March 13, 2020: Can One Make Hand Sanitizer?

As the coronavirus makes its way to Tennessee, hand sanitizers and disinfectants are flying off store shelves. With the increased use and shortage of these products, people panic and misuse disinfectants or try to make their own hand sanitizer with dangerous ingredients not intended for skin application. Online recipes for homemade hand sanitizer include bleach, powder or liquid disinfectants, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and concentrated essential oils. While the Tennessee Poison Center strongly stands by the CDC recommendations for hand hygiene (washing with soap and water for 20 seconds at least), we recognize that the general population will still make hand sanitizer at home.


The CDC recommends that disinfectants must be greater than 60% alcohol to actively kill viruses. If you make your own hand sanitizer, do not use any harsh chemicals in your mixture. A reasonable recipe includes mixing only isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (90% or greater) with plain aloe vera without lidocaine. Isopropyl alcohol can still be incredibly drying and irritating to skin if overused. Homemade hand sanitizer should be used with caution. Keep these solutions labeled in containers that do not resemble drink containers and are out of the reach of children.


For public information about coronavirus, please call the TN Coronavirus hotline at 1-877-857-2945.


Prepared by Nena Bowman, PharmD, DABAT, Managing Director of the Tennessee Poison Center


The coronavirus is causing panic. Everyone has questions. The above recommendations will help those who found no hand sanitizer in stores. As for questions, the TN Poison Center has partnered with the Department of Health to provide an information line for the public with general coronavirus questions. This information line does not answer medical questions. This number is 877-857-2945. It is important that we maintain the Poison Center 800 number for health care providers and at home callers with poisoning emergencies only.  ds


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Donna Seger, MD

Executive Director

Tennessee Poison Center

Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222