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Why you shouldn’t make your own hand sanitizer at home

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many shortages in the shops. Toilet paper, canned foods and cleaning products have become highly sought after. Many people have experienced shortages of soap and hand sanitizer, and as a result, have resorted to making their own at home. This, according to health experts and medical organisations, is unwise and can actually leave you more exposed to the Coronavirus.

The internet is awash with homemade recipes for hand sanitizer, using store-bought ingredients. As most people know, alcohol-based sanitizers are the most effective in protecting against COVID-19, however, this does not mean that simply mixing alcohol with fragrances and gels will create an effective hand sanitizer. There simply is no substitute for commercially made sanitizers or simple soap and water.

Health experts urge people to wash hands with soap and water

Washing hand with soap and water

Medical organisations have agreed that the most effective way to clean your hands is with simple soap and water. The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that using soap and water is still more effective than commercial alcohol-based hand sanitizers. They have also warned that making your own cleaning products at home could put you at more risk of contracting the virus through a false sense of security.

People are more likely to touch their faces and spread the virus if they believe that they have disinfected hands. Homemade hand sanitizers are ineffective and can even dry out your skin or lead to chemical burns. The ratio of chemicals in these products needs to be precise and strictly controlled, otherwise the sanitizer is useless. All commercially available cleaning products have undergone rigorous investigations and skin reaction tests.

Hand sanitizers need to meet strict standards

Homemade hand sanitizer

These sanitizing products are also subject to standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and national bureaus, such as the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). The guidelines set by these organisations ensure that products are safe for use and effective in their purpose. 

A homemade hand sanitizer is not likely to meet these standards. Commercial soaps and sanitizers use medical-grade ingredients, such as isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and sterilised water. Most of these ingredients are not available in a supermarket or pharmacy, and any store-bought replacements are not good enough.

Many of the recipes found on the internet say that essential oils and fragrances should be added to the product. These ingredients are actually not recommended by the WHO as they can cause allergic reactions, dry out the skin and have no purpose in protecting against viruses and bacteria.

Effective protection against COVID-19

Woman putting on a face mask

The WHO still recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. This is the most effective way to clean your hands. It should be done many times throughout the day, even if you have not left your house as the virus can remain on certain surfaces for a number of days.

Another effective way to slow the spread of the virus is to wear a face mask when venturing out into public. Most health organisations are in agreement that wearing a face covering will catch any heavy droplets that contain the virus. People can be infected and show no symptoms for up to two weeks. Wearing a face mask will protect others around you and minimise community-based transmissions.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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