Do It Yourself Hand Sanitizer
My social media pals around the U.S. are reporting empty shelves at their local grocery stores as late-to-the-party preppers stock up on what they deem to be the essentials when fighting a respiratory virus: over-the-counter medicines and basic first aid supplies.
The last time I experienced panicked buying shortages was in pre-Hurricane Irma Florida when I snagged one of the last packs of aloe-infused disinfectant baby wipes. It seemed like a small victory at the time when the weather forecast was downright harrowing.
After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new strain of coronavirus from Wuhan, China, a pandemic, and Italy failed to contain its initial outbreak, the United States government imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals entering from Europe and Asia. Large gatherings are being prohibited in many metropolitan areas and all sorts of events - business to religious to sports - are being canceled or postponed until the situation settles down.
Presumably, this virus will run its course just as any other virus has done.
Until then, it's important to skew the odds of not getting infected by any seasonal virus or bacteria that's floating around, just waiting for a new host to invade. One way to do that is to stay clean with simple soap and water.
When an infected person touches a doorknob or shopping cart handle, pathogens may be left behind. The next uninfected person who touches the same object may pick up the germ on the fingers. Washing at that point greatly reduces the chance of transferring the infectant to the fluids and soft tissues of the mouth, eyes, nose or an open wound.
Unless the germ is washed away or disinfected, it lies in wait for an opportunity to get inside you and start multiplying in a supportive environment. When the invasive colony grows large enough, it attacks the host body - you - and symptoms appear.
CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on the hands.
If soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% isopropyl alcohol content has been shown to help people avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
NOTE: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the number of microbes on hands quickly in some situations but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. A large enough volume of sanitizer must be used to be effective at killing germs and it needs to dry without being wiped off.
Hand sanitizers may not work well on hands that are heavily soiled or greasy. Handwashing with soap and water is recommended in such circumstances.
The time between when you pick up the disease-causing germ and when the first signs of illness appear is called the incubation period. This is a risky time because infected people probably don't know they are infected and may spread the disease unintentionally.
Isolation and quarantines are effective at slowing the spread of communicable diseases. As people realize they may be cooped up for a couple of weeks at home under a mandatory quarantine order, they are shopping with a vengeance and buying up sanitary products.
Here's how to empower yourself and make your own hand sanitizer. You will need a small bowl and a jar with a tight-fitting lid such as a glass canning jar with a metal ring lid.
2/3 Cup 70% Rubbing Alcohol
1/3 Cup Aloe Vera Gel
Essential Oil(s) or lemon juice for fragrance - optional
Put the rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel in the small bowl and mix until they are well-combined.
Mix in only a few drops of essential oil of your choice or lemon juice if you want a scented sanitizer.
For best results, use 70% rubbing alcohol with an isopropyl or ethanol base. Remember, the weakest dilution to be effective is 60% isopropyl alcohol. Some sources are recommending 99% alcohol for home-made sanitizers but more is not necessarily better in this case.
Isopropyl alcohol is a proven killer of microbial bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, higher concentrations aren't much more effective against these germs because there has to be enough water added to the isopropyl alcohol to destroy germ cells. This percentage of water needs to be at least more than 10% within the solution.
Research has found that a blend of 30% water with 70% isopropyl alcohol works best to eliminate pathogens. Water acts as a catalyst and is key to denaturing the proteins of cell membranes of vegetative cells. 70% isopropyl alcohol solutions breach the cell wall completely.
The water content also slows down evaporation and increases the surface contact time with the cell membrane. With a 91% or higher solution, the evaporation is instant and protein coagulates, greatly reducing the alcohol's effect. This is why a 91% solution takes longer to act and doesn't kill as many bacteria as does a 70% solution.
Bonus: the weaker isopropyl alcohol costs less!
Practice better living through safe hygiene to stay healthier longer, viral outbreak or no. In the words of German existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."
By Jean Broida