We all know how difficult it is to get on hold of a small pot of hand sanitisers these days. Almost every pharmacy I went to displayed a huge sign on their counter, saying” no hand sanitisers in stock, don’t know when they will be back in stock”. I tried to buy it from Ocado, but gave up after 5 attempts. Every time when I was about to check out, their website suddenly remembered their hand santisers were out of stock 😢.
On a personal note, I was a postgraduate student studying biological science in my early twenties, I did 5 years of experiments in the university laboratory, so perhaps it might be worthwhile putting my rusty skills to work and making my own hand sanitisers.
After speaking to a pharmacist and also doing my own online research, I started to get the ball rolling and bought the ingredients: 1 bottle of surgical spirit and 1 bottle of aloe vera gel. After I showed off my purchase and explained the idea to the friends from my church one night, I noticed some of the older people had a sad look on their face. They didn’t say anything, but I realised soon afterwards that they didn’t have hand sanitisers, and they were the people who actually needed them the most. One lady in her 70’s suffers from COPD, lives on her own and has just recovered from a hip surgery, so there is no way she would have been able to make her way to the pharmacy.
After I came home that night, I thought perhaps I could do something. I went online and started looking for more ingredients, so I could make some more for them. Soon another question popped up in my head, how about our older customers in Westbourne, a lot of them probably didn’t have hand sanitisers, either.
Great, let’s make some more!
Step one: preparation–-a bottle of surgical spirit or rubbing alcohol ( size: 200ml or more, alcohol content: 90 percent or more), a bottle of aloe vera gel (size: 200ml or more), small travel bottles (size: 50ml or more), a measuring jug
The key point is that hand sanitizers can kill Coronavirus when the alcohol concentration is 60 percent or more, so you must get the alcohol content right.
Finding more surgical spirits / rubbing alcohol didn’t seem as easy as I thought. Ebay has quite a lot of sellers selling surgical spirits and rubbing alcohol, but after I visited some of the sellers’ websites, I didn’t feel comfortable buying from them. Some of them listed contradictive information on their product. For example, one of them stated that the ethanol (ethanol means alcohol) content was above 90 percent in the ingredients section. However, in another section, the alcohol content was listed as 70 percent. I tried to ring that seller but no one answered the phone, a voice message kicked in and said they were inundated with orders and therefore too busy to answer the phone or reply to emails. Furthermore, World Health Organisation also mentions on their website that pharmacopoeial quality reagents should be used and not technical grade chemicals for hand rub products. In view of this, I thought I would rather buy from pharmacies instead and I would recommend you to do so, too.
It seems like all the pharmacies hold regular stock of them, but stock quantity is low and get sold out quickly, but not as quickly as hand sanitisers. Before you buy, please check the alcohol content with the pharmacist. It is best to buy surgical spirit / rubbing alcohol with at least 90 percent alcohol or more , which cost roughly £4.99 for a 500ml bottle, or £2.49 for a 200ml bottle. If you buy the ones with 70 percent alcohol, you can only add a smaller amount of aloe vera gel to achieve the final result of 60 percent alcohol content, which means the final product will have less aloe vera gel and might be slightly more harsh to the skin. Please don’t use Vodka or whisky, as the alcohol concentration is too low.
Thankfully, the other ingredient, aloe vera gel, is easy to find. You can either buy the more expensive version of 99 percent aloe vera gel, or buy the cheaper version, the after sun aloe vera gel, which has often got a green color, less aloe vera content and is slightly more sticky but still works well. After all, the reason for adding aloe vera gel is because alcohol can really dry your hands out. Aloe vera gel acts as a moisturer in the hand sanitiser and protects your hands. I bought mine, a pot of 500 ml Calypso after sun aloe vera gel at the price of £2.49.
The key of this stage is planning. I was getting so excited about making hand sanitizers that I forgot all about planning. I ended up running around all morning like a lunatic. I went out at 9am and bought the aloe vera gel, and then I realised that I forgot to buy the travel bottles . After finishing the second shopping trip and then picking up the surgical alcohol from a local pharmacy, I suddenly I remembered that I needed a measuring jug, so I headed down to Bournemouth town centre. After that, soon it became apparent that I left my mobile in my shop and I needed more surgical spirit, silly me. It will save so much time when you plan ahead and grab everything in one trip.
Step two: making the hand sanitisers
Before you proceed, please make sure you wash your hands and the measuring jug thoroughly with soap and leave them to dry. If you are making hand sanitisers for other people, obviously you should be in good health, not have any cold or flu symptoms, and have not recently been to one of the worst hit Coronavirus areas. I am originally from China but I haven’t been back to China for 11 years.
Next step couldn’t be any easier. The whole process takes 1 minute. If your surgical spirit /rubbing alcohol has 90 percent alcohol or more, just add 2 parts of surgical spirit and 1 part of aloe vera gel to the measuring jug, mix it well. In my case, I aded 300ml of surgical spirit and 150ml of aloe vera gel. If you want it to smell nicer, you can also add 4 or 5 drops of scented essential oil such as lavender oil. A word of caution, surgical spirit and rubbing alcohol are highly flammable, so please keep away from heat, sparks and flames.
I had 450ml of final mixture in the measuring jug, so I filled 6 small bottles. Each bottle contained 90ml of hand sanitisers; they were runny, they didn’t have the gel look, because we used the after sun aloe vera gel which had less aloe vera than the 99 percent aloe vera gel. If you prefer the gel look, you will be better off buying the more expensive version of 99 percent aloe vera gel. Our Emma and Nina agreed to be my guinea pigs to test my first batch. Their feedback was good.
If you have rubbing alcohol/surgical spirit with only 70 percent alcohol, you need to make sure the ratio of rubbing alcohol / aloe vera gel is 9: 1, which means mixing 9 parts of rubbing alcohol with 1 part of aloe vera gel.
As you can see, anyone can make them, it is so easy and you really don’t need past experience of working in a laboratory . The most time consuming part is gathering the ingredients. In addition, in case young children might try to rub them in the eyes or anyone suffers from allergies from the ingredients, it is advisable to write down a list of the ingredients and also a word of warning on the bottle: flammable——-keep away from flame, don’t leave unattended with children, don’t swallow or use on broken skin or rub in the eyes.
Always bear in mind that soap and water is the best option, hand sanitiser is useful when you are out and about, but it is only the second best option. Sneezing or coughing into your hands also requires more than just a pump of hand sanitiser to disinfect them. This is because your hands might be contaminated with mucus which could provide the virus with some protection.
I heard an inspirational story from Wuhan, China. The local restaurants were devastated by the impact of Corona viruses, as they bought a huge amount of fresh food ingredients and employed extra staff members in anticipation of a very busy season ahead because of the Chinese New Year. Sadly, when the New year arrived, the whole city was in lock down and all the table reservations were cancelled. Instead of sitting in fear and feeling sorry for themselves, a lot of the restaurant owners decided to use up the food ingredients and cook meals for the doctors and nurses who had to work 16 hours every day, for people who didn’t have enough food at home. A lot of people in the city formed volunteer groups on social media and delivered the meals.
On the other hand, the fear of Coronavirus drives people into panic buying. I remember one psychol0gist mentions that behind all the panic buying, it is about ” taking back control’ in a world where we feel out of control.”
We could all sit in front of the TV, watch the news and feel more and more out of control. But there are others who are in a worse situation than us. By helping them, in a way, I feel that I am taking back control, but in a different way, in a way that has actually lifted me up.
The only thing is, due to limited resources and limited access to ingredients, we, as small business, can only offer free hand sanitisers for local customers over the age of 60 with next purchase (one per person while stock lasts, but if you are struggling financially, please let us know and you can have one without making any purchase). I am sure you lovely lot will soon be making your own for loved ones and the others in your neighbourhood, too 🙂
Love Scape xxx