Elon Answers: You can make your own sanitizers

This is part of a series of articles featuring responses by Elon University faculty members to questions about the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) submitted by Alamance County community members.

I can’t find any hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other cleaning products. What substitutes can I use to clean my hands and household surfaces? Any thoughts on ‘homemade’ options circulating on social media?

The best way to wash your hands is with soap and water for 20 seconds. If you need to disinfect your hands and do not have access to a sink, you can use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer needs at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective against viruses.

Jen Kimbrough, assistant professor of public health studies

Homemade hand sanitizer can be just as effective, as long as it has the right amount of alcohol. To make hand sanitizer, use three parts rubbing alcohol and one part aloe vera gel. Mix and store in a squeeze or pump bottle.

You can also easily make other sanitizing products to clean your home. Bleach is effective for killing viruses. To make sanitizing wipes:

  1. Cut a roll of paper towels in half to make rolls roughly the same size as toilet paper.
  2. Put each half-roll of paper towels into an airtight container, such as a reusable plastic food container with a lid.
  3. In a separate container, mix 2 tablespoons of bleach with 2 cups of water.
  4. Pour 1 cup of the bleach mixture over each roll of paper towels. Seal the container.
  5. Use as needed.

For bigger cleaning jobs, make a bleach solution by mixing 1/3 cup bleach with a gallon of water. Use the bleach mixture with a scrub brush, sponge, or cleaning rag to clean large surfaces like sinks and bathtubs.

Do I need to sanitize my entire house? How much sanitizing is adequate?

Contact with people poses a much greater risk of transmission than touching surfaces. The CDC recommends we clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in our homes at least once a day, just to be safe. Any time items or people come in and out of your home, there is some possibility of exposure. Researchers have found that the novel coronavirus can live on surfaces such as cardboard for up to 24 hours and up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel.

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High-touch surfaces to clean and disinfect daily include:

  • Doorknobs;
  • Table surfaces;
  • Kitchen counters;
  • Bathroom counters;
  • Faucets and faucet knobs;
  • Toilets (seat and handle);
  • Light switches; and
  • TV remote controls.

Alcohol, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide are all effective sanitizers. Use store-bought mixtures or make your own sanitizing products.

What are your thoughts on having our regular house cleaners come to the house and clean? Is it better to clean the house yourself?

Any time you come into physical contact with other people, you increase your risk of infection. Because the coronavirus can be transmitted by people who are not showing symptoms, it is impossible to know who is infected and who is not. If you can clean your house yourself, that is the safest option.

Jen Kimbrough is an assistant professor of public health studies at Elon University. Contact her at jkimbrough@elon.edu.


To submit a question to our team of scientists, visit tinyurl.com/eloncovid19, email us at eloncovid19@gmail.com, or use social media with hashtag #eloncovid19. Answers will be published as available in the Times-News, at www.thetimesnews.com, and on Today at Elon.