The pandemic has forced us all to adapt and change our daily habits, with hand sanitizer becoming an integral part of everyday life. And with good reason – research has shown just how effective it is at killing germs and preventing the spread of viruses like COVID-19. When you don’t have access to soap and water, using hand sanitizer is the next best thing, and in this article, we show you how to make hand sanitizer gel, and how to make hand sanitizer spray.
Adding essential oils to your hand sanitizer recipe can bring added benefits to your skin, and boost the bacteria-fighting qualities of the product. In this article, as well as showing you how to make hand sanitizer, we also give you the low-down on the best essential oils to use in your hand sanitizer recipe – because who doesn’t love added benefits?
Have you had any success making your own DIY hand sanitizer? Let us know in the comments below!
Stay safe – please read before you make
The best way to prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19 is to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information.
Love essential oils? We make the most of them in this fantastic, in-depth tutorial on how to make wax melts (above), and we have lots of other DIY bath and beauty tutorials here on Gathered, including how to make soap at home, this DIY rainbow soap tutorial and this tutorial on how to make bath bombs! If you want to print your own labels for your DIY hand sanitizer, check out our review on the best printer for card making and if you’re giving it as a gift, why not learn how to make your own gift bags and package them to perfection. For more crafty tutorials, check out our arts & crafts page – we’re updating it all the time, so be sure to bookmark the page. Is there a tutorial you would love to see? Let us know in the comments below!
How does hand sanitizer work?
So, how does hand sanitizer work to kill bacteria and viruses like COVID-19?
Well, it’s all down to the active ingredients, in this case – alcohol. The alcohol within hand sanitizers works to break down the proteins of the disease-causing agents, as well as breaking up cells. Its effectiveness to do this increases with higher alcohol concentrations, which is why the CDC recommends that hand sanitizers contain at least a 60% alcohol solution.
There are different types of hand sanitizer, the two most popular being hand sanitizer gel and hand sanitizer spray. The gel gives you the most complete coverage, and once dispensed into your hand, the dose will remain in your palm until you rub your hands together and spread the formula over your skin. It’s down to personal preference, and some people will find one more convenient than the other, but if you go for the spray option just be sure to fully cover your hands.
What ingredients do you need to make hand sanitizer?
- Flip cap or pump dispenser bottle
- Isopropyl alcohol, 99.9% concentration
- (drinking spirits are not suitable)
- Aloe vera gel
- Vitamin E (optional)
- Essential oils (optional)
- Mixing bowl
- Spoon, or something to mix with
Do not use methanol to make your own hand sanitizer. Methanol is a highly toxic substance and if you have any skin products containing methanol, you should discontinue use immediately and seek professional guidance. Methanol is also labeled as methyl alcohol, methylated spirits, or wood alcohol.
How to make hand sanitizer gel
When making your own DIY hand sanitizer, the first thing to note is the volume of your bottle. This is the final bottle that you’ll be using to carry and store your DIY hand sanitizer. There are lots of different sizes available – and the volume of your bottle will dictate how much of each ingredient you will need.
So, for example, we know that our hand sanitizer recipe must contain a minimum of 60% alcohol as per CDC regulations. As we are using 99.9% isopropyl alcohol, 60% is just under two-thirds. So – the first step is to do just a little mathematics. Take the volume of your container, divide by 3, then times by 2 to get the volume of isopropyl alcohol that you need to include per container. It will work out at approximately 66.6% alcohol by volume.
va = (vc/3)*2
Where va = volume of alcohol and vc = volume of container
If you are mixing up a large batch at the same time, times this figure by the number of containers you have (assuming they are all the same volume!).
If you are not sure of the volume of your container – fill up your bottle with some water, then pour this water into a measuring jug.
For this tutorial, I am using four 30ml (1oz) bottles. So, 30ml divided by 3 is 10ml. Times this by 2 is 20ml. Times 20ml by 4 bottles gives us 80ml. So I need to measure 80ml of isopropyl alcohol into a measuring jug.
Mixing up the remaining part of your hand sanitizer recipe is where the fun comes in. For a 30ml bottle, once we have subtracted the 60% isopropyl alcohol, we have 10ml per bottle to play with – times 4 bottles, comes to 40ml in total. Be careful not to exceed this amount too much, as you may dilute the alcohol past the 60% volume (i.e your DIY hand sanitizer will not be strong enough to kill germs).
Adding aloe vera gel to your hand sanitizer recipe helps to balance the drying effects of the alcohol, and keep your hands moisturized. When buying your aloe gel – look for the clear variety (unless you’re happy with green DIY hand sanitizer).
So – measure out 40ml of aloe vera gel, and add this to your mixing bowl containing your 80ml of isopropyl alcohol. If you are using different sized containers than I am, measure one-third the volume of your containers (then times this figure by the number of containers if using more than one) to get the volume of aloe vera gel needed.
If you are allergic to aloe vera gel, then a good substitute to use is vegetable glycerin. Vegetable glycerin is a clear, colorless, odorless, hygroscopic (takes in water from its surroundings) viscous liquid. It’s a natural allergen-free product that is also completely biodegradable. Vegetable glycerin is commonly used as a moisturizer in soap production (and is also great for creating big bathtime bubbles!).
Using a spoon, fork, whisk, or similar, combine the isopropyl alcohol with the aloe vera gel by mixing. Mix well until the alcohol is evenly distributed throughout the gel so that there are no lumps of gel sitting at the bottom of the bowl.
If you are only whipping up a single batch of DIY hand sanitizer, an easy way to mix your ingredients is to add them straight into the container. Once they are all added, pop the lid on a shake vigorously to mix. (Added bonus: no washing up!)
Next, we’re going to add some luxe to our DIY hand sanitizer and turn it from a basic recipe into a premium product by adding some Vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a powerful and intensely moisturizing antioxidant that helps to soothe, condition, and nourish the skin. It’s particularly effective on hard-working, dry, or aging hands. Go ahead and add 4-8 drops of Vitamin E to the bowl, and mix well.
If you’re happy with odorless DIY hand sanitizer – skip ahead to step 6.
Next, we’re going to add some essential oils. Different essential oils have different benefits – scroll down to see my selection of the best essential oils to use in your DIY hand sanitizer.
For this premium hand sanitizer recipe, I’m blending two different essential oils – lavender and tea tree. Lavender is especially recommended for children, and both essential oils are readily available, as well as being fairly inexpensive.
Add 2-4 drops of tea tree, and 4-6 drops of lavender oil to your hand sanitizer mixture, and stir well.
Another combination of essential oils that works really well for DIY hand sanitizer, is lavender and lemon. Experiment with different oils and combinations – have you found any formulae you like? Let us know in the comments below!
Now that your hand sanitizer recipe is fully mixed, it’s time to bottle up. A funnel will greatly help when pouring the mixture into small-necked containers and they are cheap to pick up. You can find them in most dollar stores or grocery stores.
Finally, seal your DIY hand sanitizer into an air-tight container by screwing on the lid tightly. Alcohol evaporates over time, so don’t be tempted to leave your DIY hand sanitizer in the mixing bowl for longer than is necessary. Add a label and slip it into a carry pouch if you have one. Hang onto the outside of your purse and you have easy-to-access, refillable DIY hand sanitizer! Package in a fancy bottle and they make wonderful gifts for friends, family, or colleagues.
How to make hand sanitizer spray
Hand sanitizer spray is much the same as hand sanitizer gel. However, the initial action of spritzing a hand sanitizer spray will add air to the formula, and therefore less of the active ingredients are delivered to the hands. Just be sure to fully cover your hands when using the spray, and you’re good to go.
What ingredients do you need to make hand sanitizer spray?
- Spray bottle
- Isopropyl alcohol, 99.9% concentration
- Carrier oil
- Aloe vera gel
- Essential oil (s)
- Vitamin E
- Vegetable glycerin
- Mixing bowl
- Spoon, or something to mix with
For this hand sanitizer spray recipe, I am using a 50ml spray bottle. We need at least 60% alcohol, so using va = (vc/3)*2 we know that we need 33.3ml alcohol. Let’s round that up to 35ml. So, Add 35ml isopropyl alcohol (99.9% concentration) into a mixing bowl.
Next, add a blob of aloe vera gel. If you want to measure precisely – 1.5 teaspoons is ideal for a 50ml container like the one I’m using.
Measure half a teaspoon of carrier oil, and add to your DIY hand sanitizer mixture. Using a carrier oil helps to dilute the essential oils so that it is suitable for making hand sanitizer spray. Here, I’m using fractionated coconut as a carrier oil – it’s unscented and does the job well.
Measure half a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin and add to your DIY hand sanitizer mixture.
For added moisturization and to help soothe tired, hard-working hands, add 2-3 drops of Vitamin E to the mixture.
Next, add some essential oils! Let’s add an extra flavor to the mix this time – lemon. Add 2 drops of tea tree, 4 drops of lavender, and 4 drops of lemon to your hand sanitizer recipe and mix well.
Using the funnel, pour the mixture into your empty bottle. If you need to mix it some more, screw the lid on (make sure it’s tight) and shake. Now you have your own homemade hand sanitizer that you can pop in your purse (bag) when you are out and about.
Which essential oils should I use?
One of the best things about learning how to make your own hand sanitizer is deciding which essential oils to use. Different essential oils bring different qualities and are actually beneficial to your skin. Including essential oils in your hand sanitizer recipe can help to fight bacteria, as well as leaving your hands feeling refreshed. If you want to experiment with scent combinations, it’s a good idea to buy sets of essential oils, instead of the individual bottles, like this Premium Essential Oil collection, £15.99.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is ideal for use in hand sanitizers as kills several common bacteria and viruses responsible for causing illness. Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol which is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It’s also an antiseptic, so it helps treat minor cuts and scrapes, making it ideal for hard-working hands, or children’s hands.
Like tea tree oil, lavender is gentle on the skin. It has anti-inflammatory qualities and is also antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial. It also contains an antifungal agent to help keep fingernails in tip-top condition. Lavender oil is another great option for children.
Rose geranium oil
Geranium also has antiseptic properties, making it an effective aid to help with skin problems including cuts, burns, and ulcers. It’s also antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral so it’s ideal for use in your hand sanitizer recipe, especially if you favor a more floral scent.
The antibacterial properties of natural rosemary oil make this another great option for using in your hand sanitizer recipe. Rosemary oil has a refreshing herbal scent, and it too is antiseptic, antifungal, and antimicrobial.
Eucalyptus oil boasts a wide range of antimicrobial properties, making it a popular choice for commercially produced hand sanitizer recipes. Eucalyptus oil is also antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic, but it’s also one of the most potent antimicrobial oils, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for a more subtle fragrance.
Manuka oil is similar to tea tree oil and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help to soothe and protect your skin. It’s also a natural humectant, which helps to lock in moisture and keep hands feeling soft, as well as being a strong antimicrobial and antifungal oil. Manuka oil smells similar to tea tree oil but lighter and sweeter, with perhaps more floral notes.
Peppermint oil is antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral. It’s an extremely versatile essential oil and its use in medicine can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. If you want your hand sanitizer recipe to be minty fresh, then peppermint oil could be a great one for you – and as a bonus, if you add a couple of drops to your shampoo, the antiseptic properties combined with the cooling sensation from the peppermint can help soothe itchy scalps.
Thyme oil has antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties and is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics. The compound thymol is one of the strongest antiseptics that we have, and so it’s commonly found in medicines (looking at you, Vicks VapoRub). It’s also an antiseptic, so thyme oil is a great option for using on your hands, and has a fresh, herbal, and energizing scent. As a side note – the ancient Greeks loved the smell of thyme so much, that a popular compliment was to say someone smells like thyme!
Clove oil has a sweet and spicy smell, with fruity nuances. Its antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and antifungal – and the anti-aging properties of clove oil help to remove dead skin cells and promote blood circulation. Clove oil is another great option to add to your DIY hand sanitizer for hard-working hands and makes a great fall/winter option.
The distinctive warming, spicy, woody fragrance of cinnamon makes this an excellent essential oil to include in your hand sanitizer recipe in the winter. It has a long list of benefits and is also antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiseptic. It’s used in aromatherapy as a popular relaxant and it’s even claimed to boost brain function.
Lots of us love the refreshing, citrus smell of lemon, and as an antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal it’s a popular choice for soaps and other beauty products. Lemon contains lots of antioxidants and as such, it’s widely used to help promote a positive mood.
Extracted from the rinds of pear-shaped citrus fruits from bergamot orange trees, bergamot oil is an uplifting, fruity-smelling oil and is one of the best oils that support the central nervous system and soothe anxiety. It’s also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. Although be warned, the geraniol acetate within bergamot oil is also an aphrodisiac.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our DIY hand sanitizer tutorial. We have plenty of other fun projects here on Gathered, too. Why not keep those germs at bay by learning how to make soap at home, or perhaps you are tired of buying disposable masks – check out our how to make a face mask tutorial – the only thing you’ll have to decide is what fabric to use.
Main photography by Holly Spanner