How to make homemade hand sanitizer that actually works

I’ve never been much of a hand sanitizer person. I’ve always opted for good old-fashioned soap and water over hand sanitizer. And maybe you’ve been the same way. But with COVID-19 sweeping across the country right now, I think it’s time to hop on the hand sanitizer train. Here’s why…

Washing your hands is the top way to prevent COVID-19. But you’re not always near a sink. And during those times, hand sanitizer could be a literal lifesaver… for you or someone else you come in contact with.

Now, it’s no secret that hand sanitizer is flying off store shelves faster than they can restock it, so making your own is the best way to get your hands on some hand sanitizer ASAP. That said, making your own anything can go seriously awry. You could use the wrong recipe, buy the wrong ingredients, take the wrong advice and end up with sanitizer that doesn’t do much sanitizing.

That’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to protect yourself and those around you from something as serious as coronavirus. So, here’s what you need to know if you want to make a safe, effective homemade hand sanitizer in the comfort of your own home…

Critical tips for making your own hand sanitizer

The number of ingredients you need to make your own homemade hand sanitizer is surprisingly small. You just need isopropyl alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oil. But before you start haphazardly mixing these three ingredients together, there’s something important you need to know…

The concentration of alcohol you buy and the ratio of aloe vera gel to alcohol you use is critical. If the amount of alcohol in your formulation isn’t right, the sanitizer won’t be as effective as it needs to be. You need to buy alcohol that’s 91 to 99 percent alcohol volume. You also need to stick to a 2:1 ratio of alcohol to aloe vera. Here’s why…

You want the alcohol content of your hand sanitizer to be around 60 percent. When you add aloe vera gel to 91 to 99 percent isopropyl alcohol, you dilute it to about that amount. If you were to buy alcohol with a lower concentration, like say 70 percent, the aloe vera would dilute it and your hand sanitizer wouldn’t be strong enough. Similarly, if you were to add more aloe vera to your recipe than you should, your hand sanitizer wouldn’t be strong enough.

Also, here’s a quick note about choosing an essential oil for your homemade hand sanitizer…

Tea tree oil is a great choice for hand sanitizer because it has antibacterial properties. But if tea tree oil’s smell is too earthy for you, there are other antibacterial options. Lavender oil also has antibacterial properties. Plus, it has a calming effect which, let’s face it, we could all use right now. Clove, eucalyptus and cinnamon oil all have antibacterial properties as well.

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A simple, homemade hand sanitizer recipe

So, now that you understand the importance of buying the right alcohol and using the right ratio of ingredients, here’s a recipe you can use to make your own hand sanitizer:


  • 1 cup of 91-99% isopropyl alcohol
  • ½ cup of aloe vera gel
  • 15 drops of tea tree oil (or another essential oil of your choosing)


  1. Add all of your ingredients to a bowl. (If you choose one with a pouring spout, you’ll thank yourself later, because you need to pour it into bottles. You could also use a funnel).
  2. Mix together with a spoon first, then grab a whisk and beat to a gel consistency.
  3. Put the sanitizer in a bottle of your choice and add a label that says “hand sanitizer” so no one thinks it’s something they can eat or drink.

A few more tips for making (and using) homemade hand sanitizer

It’s important to mention that you should take extra hygiene measures while making the sanitizer too. Clean off your counters beforehand. Wash your hands. Make sure the utensils, bowls, and containers you’re using are as clean as possible. And don’t touch the sanitizer before you put it into your bottle.

As far as using homemade hand sanitizer correctly goes, there are a few rules of thumb you should follow….

When you can wash your hands, it’s always better than using hand sanitizer which can harm your skin with too much use. Also, you need to use at least 3 milliliters (a little more than half a teaspoon) of sanitizer and rub the sanitizer on your hands for at least 25 to 30 seconds for it to be effective.


Hopefully, following this advice will help you stay safe and healthy during these crazy times. We’re all in this together. Let’s keep making wise, thoughtful decisions that protect ourselves and those around us.


  1. Fight COVID-19 on the go with homemade hand sanitizer — Popular Science
  2. Guide to Local Production: WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations — World Health Organization
  3. How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer — Healthline
  4. Can essential oils treat a UTI? — Medical News Today
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and