Hand Sanitiser

How to Make 75% Alcohol Hand Sanitiser for COVID-19 Using Ingredients From Your Cupboards

With hand sanitiser shelves usually being empty in stores, we are left wondering what other options we have to get coronavirus off our hands when we’re out and about.

The first thing to do is understand why soap is always better than hand sanitiser. With that out the way, making your own hand sanitiser is a great option for when you don’t have access to soap and running water – if you can get your hands on some alcohol.

To destroy the virus, you need 60% to 80% alcohol in your hand sanitiser. Aim for 75% to be safe (more info).

Two of the most popular recipes are based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation. I prefer the gel version because it stays on your hands long enough to work it in for 20 seconds and does not evaporate before it’s job is done.

The first thing you need is some alcohol. This can be isopropyl alocohol or ethanol. They are different, but both get the job done. Note that vodka is not usually strong enough to kill the bugs. 80 proof means 40% alcohol. Your vodka would need to be at least 120 proof (60%) to have any chance of working (and you would have to use it neat).

The Usual Recipe (with Improvements)

This recipe is based on the standard gel recipe, but adjusted to be approx 75% alcohol. It also includes 3 essential oils (on advice from an aromatherapist) that add anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well as moisturise skin better. The recipe produces 100ml – it’s good to start with a small batch in case something goes wrong the first time.

The ingredients are:

  • 75ml 99% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol,
  • 25ml aloe vera gel (squeezed from a plant or store-bought),
  • Essential oils: 4 drops manuka, 2 drops lemon and 1 drop lavender (or 7 drops manuka or tea tree – use what you can get). Adjust these to your liking.

Alcohol is probably the hardest ingredient to get. Pharmacies may have tiny bottles of isopropyl alcohol. Hardware and art supply stores sell 1L bottles of isopropyl alcohol. Fireplaces companies sell ethanol (for ethanol burning fireplaces) – these come in 5L bottles, or possibly 200L drums. Industrial solvent companies sell alcohol and ethanol in various large sizes.

If your alcohol is weaker than 99% you can either increase the 75ml or let the alcohol percentage slip below 75%. To be safe, don’t let it go below about 65%.

Alcohol dries out your skin quickly. The aloe vera is there to put moisture back in. If you can’t get aloe vera, see the 2nd recipe below for other options. Don’t worry if you can’t get essential oils, the hand sanitiser will still work. It just won’t smell as good or moisturise quite so well.

Mix the ingredients like this:

  1. Pour the alcohol into a container (use a funnel so it doesn’t spill)
  2. Add the essential oils and stir lightly to dissolve
  3. Add the aloe vera gel and whisk the ingredients until they form a smooth gel
  4. Use a small amount of alcohol to sanitise your chosen bottle (a pump bottle that used to contain soap will work well) and wait for the alcohol to evaporate. Use a funnel to pour the sanitiser into the pump bottle and you’re good to go.

Can Vegetable Oils (Coconut, Olive, Sesame etc) Affect COVID-19 Virus?

Researchers are investigating whether coconut oil and sesame/olive oil can inactivate coronavirus cells. Oil stays on your hands long after the alcohol has evaporated. If the oils do break down virus cells then these oils don’t just negate the drying effect of the alcohol, they would make your hand sanitiser an even more effective and longer lasting defence against the virus.

How To Make Your Own Gel

If you prefer gel to liquid and can’t get aloe vera gel, you need another way to make a gel. The good news is you can make a gel from Xanthan Gum or Sclerotium Gum. If you can’t get those you could try arrow root or corn flour.

The ingredients are:

  • 75ml 99% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol,
  • 22ml distilled or boiled water,
  • 5ml (1 level tsp) coconut oil (or avocado oil, olive oil or glycerin/glycerol)
  • 1/4 tsp Xanthan gum (or Sclerotium Gum)
  • Essential oils: 4 drops manuka, 2 drops lemon and 1 drop lavender (or 7 drops manuka or tea tree). Adjust these to your liking.

Mix the ingredients like this:

  1. Put coconut oil in a small container (like a 1/4 cup measure) and warm until it melts
  2. Add Xanthan gum to coconut oil and stir gently until it forms a thick gel (takes a couple of minutes)
  3. Pour the alcohol into a separate container (use a funnel so it doesn’t spill)
  4. Add essential oils to alcohol and stir lightly to dissolve
  5. Slowly pour the alcohol and essential oils into the gel in small batches. Stir each batch constantly until the gel reforms before pouring in the next batch. Use a whisk attachment on a stick blender on low speed or an egg beater. A manual whisk will also work but will require more elbow grease. Do NOT use any kind of blade on a stick blender – this will chop the gel into tiny pieces and it will not be able to absorb the alcohol. Alcohol is highly flammable so avoid any equipment that could produce a spark. Continue adding the alcohol/oil to the gel in batches and stirring until the gel is smooth and properly formed.
  6. If you end up with gel floating in alcohol and the gel won’t reform no matter how much you whisk it, this means the gel is saturated and you need to add some more gel. Add 1/8 tsp Xanthan gum to 5ml water, stir until it becomes a thick gel, then mix the original solution into the new gel as per step 5 again.
  7. Use a small amount of alcohol to sanitise your chosen bottle (a pump bottle that used to contain soap will work well) and wait for the alcohol to evaporate. Use a funnel to pour the sanitiser into the pump bottle and you’re good to go.

Coconut oil is an excellent moisturiser. If you don’t have coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil should also work just fine. You can add more oil to the mixture if your hands feel too dry after using it. Be careful not to add too much oil, or the gel will take a long time to work into your hands and your hands will be quite oily afterwards – not ideal if you need to use a steering wheel after sanitising your hands.

If you can’t get Xanthan gum or Sclerotium Gum, try using other thickeners like arrow root or corn flour. Here’s a recipe for making gel from Arrowroot. These may form more of a paste than a gel, but it should still make your sanitiser thick enough not to evaporate while you rub it into your hands. It won’t be as pretty as store bought hand sanitisers but having 75% alcohol that stays on your hands for 20 seconds is all that really matters.

Flaxseed can also be used to make a gel. Put 300g flaxseeds and 2L water in a pot and bring to the boil. Simmer 10mins then strain through sieve. Cool to below 30 degrees, add the coconut oil and continue from step 3 above.


Isopropyl Alcohol and Ethanol are highly flammable materials. Make sure you prepare your hand sanitiser well away from any potential source of spark or naked flame. It’s also very important to label your bottle as being flammable, and don’t sanitise your hands anywhere near any potential source of spark or naked flame.


Ideally we would add 1% (i.e. 1ml) of Totarol k7 as a natural preservative but it may be hard to get hold of, so for now it’s simpler to make your hand sanitiser in small batches as you need it.

3% (3ml) of hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a preservative. It helps to inactivate contaminating bacterial spores in the solution. If you do use hydrogen peroxide then don’t include essential oils – it may cause them to oxidise/degrade.


The 2 most important things are:

  • Use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. That includes store bought hand sanitiser – check the label and get the highest alcohol content you can.
  • Only use hand sanitiser when soap and running water are not available.

Other than that, knowledge is power so stay informed, stay healthy and look after each other!

By the way, I reckon shorter queues (i.e. smaller crowds) at supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses will help reduce the COVID-19 infection rate. If you agree then ask Google to help us shorten the queues.


There’s a lot of info in Google about making hand sanitisers. Most of it using ingredients that are hard to find.

More recipes (with videos) for making different hand sanitisers:

WHO recipes:

Will vodka work? https://www.sciencealert.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-using-hand-sanitizer-against-coronavirus