Ask the Pharmacist: How to make your own hand sanitizer

Suzy Cohen
A person squirting some hand sanitizer onto their hand from a bottle.

As fear of coronavirus COVID-19 spreads across the United States, many people have started buying hand sanitizer. But this product is already sold out in a lot of stores and the prices online have skyrocketed due to sellers acting very opportunistically. It’s a supply and demand issue and now that everyone wants it, they can take advantage of you.

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Today, I’m offering you alternative methods to sanitize your hands and cell phone cases, door knobs, buggy handles, and whatnot. I have a more detailed version of this article that I can email to you after you sign up for my free newsletter at

Do not spray any of these on your face, or near your eyes because it will burn. These are intended as recipes for external application only.

Here are some of my best ideas to make a home-made hand sanitizer and the essential oils I mention all have some degree of activity against pathogens. 

Rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel, ingredients to make hand sanitizer, March 3, 2020 in White Plains.

Hydrogen peroxide

You can buy three percent hydrogen peroxide pretty much anywhere still. Put this in a spray bottle and use it like you would hand sanitizer. If you want to make it last longer, dilute it with a little water.

Tea tree essential oil

Combine 10 drops of essential oil of tea tree and mix with approximately four ounces of water and put into a spray bottle. If the scent is too ‘antiseptic’ for you, you can certainly add some other essential oil that you like such as lemon or lavender, both of which offer even more anti-bacterial and anti-viral benefits.

Eucalyptus in aloe vera

Pour out one ounce of aloe vera gel or juice into a four ounce spray bottle. You can use either in my opinion, and I’ve done that myself. The aloe juice is technically drinkable, but the reason it might be okay for your spray bottle is because it is less viscous, so it goes into solution very nicely. I’ve made my own home made facial toners using aloe vera juice (not gel). The gel is fine too, it’s just thicker and it’s sold for external use. Either way, the next thing you do is add 10 drops of essential oil of eucalyptus and finally, fill the bottle to the top with water.

Distilled white vinegar

Many of you have bottles of plain vinegar in your home to use as a cleanser, or in recipes. You can buy about a gallon of this stuff for $5 or so! Vinegar is a great disinfectant and is known to destroy many gram-negative bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens. If I were making this, I would add five drops each of patchouli, lemongrass, tea tree and thyme.

Rubbing alcohol

If the stores run out of everything, you can always use rubbing alcohol to kill germs. I recommend you dilute by about 50 percent with water and to cut down on the alcohol scent add some essential oil of eucalyptus, lemon or orange.

Colloidal silver

We all know that silver was the antibiotic of choice for years until proprietary drugs became available. Silver is a strong antibacterial. You can buy a bottle of colloidal silver and use it at 100 percent strength in your spray bottle. Don’t dilute it. I’d personally recommend that you add 5 drops each of clove and eucalyptus to the silver.

I want to make sure that you realize that hand sanitizers do not kill COVID-19. Nothing I say here is to be misconstrued as medical advice and do not delay seeking medical attention if you have respiratory symptoms. 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit