Many of us have recently become more aware of the importance of good hygiene. Washing hands – a simple act of hygiene that we all took for granted – turned out to be one of our strongest weapons against viruses.
Another valuable defense tool during these times is hand sanitizer. This handy accessory is effective in stopping the spread of germs and bacteria. While proper hand washing is advised as the best way to clean hands, using hand sanitizer is the next best thing when soap and water is not accessible.
Unfortunately, since the news about the health crisis broke out, panic shoppers hoarded items and hand sanitizers were cleared out in shelves. Hand sanitizers, along with other hygiene items like tissue paper, have become hot commodity that they are now out of stock in most retail stores.
Because of the high demand, a lot of opportunists took advantage of the crisis and started selling hand sanitizers with marked up prices online. Don’t fall prey to buying overpriced hand sanitizers and just make one yourself. You only need a couple of ingredients and you can actually do this at home.
Two Ways to Make Hand Sanitizer
Before attempting to do this, it is important to note that homemade hand sanitizers may not be as effective as store-bought ones. Unless you have the necessary experience and high-grade tools, then consider this only as a last resort to be done only under extreme circumstances.
The nationwide shortage on hand sanitizers in retail stores has pushed people to go with alternative solutions. Since you probably have a lot of time on your hands while you are in home quarantine, this is a great project to start.
There are two DIY ways to make hand sanitizer and both of them do not require a lot of ingredients or skills. See instructions below:
DIY Hand Sanitizer (Gel Type)
In this easy method, you only need 3 ingredients to make your own hand sanitizer. You need:
- isopropyl alcohol (preferably 99% alcohol volume)
- aloe vera gel
- essential oil like lavender oil or tea tree oil
The quick method is pretty easy and requires ingredients that you most likely already have in your own home. In this process, it is important to follow the 2:1 ratio of alcohol to aloe vera. It is also important to use isopropyl alcohol with a high alcohol volume no less than 99% to ensure its effectiveness. The minimum amount of alcohol needed to kill germs is 60%. Following the 2:1 alcohol to aloe vera ratio will be able to make a 60% mixture.
Aloe vera is used to provide moisture on the skin. Because strong alcohol can dry out skin, it is important to add a moisturizing agent into the mix. Aloe vera has been known to have a lot of medical benefits. Aside from its moisturizing and cooling effect, the medicinal plant also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It has been proven to effectively inhibit growth of E.coli, Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus.
Essential oil is added for its scent and also medicinal benefits. Several essential oils such as tea tree oil are known to possess antibacterial properties. Tea tree oil contains several compounds that can kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.
What to do:
- Pour ingredients in a mixing bowl, following the proper 2:1 alcohol to aloe vera ratio.
- Mix ingredients all together until you get a smooth gel consistency.
- Put mixture inside a clean and empty bottle.
- Place the hand sanitizer somewhere easily accessible and remember to use it frequently.
DIY Hand Sanitizer (Spray Type)
While the alcohol-aloe-oil mix works very well to clean hands, there is another recipe that produces higher quality hand sanitizer. This method is recommended by the World Health Organization. It requires a little more ingredients but produces a more potent batch.
You will need:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- hydrogen peroxide
- glycerol or glycerin
- distilled water
This version will have a liquid consistency, instead of the usual gel type. It is the perfect spray solution that will not leave your hands feeling sticky.
Glycerol or glycerine acts as moisturizer that balances the drying effect of alcohol. Other humectants can also be used, as long as they can be mixed with water and alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide is a type of antiseptic that can prevent skin infections and promote healing. This chemical compound comes in different potencies, from 3% – 90%. The lower percentage peroxides are typically used as household cleaners, while the higher ones are for industrial use.
What to do:
- Mix 2 teaspoons of glycerol with about 12 ounces of isopropyl alcohol.
- Add in 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide.
- Add 3 ounces of distilled water.
- Mix all ingredients carefully.
- Put mixture in a clean spray bottle and it’s ready for use.
When making hand sanitizer at home, there are couple of things to keep in mind. Make sure that your working space is clean and sanitized. Before starting your project, wipe down the table with a cleaning solution. Aside from tidying up your space, don’t forget to also use tools that have been properly washed. Of course, don’t forget to wash your hands before and after the project.
What are Germs?
Because the hands are one of our most used body parts, it can easily contract germs and bacteria. There are countless of microbes in our surroundings – from surfaces to the air we breathe. If germs were visible to the naked eye, we would all most likely be germophobes.
What are germs, anyway? Germs are tiny organisms that exist everywhere. The four main types of germs: bacteria, virus, fungi and protozoa. Most of the time, they are harmless but there are times when they invade our bodies and cause infections.
Most germs that get inside the body will not result in sickness. A healthy immune system will develop antibodies that will fight off pathogens. Sometimes, antibiotics may be needed to help cure infections brought by these infectious agents.
Viruses are the most harmful because they can cause major damage to the cells. These microscopic parasites can cause diseases such as flu, measles, colds, chickenpox, herpes and ebola. When a virus invades the system, it also reproduces and mutates, often causing chaos inside the body. Viruses have been known to cause an outbreak because it can multiply quickly and travel from one host to another. Compared to bacteria, viruses have much smaller cells, which is one of the reasons why it can easily invade the body. When it has successfully trespassed a host, it uses the host cell’s proteins and energy so that it can multiply. As it multiplies and infects more cells, it destroys the healthy cells.
How Germs Can Spread
Bacteria and viruses can only spread under certain circumstances. Without the right conditions, they can remain dormant or die off on their own.
Bacteria thrives in warm and moist environments but not all bacteria is bad. We also have “good bacteria” in our body, which helps balance the system and fight off infection.
In ideal conditions, bacteria can double in just 20 minutes and become thousands in just a couple of hours. When food is left out in warm and moist temperatures, it can quickly become contaminated with bacteria. While most adults can handle small amounts of bad bacteria, large amounts can cause food poisoning.
To avoid this from happening, it is important to ensure that food is handled and stored properly. Never leave food out unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, especially if you live in warm locations. Additionally, it is essential to thoroughly wash hands before handling food. Bacteria on the hands can easily transfer to food and cause contamination.
Viruses need a host so that they can spread and multiply. They are usually spread through droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Tiny droplets move through the air and land can land on another person nearby. When these find their way inside the body, it attaches to healthy cells, unloads its genetic material and makes new viruses.
Depending on the type of virus, it can take days or months to reproduce and take over the system. While the virus replicates and attacks healthy cells, the body resists by creating an immune response – releasing antibodies and chemicals that fight off the infection. Symptoms like fever, sore throat and cough will appear as the body tries to eliminate the virus.
Most Common Types of Germs that Cause Illnesses
E. Coli – This bacteria typically lives in the lower intestines of warm-blooded creatures. Most E. Coli strains are actually harmless but there are some that cause intestinal problems. The incubation period is 1 to 10 days and symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pains, vomiting, dehydration and fever.
Salmonella – One of the most common types of food poisoning, Salmonella happens quickly. Symptoms like chills, diarrhea and nausea are often experienced within 8 to 72 hours upon eating contaminated food or water.
Norovirus – Norovirus is believed to be the top causes of gastroenteritis. The stomach virus is very contagious and can quickly spread from person to person through direct or indirect contact. Symptoms include low fever, stomach pain, cramps and chills. Because this is not a bacterial infection, antibiotics will not work. The best treatment for this is to rest and rehydrate.
Hepatitis A – This highly contagious virus causes liver infection and is contracted from eating contaminated food or also from being in close contact with an infected person. Symptoms include fatigue, dark urine, joint pain, intense itching, sudden nausea and yellowing of skin and eyes. Most cases will resolve within a couple of months and do not result in major liver damage. Hospitalization is often necessary if there are no signs of liver failure.
Staph – Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria that is present in the nose and on the skin. It is also present in some animals. This only becomes harmful when it grows out of control and causes infections. The bacteria can cause problems like skin infections and food poisoning. When bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can lead to more serious complications such as pneumonia, infection of the heart and sepsis.
Keeping Hands Clean
Dirty hands are a common culprit of spreading bacteria and viruses. The best way to prevent contamination is to make it a habit to always keep your hands clean. Hand washing is essential to protect yourself from being infected and also from spreading germs.
According to CDC, hand washing should take at least 20 seconds. Follow these 5 easy steps to ensure thorough cleansing.
- Wet hands with clean water and apply soap, preferably with antibacterial properties.
- Lather soap on the front and back of the hands. Rub between fingers, including the thumbs and don’t forget the fingernails.
- Continue the rubbing motion for at least 20 seconds. It is advised to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure you go through the whole 20 seconds.
- Rinse thoroughly with water.
- Dry hands with a clean towel.
Apart from the antibacterial soap, friction also greatly helps in lifting grease, dirt and microbes from the skin. The longer you wash your hands, the more germs can be removed. It is also important to completely dry hands because germs can transfer easier between wet hands.
Wash hands regularly throughout the day, especially before preparing and eating food. It is also critical to wash hands after using the toilet and after touching anything dirty like garbage and animals.
When water or soap is not available, hand sanitizers do a great job in reducing the number of germs too. Make sure to use one that contains at least 60% alcohol. Make it a habit to wash and sanitize your hands regularly throughout the whole day when you are outside the home. It is your best defense against bacteria and viruses!