Food Safety in the Time of COVID-19: Say NO to hand sanitizer DIY

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates hand washing with plain soap and water as the best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick. Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; after handling any food or food package and before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. Only if soap and water are not available does the CDC recommend an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

If you can’t find hand sanitizer, should you make your own? The internet abounds with information on DIY sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer but the CDC cautions against making your own wipes or alcohol hand sanitizer. Why?

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water hand washing against certain types of germs; really nasty organisms like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile aren’t killed by alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. While studies show that hand sanitizers can work well in clinical settings like hospitals, situations where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitizers don’t appear to work well when hands are visibly dirty or greasy and contaminated with food residues.
  • More recently, studies have shown that homemade or DIY hand sanitizers don’t contain the right ingredients in the right proportions to be effective.  And there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer.

So, a homemade hand sanitizer may not be effective, may not actually kill germs, and may cause harm. All signs point to hand washing with soap and water as an excellent way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick. Dr. Mindy Brashears gives the best demo EVER on proper hand washing. Enjoy the video. Stay well and food-safe. Barb