DIY Hand Sanitizer: The Right Kind of Alcohol to Use

DIY Hand Sanitizer: The Right Kind of Alcohol to Use

As one might expect during a pandemic, the internet is flooded with DIY hand sanitizer recipes. While this might seem harmless enough, there has been a bit of confusion as to how to make it in a way that’s effective. I won’t lie–hand sanitizer is not my favorite thing. The main reason is because my younger daughter is extremely allergic to conventional hand sanitizers. It started when she was five, and hand sanitizer was required for each child in her kindergarten class. She began coming home with red, swollen, painful hands. It was not until I volunteered in her classroom, that I saw how often the kids were encouraged to wash with harsh antibacterial soap AND use hand sanitizer throughout the day. The allergy got worse, and now it’s so bad that if someone uses it near her, her throat starts to close and she has difficult breathing.

Many people are allergic to hand sanitizer.

Apparently a lot of people are allergic to hand sanitizer, because now the high school in our town does not even allow it in the building. Because of this, it’s logical to want to make a safer DIY hand sanitizer that does not contain highly irritant ingredients such as synthetic fragrances and triclosan. There are several ways to do it, including using herbs and essential oils with naturally occurring antimicrobial properties with alcohol and aloe vera gel. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of those recipes online, and I’ve shared a few of them myself over the years.

However, once COVID-19 hit, and mass produced hand sanitizers became scarce, the CDC did release guidelines on what they actually consider to be an effective hand sanitizer. I’ll note again, that hand sanitizers are NOT as effective at getting rid of pathogens as washing properly with soap and water. That being said, the CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol in hand sanitizers.

But it matters what KIND of alcohol you use in a DIY hand sanitizer.

Watch my latest segment on Good Morning Connecticut at Nine to learn more, and get other hand care recommendations:

Rachael Pontillo teaches a DIY hand sanitizer plus offers other DIY hand care on Good Morning Connecticut at Nine.

Here’s the short version of what your alcohol options are for DIY hand sanitizer:

Use a MINIMUM of 60% and MAXIMUM of 75% of any of the following types of alcohol in your DIY hand sanitizer.

Feel free to use aloe vera gel, your favorite hydrosol, or vegetable glycerine in the remainder of the formula.

  • 91% isopropyl alcohol
  • 70% ethyl alcohol
  • Everclear or grain alcohol 151 proof or higher.

Regular rubbing alcohol from the drugstore is 70% isopropyl alcohol. This is not strong enough. Most vodka or brandy is 80 proof, which is 40% alcohol. This is also not strong enough.

Parent holding baby's hand

I offer two different DIY hand sanitizer recipes in the My Clean Hands DIY Hand Care course.

There’s the “lite” version, which is extremely gentle, and I added a version that meets the CDC’s guidelines once they came out. In this course, you’ll also learn to make your own gentle, yet effective foaming hand wash, and a mess-free lotion stick. Plus, I’ve included a video that teaches you how to make your own fun labels for your products using simple paper crafting techniques. You get all this, plus support in a private Facebook group for just $27!

Click here to learn more and get instant access.

By the way, I’m excited to share that Good Morning Connecticut has invited me to come back for a weekly segment for the month of April! I’m so grateful that technology makes it possible for me to appear virtually due to the pandemic. I’ll be sure to share those with you too. I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during this wacky time. Be well!


2 thoughts on “DIY Hand Sanitizer: The Right Kind of Alcohol to Use”

  1. How do I know if its ethyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol by the label? Mine just says alcohol as active ingredient. I have had reactions to rubbing alchol before

    1. Hi there, if it just says alcohol, then it is mislabeled. It should specify whether it is ethanol/ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or methanol (which you DON’T want because it is toxic, but is still circulating in the marketplace). I’d get another one that specifies the type of alcohol.

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