While health officials and experts around the globe recommend soap and proper handwashing as the best defence against COVID-19, there are many benefits of hand sanitiser that make it the more appealing option. The National Hand Hygiene Initiative in Australia have outlined some of these benefits – it only takes 15-20 seconds to de-contaminate hands with hand sanitiser (although unlike soap and water it does not remove all types of microbes), most formulas are less irritating and drying than soap and water, you don’t need paper towels to finish the job and there are times when running water and soap aren’t available (like during a meeting at work). You can read more on how to keep yourself safe from COVID-19 at work here.
The key ingredient in any DIY sanitiser is alcohol
This is because alcohol is effective at killing different types of microbes, including both viruses and bacteria. However, the standard vodka you may have sitting in your cupboard at home is unlikely to be effective because many research studies have found that an alcohol concentration of 60 percent or greater is needed to be effective while most drinking vodkas clock in around the 40 percent mark. For this reason, you’ll need to make a trip to your local hardware store or chemist for isopropyl alcohol.
• 3 parts Isopropyl alcohol
• 1 part Aloe vera gel
• A few drops of Tea tree oil
• 1 ⅔ cups Isopropyl alcohol
• 2 teaspoons Glycerol or glycerin
• 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide Hydrogen peroxide
• ¼ cup Distilled water (you can also use cool boiled water)
Note: Both the gel and the spray should be mixed using clean tools, bottled then left to sit for 72 hours to kill off any germs hanging about from the preparation process.
When and how to use your hand sanitiser
The Public Health Agency of Canada gives these recommendations for using alcohol-based hand sanitisers:
• Use only when soap and water are not available
• If your hands are visibly soiled, use towelettes to remove the soil before using an alcohol-based hand rub
• Make sure your hands are dry, as wet hands will dilute the product
• Use enough to cover all the surfaces of your hands and fingers
• Rub your hands together until the product has evaporated
When should you wash your hands?
It is recommended that you are washing your hands with soap and water at least 5 times a day (not including the times you may want to use your new DIY hand sanitiser). The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recommend that you wash your hands using soap and water:
• Before, during and after food preparation
• Before eating food
• Before and after being in contact with someone who is sick
• Before and after treating any wounds
• After using the bathroom, changing nappies or cleaning up children who have used the bathroom
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• After touching an animal (yes, this includes the family pet)
• After touching garbage
• If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy (hand sanitiser can’t help with this one!)
• After touching any touch points like handles, buttons, door knobs, etc etc.