COVID-19 Tip for Health and Safety

We at Rick Davis & Associates hope that all of y'all make it through the coronavirus crisis healthy and strong.

Many of you have found (as we have!) that hand sanitizer is just about impossible to come by and when we have it, we are using it at a faster rate than ever before!

Hand sanitizer is essentially a form of alcohol suspended in a gel, and it is not that hard for you to make your own!

Alcohol has been used as an antiseptic since the 1300’s and hand sanitizer is on the Work Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicine (which are the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system).

So how do you make hand sanitizer? Here are some tips:

  1. Mix alcohol and gel in a 2 to 1 ratio (example 2/3 a cup of alcohol and 1/3 a cup of gel). The mixture needs to have at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
  2. What to use for gel?  Aloe vera gel works fine.  You can also use glycerol, if you have it on hand.
  3. What to use for alcohol?  Store bought hand sanitizers typically contain some combination of isopropyl alcohol and ethanol.

Ethanol is the alcohol found in booze, but don’t simply wash your hands with Whiskey!  The alcohol will evaporate too quickly, and it will not serve as a good antiseptic!  It needs to stay on your hands (or other surface you are cleaning) for at least 30 seconds. That’s why it needs to be mixed with gel.

Several different types of alcohol will work as long as the mixture is right.  Methyl alcohol (also called methanol or “wood” alcohol – don’t drink methanol.  It can cause blindness!), Ethyl alcohol (ethanol, the stuff in your booze) and propanol are all easy to come by. 

Remember that alcohol is basically an alkane that has a hydroxide ion in place of one of the hydrogen atoms.  The composition of Methane is CH4.  Methanol, or Methyl alcohol, is CH3OH.  Ethane is C2H6.  Ethanol is CH5OH.  Propane (the stuff that we use to heat our BBQ grill) is C3H8.  Propanol is C3H7OH.

Thus, you can use rubbing alcohol and gel to make your own hand sanitizer (which would be a lot cheaper than using Whiskey or Scotch!).

A final note… alcohol is desiccant (that is to say, it dehydrates things).  That is why the plastic parts on your 2 cycle fuel engines your weed whacker, leaf blower and tiller keep drying out if you make your own fuel mix with oil and gasoline straight from the pump (that gas has ethanol in it).  The fact that alcohol is a desiccant is also why you can get a bad headache after drinking too much… the ethanol dehydrates you!  So AFTER rubbing hand sanitizer on your hands for at least 30 seconds , you might need to use some moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out.

Hope this helps!

(written by a non-chemist lawyer who just happens to remember a little from Mrs. Dougherty's high school Chemistry II class)

Rick Davis


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