How to make your own hand sanitiser using “Spiritus” pharmacy alcohol

This is a post for those who are a little more scientific amongst the Zurich Networking Group and cannot get any hand sanitiser at the local pharmacies or from elsewhere, or who simply have some “Spiritus” ( Pharmacy supplied alcohol rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit as it is known to as well by expats).

It is also because the Federal authorities seem to have a supply issue because stocks of ethanol seem to be quite low. Disinfectants are in short supply and you only need three or four ingredients to make your own hand sanitiser at home.

A word of warning – if in doubt, do not make it. Keep washing your wrists and hands properly with soap and water. 

Only use homemade hand sanitisers in extreme situations when hand washing isn’t available and do not use homemade hand sanitisers on children’s skin or on anyone with a skin condition.

Before usage, consider a patch test on a small area of your skin, to test for any sensitivities. If after 24 hours there has been no reaction then you should be good to continue usage.

The key to making an effective, germ-busting hand sanitiser is to stick to a 2:1 proportion of alcohol to aloe vera.

This keeps the alcohol content around 60 percent. This is the minimum amount needed to kill most germs, according to various government or trusted medical websites like the CDC in the USA.

What ingredients do you need to make hand sanitiser?

  1. 3/4 cup of Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol / surgical spirit (99 percent alcohol volume) – known in Zurich as “Spiritus” do NOT seek or use Brennspirit
  2. 1/4 cup of Aloe vera gel
  3. An essential oil, such as clove, tea tree oil or lavender oil, or you can use lime or lemon juice instead
  4. 40ml distilled water – optional for smoothness/creaminess


100 ml glass spray bottles (use an old one if you have one. Alternative short-term are plastic ones, this is because sometimes the essential oils can eat away at the plastic and leak into your handbag etc). 

Directions to make a home-made hand sanitiser 

  • Make the hand sanitiser in a clean space. Wipe down work surface or counter-tops with a diluted bleach solution beforehand.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before making the hand sanitiser.
  • To mix, use a clean spoon and whisk. Wash these items thoroughly before using them.
  • Make sure the alcohol used for the hand sanitiser is not diluted.
  • Mix all the ingredients thoroughly until they are well blended.
  • Do not touch the mixture with your hands until it is ready for use.

How to use hand sanitiser

Two things to be aware of when using hand sanitiser:

  • You need to rub it into your skin until your hands are dry.
  • If your hands are greasy or dirty, you should wash them first with soap and water.

With that in mind, here are some tips for using hand sanitiser effectively:

  1. Spray or apply the sanitiser to the palm of one hand.
  2. Thoroughly rub your hands together. Make sure you cover the entire surface of your hands, wrists and all your fingers.
  3. Continue rubbing for 30 to 60 seconds or until your hands are dry (yes longer than the guidance for washing your hands with soap and water).

It can take at least 60 seconds, and sometimes longer, for hand sanitiser to kill most germs.

What germs can hand sanitiser kill?

According to the CDCTrusted Source, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that meets the alcohol volume requirement can quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands.

It can also help destroy a wide range of disease-causing agents or pathogens on your hands, including the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

However, even the best alcohol-based hand sanitisers have limitations and do not eliminate all types of germs.

It loses effectiveness if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

This may happen after working with food, doing gardening work or playing a sport.

The home-made recipe is not 100% protection but will help you to protect yourself when you are on the move, cannot buy or access shop or pharmacy supplied products. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help keep you safe and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Swiss and other government health authorities still recommend hand washing whenever possible to keep your hands free of disease-causing viruses and other germs.

Federal Ethanol / Alcohol Supply Status Update – 6 April 2020Tages Anzeiger and the report that the Federal authorities released the national reserve stock when they privatised the Federal Alcohol Administration which became Alcosuisse.

Tens of millions of liters of alcohol were stored in tanks by the government, some of them in underground rock tunnels, in Schachen LU and Delémont JU. The government recognised in 2015 that if a pandemic occurred it needed a storage facility, Alcosuisse were given a temporary contract to manage the reserve. 

This expired in 2018 and never addressed, hence the need for some residents to make their own during the supply disruption in early to mid March. 

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