Hand sanitizer is a hot commodity these days. Whether your area has experienced a hand sanitizer shortage or not, there’s no doubt that it can be more difficult to find right now and more expensive as well.
Did you know you can make your very own hand sanitizer with some high-proof vodka and ingredients you probably already have at home? It’s true. And, it’s probably easier than you think.
We’re going to take you through the science behind why hand sanitizer is made with alcohol, and we’ll give you a few easy-to-follow recipes, so you can get started making your own hand sanitizers at home.
Why is vodka used in hand sanitizer?
If you’re looking at the list of ingredients on a bottle of hand sanitizer, chances are you won’t see vodka on there. But, you will probably see some kind of alcohol, like ethanol or isopropanol. Alcohol has antimicrobial properties, and in the right concentration, can destroy germs, like viruses and bacteria.
Alcohol kills germs through a simple process called denaturation. Denaturation occurs when alcohol molecules bind with the fat membrane encasing a virus or bacteria cell. As the fat membrane is broken down, the inside of the cell becomes exposed. It starts to dissolve, and the cell quickly dies. This is similar to what happens when we wash our hands with soap and water.
The most widely used alcohols in hand sanitizers are ethanol and isopropanol. Ethanol is chemically the same as drinking alcohol, so vodka is a good substitute for it. Isopropanol is commonly referred to as rubbing alcohol. In general, ethanol is more powerful than isopropanol, depending on what kind of microbe you want to kill.
You won’t be able to make an effective hand sanitizer with just any type of vodka. The CDC recommends an alcohol concentration of between 60% to 90% for disinfection purposes. Thus, you’ll need a high-proof vodka to make your sanitizer effective against viruses and bacteria.
Can drinking alcohol help fight off infection?
If alcohol kills germs on your hands, surely it can kill germs that are already in your body, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t really true. Drinking alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, whiskey, or even vodka won’t help your body fight off sickness as much as we might wish it would.
When you drink, the concentration of alcohol that enters your bloodstream isn’t enough to kill germs effectively. This is true even if you drink to the point of alcohol poisoning (which we obviously don’t recommend). Ingesting any kind of sanitizer isn’t a good idea, either. It can lead to seizures, coma, or even death. So, next time you feel a cold coming on, drink some orange juice instead of hitting the bottle.
Most alcohol by itself isn’t really effective at killing germs on hands or household surfaces, either. Most alcoholic drinks, like wine and beer, contain alcohol concentrations between 5% and 30%, which is not nearly enough to kill germs. Even liquors with high alcohol concentrations, like vodka, aren’t formulated to remain on your skin or surfaces long enough to kill germs. On its own, vodka evaporates too quickly to be effective. However, when mixed with other substances, it can be extremely effective at killing germs and bacteria.
How to make hand sanitizer with vodka
First, a disclaimer: hand sanitizer, especially a homemade one, should not be used in the place of handwashing. Handwashing will always be the most effective way to kill germs on the surface of your skin. However, if you’re traveling or are somewhere without access to soap and water, hand sanitizer is a great option to have in your back pocket.
The first step to making anything is to gather your ingredients. Most importantly, you’ll need a really high-proof vodka. As previously mentioned, a hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective against viruses and bacteria. Regular vodka usually only contains about 40% alcohol. When looking for a vodka to use in this recipe, get something with as high a proof as possible.
If you choose to follow the spray hand sanitizer recipe, get between 70% and 95% alcohol, or 140 to 190 proof. If you’re making the gel hand sanitizer version, choose vodka with at least 90% alcohol or 180 proof. Since the gel version will be diluted with aloe vera, it’s important to start with a high alcohol content to ensure that the final product is at least 60% alcohol.
Some high proof vodka options include:
Note: Everclear is illegal to purchase in some states, so just be wary.
For the spray hand sanitizer recipe, you’ll also need some vegetable glycerin for added moisture to mitigate the drying quality of alcohol. For the gel version, you’ll need aloe vera gel for your moisturizing base. Aloe vera gel will help thicken your hand sanitizer and will also keep your hands from drying out.
You may also choose to add some essential oils to your hand sanitizer. They add a nice scent, and some can even add extra antibacterial properties to your sanitizer. Examples of antibacterial essential oils include lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, and orange oils. However, we recommend skipping the essential oils if you have sensitive skin, as they can sometimes be irritating. Another completely optional step is to add a little bit of natural green dye, just for a pop of color.
Finally, you’ll need some containers to hold your hand sanitizer. They can be glass or plastic (if you’re using essential oils, only use glass, as oils can eat away at plastic.) For the hand sanitizing spray, you’ll obviously need a small spray bottle, and for the gel, you can use any kind of squeeze bottle with a secure cap. You can even use an empty bottle of hand sanitizer that you’ve already used up.
And that’s everything you need. Now, let’s get to the recipe.
How to make hand sanitizing spray with vodka
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- ½ cup high proof vodka (at least 70% ABV, or 140 proof)
- 1 tsp. Vegetable glycerin
- A few drops of essential oils (optional)
To begin, measure out your vodka into a clear container. We recommend a mason jar with a lid for easy mixing. Next, add your vegetable glycerin and mix well to combine. If using a mason jar, close the lid and shake well. If desired, add three to four drops of essential oils. But remember, if you add essential oils, your sanitizer must be stored in a glass container. Mix well.
Now, using a funnel, transfer your sanitizing liquid into a small spray bottle. Voila. You have a convenient, effective hand sanitizing spray made right at home.
How to make hand sanitizing gel with vodka
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- ½ cup high proof vodka (at least 90% ABV, or 180 proof)
- ¼ cup aloe vera gel
- A few drops of essential oils (optional)
- A few drops of natural green dye (optional)
To begin, measure and pour your vodka into a clean container. Add your aloe vera gel, and mix well to combine with a spoon. At this point, you can add your essential oils and dye if you’re using those. Mix well, and transfer into either a pump bottle or a squeeze bottle.
Benefits of making hand sanitizer at home
The main benefit to making hand sanitizer at home is that you know exactly what’s going into it. Sometimes, the ingredients in store-bought hand sanitizers can be harsh, drying, or even potentially toxic. Making hand sanitizer at home is a great way to ensure all the ingredients are as natural as possible.
Homemade hand sanitizer is also cheap to make. You most likely already have the ingredients in your home. One-fifth of vodka contains about three cups of liquid, meaning you can make six sanitizers following the recipe above. Talk about bang for your buck.
Finally, making sanitizer at home is convenient. You don’t have to go out and hunt for the last bottle on the shelf in the event of a shortage. Whip up your own batch at home in just minutes.
Now that you know how easy it is to make hand sanitizer at home, we guarantee you’ll want to do it all the time. Homemade hand sanitizer is effective, natural, cheap, and convenient. You’ll wonder why you’ve been wasting your money on store-bought sanitizers all these years.
And for all your wine, beer, and spirit delivery needs, you can count on Saucey. We offer speedy delivery and absolutely no order minimums. Whether you need a bottle of vodka to make hand sanitizer, or a bottle of wine to relax, we’ve got your back. Make sure to check out our blog for recipes, lifestyle tips, and more.