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Why making your own hand sanitizer is a bad idea

Why making your own hand sanitizer is a bad idea

Many South Africans have experienced shortages of certain products in supermarkets. Hand sanitizer is one of the most sought-after cleaning products at the moment and with many stores running out of stock, people have resorted to making their own at home. However, health experts and medical agencies are warning that this is not the best idea.

People have been using store-bought ingredients and recipes from social media to create their own hand sanitizers at home. While most people believe that alcohol-based sanitizers are effective, if they do not get the exact proportion of ingredients correct, these homemade products can give a false sense of security. Put simply, there is no substitute for commercially manufactured cleaning products or good old soap and water.

Experts agree that soap is the best sanitizer

The American Centres of Disease Control (CDC) is one of the world’s foremost bodies when it comes to contagious diseases. They state that washing your hands with soap and water is still more effective than using hand sanitizer - homemade or not. Furthermore, most of these homemade recipes could actually damage your skin and be harmful to your health.

Making an effective hand sanitizer at home is harder than the internet makes it seem. The concentration of chemicals needs to be precise, otherwise, the product will be useless and even hazardous. Most commercially manufactured sanitizers have undergone rigorous testing on human skin and contain the right amount of alcohol (at least 60%).

Hand sanitizer formulas are strict

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and national standards organisations, such as the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), have strict guidelines for the manufacture of detergents and sanitizers. These products are often designed for medical-grade applications and are effective in eliminating germs, bacteria and some viruses.

A homemade hand sanitizer is unlikely to meet these standards and, while it may kill germs, it will not eradicate any viruses such as Covid-19. The WHO recommends using denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and sterile water in the manufacture of effective products. These ingredients are not all readily available at pharmacies and supermarkets. Alternatives will also not suffice.

Similarly, many of the internet recipes call for the addition of essential oils, certain detergents and fragrances. These are not recommended as they are possible allergenics, they could dry out the skin and are ineffective against viruses. Only pharmacy-grade ingredients should be used in strict proportions. Any store-bought gels, disinfectants and detergents are simply not good enough.

What is the best alternative?

If you cannot buy hand sanitizer, the best alternative is to wash your hands with soap and water. The WHO still recommends washing your hands as one of the primary preventative measures against Covid-19. People should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, multiple times throughout the day - even if they haven’t left the house.

Secondly, people need to avoid touching their face in general. Whether you have hand sanitizer or not, this is the primary method of infection. Touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth is how the virus gets into the respiratory system. Soap and water is effective at breaking down the lipid-based exterior of viruses, so it remains your best bet.

There is simply no adequate alternative to soap or medical-grade hand sanitizers. IWESCO is a certified cleaning and sanitation company. We use tried and tested cleaning products when we disinfect spaces. Our expertise in the hygiene and cleaning industry has shown that there can be no shortcuts.

We have been certified as an essential business by the Department of Trade and Industry during the lockdown period. For general enquiries or to clean and disinfect your home, office or public space, do not hesitate to contact us today. Allow our trained professionals to sanitize your property and maximise your hygiene standards.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.


We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.


For more information on our offerings and insights into the latest industry news, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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