VANCOUVER -- It may not be the first project that comes to mind when you think DIY, but an increasing number of people are looking it up.

Whether they're unable to find it in stores, looking to add a custom scent or trying to create a product with more moisture, several people are making their own hand sanitizer.

Recipes online are fairly simple, and often only require a few ingredients.

But do these handmade sanitizers work as well as store-bought brands? And is it worth the effort?

Here's a quick look at what experts are saying you should know before you get started.

Is it effective?

Most public health agencies recommend using any type of hand sanitizer – homemade or otherwise – only when soap and water is not an option.

Hand washing is the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus.

And the B.C. Centre for Disease Control emphasizes that even if your hands appear to be clean, they may still carry germs.

"Washing your hands not only prevents you from getting sick, it reduces the risk of infecting others," a post on the centre's website says.

Read the site's tips for when to wash, and the proper methods, on

The centre estimates as much as 80 per cent of common infections are spread by hands, and that washing at least five times a day significantly decreases that risk.

Hand sanitizers can reduce the number of microbes on the hands, but they do not eliminate all types of germs.

What should I know about hand sanitizers?

Most officials stress that alcohol-based products are the most effective at reducing microbes.

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control says in an article online that they can be very effective if used properly, but that many don't use a large enough amount, or wipe it off before it has dried. 

The products can be less effective if hands are dirty or greasy, and may not remove chemicals including pesticides and heavy metals.

Again, officials suggest it should only be used in addition to proper hand washing, but those who do use sanitizers are advised to be sure they're picking a product with at least 60 per cent alcohol.

The USCDC says studies show products with 60 to 95 per cent concentration are more effective than lower ratios, or non-alcohol-based sanitizers.

What's the right way to use it?

The USCDC says all surfaces of both hands need to be covered.

Start by spraying or pumping the sanitizer into the palm of one hand, and use the amount recommended on the label.

Then rub it all over the hands until the hands are dry.

Tips for making your own cleaners

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control wouldn't comment on the topic, but one of the most common "How do I make…" Google searches over the weekend was from those looking to create their own.

Many health officials caution against a do-it-yourself approach, as it's hard to ensure how much alcohol you're actually getting in each spritz. The alcohol may separate from other ingredients, and the maker may not have used enough to begin with.

But public health officers have offered the following tips:

  • For disinfecting surfaces at home, use a mixture of one part bleach, 10 parts water.
  • For alcohol-based sanitizers, make sure your solution is at least 60 per cent alcohol, so it is recommended the DIYer uses 99 per cent isopropanol alcohol. This can be mixed with water, glycerin, aloe gel, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, essential oils or other products.
  • Ideally, do not use vodka. Some blogs suggest it, but most health officials agree that the concentration of alcohol isn't strong enough. Some suggest using 180 proof spirits if necessary.