with any parent you know who could benefit!

xo Holistic mama doc – Elisa Song, MD

P.S. To get my latest updates on how to best prepare your family for COVID-19, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and ready my article Coronavirus: What a pediatrician wants you to know

 

49 Comments
  1. Just an FYI The 70 % isopropyl alcohol one is sooooo runny. It’s not the consistency we are all used to for sanitizer.

    • yes, it really does work best with 99% isopropyl alcohol…

  2. Please correct the math on option 3.

  3. The math in option 3 is wrong.

    • oh my goodness, thanks for catching that! I just corrected it. It is still 3/4 cup of 91% alcohol + 1/4 cup aloe, but the recipe should read 3 parts alcohol + 1 part aloe. thank you!

      • yes – it will be very runny so better to use in a spray bottle…

  4. I couldn’t find aloe gel any where. Please let me know how to get some? Thank you. Can it be from fresh aloe plant?

    • You can absolutely use aloe from the fresh plant. Unfortunately, people have been telling me that aloe is sold out in many places, so you can use vegetable glycerin instead.

  5. Sanitation and hygiene is something that can protect you from various health issues and keep you healthy. Making your own hand sanitizer, well that seems quite interesting to me. Washing your hand when you return home, before and after eating food etc. are some good habits. Thanks.
    Dentist La Grange KY

  6. Hi Elisa, is this suitable for a toddler at 18 months old? I have been researching about how to make my own toddler-friendly sanitisers and I am getting mixed answers. Hope you can help me with this!

    • The main thing it to make sure that kids don’t ingest it, which goes along with keeping their fingers out of their mouths. So yes, it should be safe, and as one of the most effective ways to inactivate coronavirus, I would still use it even if it’s less than ideal…

  7. Thank you Dr. Song. Rubbing alcohol also sold out these days. Sigh…

  8. Is this hand sanitizer recipe safe for kids (3.5 years old) as well?

    • The main thing it to make sure that kids don’t ingest it, which goes along with keeping their fingers out of their mouths. So yes, it should be safe, and as one of the most effective ways to inactivate coronavirus, I would still use it even if it’s less than ideal…

  9. Shucks… Not too long ago I bought 70% thinking, what difference would it make?? Ha ha, now that means runny hand sanitizer in this recipe.

    • Hi Beth! Just put it in a spray bottle… Stay well!

  10. So from what I understand, we should rather wash with regular soap and water and not alcohol? Alcohol might be too strong for sensitive hands.

    • yes absolutely – washing hands correctly with regular soap and water is the best way to keep our hands clean.

    • Why not show us the use of ethanol, which is less toxic?
      Other than Aloe Vera , one can use glycerine or sodium silicate . All three are humectants, they attract water and prevent the hand getting dry when the alcohol evaporates.

  11. Hi Dr. Song. I have the alcohol but I don’t have aloe vera or glycerin. Is there any other oil that can be used instead? Can skin lotion be used instead?

    • Hi there – the aloe is there so your skin doesn’t get completely dried out. I haven’t tried it with a lotion, but in a pinch if that’s the only way you’ll have hand sanitizer, it’s definitely better than nothing!

  12. ok – now that I have just done the hand sanitiser option 3 and read the replies below I am confused.
    What I have done:
    70% Ethanol solution from a pharmacy 450ml
    Aloe gel 50ml
    mixed
    added essential oil

    Can you please tell me if this is correct or not.
    I don’t want to have my family’s skin peel and be more susceptible to germs.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Stephanie – if you want to end up with a total of 500ml solution, then yes, this is the right combination. But definitely patch test on your skin, especially if you or your kids have sensitive skin!

  13. Hello Dr. Song,

    Thank you for the alternate options.
    Aloe Vera not available in stores n online.
    Is it ok to use some other non-oily gel such as hair gel etc. instead to mix with Alcohol . Most of these
    Are not natural and hv some chemicals or additives.
    Not sure how alcohol will react with these gels.

    How about using a hand lotion like Meyers or Cetaphil and adding alcohol to it .

    Thanks,
    Sankar

  14. Can water be used instead of aloe to make a surface spray?

    • Hi Amber – these recipes are for a hand sanitizer. There are various surface cleaner recipes available on line. Since bleach and hydrogen peroxide have been found to be effective on surfaces against coronavirus, I would look up recipes using these. Good luck!

  15. Hey Doc!
    Yeah I have seen that isopropyl alcohol is not around. I used to use everclear (191 proof) when making honey oil, (what is now known as cannaboid oil).
    Can everclear be a substitute for the missing isopropyl alcohol? If so, would the above ratio(s) apply?
    Thanks in advance

    Chris

    • Hi Chris – I’m so sorry for my delay. I do not edit comments. But since I still have a full-time practice and family taking most of my time, I’m not able to reply to comments as nearly as I’d like to. Alcohol is not recommended as it can be difficult to get to the right percentage to kill coronavirus. However, if you have 190 proof everclear, that’s 95% alcohol, so I would err on the side of caution and use the recipe for 91% rubbing alcohol. It sounds like you found the answer already, but hope this helps.

  16. Hi Dr. Song:

    Can vodka be used instead of isopropyl alcohol

    if none is available?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Lisa – great question. It really needs to be a very strong alcohol, at least 180 proof. And then the proportion with aloe would be in between the 99% and 70% isopropyl alcohol recipes. Good luck!

  17. Great information,
    Thank you:-)

  18. I tried the 99% with Realaloe Aloe Gel and the gel just clumps up and gets hard, so the final mixture is pretty much alcohol with white clumps at the bottom. What did I do wrong?

    • Hi there – I just looked at the Realaloe Aloe Gel ingredients and it looks like that has added ingredients for oral consumption. I would try to find an aloe gel that is 100% aloe and no other ingredients, or at least minimal other ingredients… It’s been hard to find, so glycerin may be the next best option

  19. Thanks for the recipe! I used 1 part vegetable glycerin plus 3 parts 91% isopropyl alcohol. It’s a bit runny and leaves a slight oily/greasy film on my hands once the alcohol dries up, but otherwise it seems to be okay. I assume it’s just the glycerin doing its job of moisturizing. Oily feeling seems to dissipate after a while. I poured the mixture into squirt bottles and spray bottles and it dispenses just fine in both.

    • Yes, the glycerin will feel a but more greasy than aloe, but for those who can’t find aloe, it’s the best substitute. And yes – spray bottles are great as the lower the percentage alcohol you start with, the runnier it will be…

  20. I used 99% alcohol and 99% Aloe Vera gel, it still looks very liquidity and runny! In fact the the aloe separated and have settled.

    • Hmmm… I’m not sure what went wrong. Maybe try shaking it vigorously in the bottle instead of mixing in a bowl? Let me know how that works…

  21. I tried the recipe with 2/3 alcohol and 1/3 aloe gel, using 99% gel but when I mixed it the gel clumped all up and separated. Can’t get it all to combine. What did I do wrong,pls?

    • Hmmm… I’m not sure what went wrong. Maybe try shaking it vigorously in the bottle instead of mixing in a bowl? Let me know how that works…

  22. Too bad you filter questions like my last one about ever clear about a week or so ago. Thanks. I got it figured out somewhere else

    • Hi Chris – I’m so sorry for my delay. I do not edit comments. But since I still have a full-time practice and family taking most of my time, I’m not able to reply to comments as nearly as I’d like to. Alcohol is not recommended as it can be difficult to get to the right percentage to kill coronavirus. However, if you have 190 proof everclear, that’s 95% alcohol, so I would err on the side of caution and use the recipe for 91% rubbing alcohol. It sounds like you found the answer already, but hope this helps.

  23. What is the shelf life on the 91% alcohol option? What do I need to add to extend the shelf life?

    • that’s a really good question. I don’t know what the shelf life is, but I would imagine with the alcohol, it would be a natural preservative…

  24. I did option 2 with 91% alcohol and vegetable glycerin. 3/4 cup alcohol to 1/4 cup glycerin. Is it suppose to be runny?? Is there anything I could add to thicken it up? Besides aloe vera gel. Can’t find aloe

    Thank you

    • Hi Deborah – using a less than a 99% rubbing alcohol, the solution gets pretty runny. You can put it into a spray bottle and spray onto your hands instead of pouring it out. Hope that helps!

  25. Thanks for all the wonderful information. I really appreciate it!

Leave a Reply