There has been a run on handsanitiser products at
There has been a run on handsanitiser products at many shops across South Africa. Photo: Jay Caboz
  • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is the best way to protect yourself against the novel coronavirus. 
  • When you can't access warm water and soap, hand sanitiser is the next best option.
  • But many stores across South Africa are selling out of or running low on sanitiser, as well as cleansing wipes for surfaces. 
  • Here's how to make your own hand sanitiser and cleansing wipes, according to a germ expert. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

First, it was face masks. Now it's hand sanitiser. Items that weren't valuable just a couple months ago are now coveted, hoarded, and flying off store shelves.

While public-health experts don't recommend healthy people wear face masks, you can make your own hand sanitiser and cleaning wipes should your local store run dry.

Business Insider talked to Miryam Wahrman, a biology professor at William Paterson University in the US and the author of "The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World," about exactly how.

Read: There’s a run on hand sanitiser in South Africa - but experts say it won’t entirely help against coronavirus

All you really need is alcohol, either isopropyl (rubbing) or ethyl (used in beer, wine, and spirits). As long as the solution is at least 60% alcohol, you can rub the liquid into your hands and let them air dry, then you'll have effectively sanitised them.

"The bottom line is that alcohol is the active ingredient" in hand sanitiser, she said. 

To make the experience a little gentler on your skin, you can moisturise after the alcohol has dried. You can also add a few drops of aloe vera to the rubbing alcohol, but make sure the liquid is over 60% alcohol so that the aloe doesn't dilute it too much. 

"If you drop below 60%, the effectiveness drops very dramatically," Wahrman said.

OregonLive recommends mixing two-thirds of a cup of 91% isopropyl alcohol with one-third of a cup of aloe vera. You can also add eight to 10 drops of scented oil if you want to smell nice. 

Ideally, you can forgo the hand sanitiser and just wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Handwashing, which removes germs from your skin, remains the best way to protect against the coronavirus and other pathogens. 

Hand sanitiser, by contrast, kills most germs but doesn't remove them from your skin, Wahrman said. 

"Handwashing is the most important first step, and you shouldn't be bashful about it," she said.

You can use rubbing alcohol and a tissue in place of name-brand disinfecting wipes.

Alcohol is also the key ingredient in disinfecting wipes To make your own disinfecting wipes, simply take a paper towel or tissue, dab it in rubbing alcohol (or any type of solution that is at least 60% alcohol), and wipe down whatever surface you'd like to clean.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Wahrman did this to her phone daily. She also does it to remote controls when travelling. 

After cleaning her phone with an alcohol-moistened tissue, "it looks nice and squeaky clean," she said, adding, "And I know most of the germs I've picked up along the way have been killed and somewhat removed."

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More on hand hygiene - here.  

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