Most South Africans will now be accustomed to using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, often daily, to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
In light of the pandemic, hand sanitising stations are everywhere to be found, including the entrances of malls, stores, offices, parks, and any spaces in which large numbers of people congregate.
However, studies have found that many of the sanitisers used and sold in shops in South Africa do not meet the required criteria to neutralise the virus.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an alcohol-based hand sanitiser must have 70% or more alcohol to be effective against Covid-19.
The Centre for Disease Control in the US recommends a slightly lower proportion of at least 60%.
A recent analysis of the alcohol content of 50 commercially available liquid and gel-based hand sanitisers used and sold in public spaces and shops revealed that less than half met the WHO’s criteria.
The study was done by Professor Yusuf Abdullahi Ahmed of the University of Pretoria’s Department of Zoology and Entomology and was recently published in the South African Journal of Science.
In the absence of appropriate quality control measures for hand sanitisers, Ahmed recommended that consumers use the WHO guide to prepare their own hand sanitisers as a better alternative to purchasing off-the-shelf products that are mostly sub-standard.
The WHO provides a detailed guide and formula for manufacturing alcohol-based hand sanitiser for bulk local production.
Its list of ingredients include:
7,515ml isopropyl alcohol (99.8%) or 8,333ml ethanol (96%)
417ml hydrogen peroxide
sterile distilled or boiled cold water
Most of the ingredients mentioned above can be bought from pharmacies or specialised online retailers.
WHO’s recipe is primarily intended for cases where larger quantities might be needed.
For a smaller batch for home use, Healthline spoke to Jagdish Khubdchandani, an associate professor of health sciences at Ball State University, for tips on making hand sanitiser.
Based on his formulation, you can make hand sanitiser using these ingredients:
Two parts isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (91-99% alcohol volume)
One part aloe vera gel
A few drops of essential oil, like tea tree oil or lavender oil, or lemon juice
To ensure your solution has a sufficient alcohol level, you must stick to a 2:1 proportion of alcohol to aloe vera.
Once you have all your ingredients, Khubdchandani provided these steps to making the sanitiser:
Make the hand sanitiser in a clean space. Wipe down countertops with a diluted bleach solution beforehand.
Wash your hands thoroughly before starting
To mix, use a clean spoon and whisk. Wash these items thoroughly before using them.
Make sure the alcohol used for the hand sanitiser is not diluted.
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly until they’re well blended.
Don’t touch the mixture with your hands until it’s ready for use.
Once you have made your hand sanitiser, you must apply it properly to be effective.
Healthline advised the following to ensure the hand sanitiser can do what it is intended to:
Spray or apply the sanitiser to the palm of one hand.
Thoroughly rub your hands together. Make sure you cover the entire surface of your hands and all your fingers.
Continue rubbing for 30 to 60 seconds or until your hands are dry. It can take at least 60 seconds, and sometimes longer, for a hand sanitiser to kill most germs.
In any event, hand sanitisers might not work if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, Healthline states.
In addition, it is important to note that proper hand-washing is considered to be more effective than using hand sanitisers.