Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
As a self-diagnosed germaphobe, I never leave the house without a little spray bottle of hand sanitizer. After shaking hands, spritz. When I get off the subway, spritz. Buckling an airplane seatbelt—you get it. I apply hand sanitizer any time soap and water are unavailable. In the past few weeks, many others have jumped on the sanitizer train. Welcome.
Currently, we’re not only battling a virus: Many are competing with neighbors for their own supply of basic cleaning products like toilet paper, wipes, and hand sanitizer. Some are buying these items in such large quantities that grocery stores and pharmacies are having a hard time keeping them in stock.
As The New York Times recently reported, one Tennessee man purchased thousands of bottles of sanitizer and other antibacterial products from local stores to fuel his business as a third-party Amazon seller, listing them for infinitely higher prices than what he’d originally paid. Amazon banned him for price gouging; in an update posted days later, the man donated his product to a local church to distribute for free.
If you, like many others, have found yourself without a supply of hand sanitizer and want to have some for moments when soap isn’t available (say, at a trip to the grocery store), it is possible to make your own. According to an interview with Popular Mechanics, a cosmetic chemist recommends a ratio of three parts 99 percent isopropyl alcohol to one part aloe vera gel. However, it’s still challenging to know with absolute certainty that your ratio contains the right amount of alcohol—according to the CDC, effective hand sanitizer is at least 60 percent alcohol.
No isopropyl alcohol available at the store or online? In that case, it’s definitely best to skip the DIY version. While some distilleries have started producing their own sanitizers—ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, which is grain alcohol that we drink in beer, wine, and spirits, is also an approved product in commercial hand sanitizers—you shouldn’t reach for the bottle of vodka in your freezer to make a batch. After a number of people began tweeting that they planned to use Tito’s Vodka to make hand sanitizer, the company reminded users that their vodka is 80 proof, which is only about 40 percent alcohol.
While it’s good to have a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket right now. Rebecca Yellin, a New York City–based clinical dietician, told me that hand-washing (and thoroughly drying them after!) is still the most encouraged way to clean hands among medical professionals.
“I wouldn’t tell anyone to rely on homemade concoctions, as the alcohol mixed with the other liquid may end up diluting the alcohol and lowering the percentage,” explained Yellin. “If people can’t get hand sanitizer, they should focus on soap and water hand-washing, and avoid touching objects and their faces in public.”
As we endure this pandemic, let’s keep in mind that, according to the FDA, even commercially produced hand sanitizer does not eliminate viruses entirely. The CDC notes that hand sanitizers can (and should!) be used as a preventative measure when you can’t wash your hands—but only when you can't wash your hands.
If you have the means, consider donating money to your local food bank or relief organization, which are working to provide meals and groceries, supplies, and medical assistance to those in need. The best way to help your community is to search “food bank” and your zip code; we also have a great list of specific resources here.