Sometimes you can’t find commercial hand sanitizer in the store when you need it most.
Under most circumstances, it’s more effective to thoroughly wash your hands in warm soapy water than to use hand sanitizer.
However, when you are traveling on flights or public transport it’s not always easy to wash your hands with soap.
Hand sanitizer is a good alternative in this scenario. You can take hand sanitizer on to a plane in your hand luggage in travel size bottles.
This post teaches you how to make your own homemade diy hand sanitizer that to take with you on your next flight if you are unable to find any hand sanitizer gel in the stores.
We’ll also cover the TSA rules about taking it onto planes both in hand luggage and checked bags.
Let’s get to it.
Note: As of the 16th of March, 2020 the TSA has relaxed the rules around taking hand sanitizer on planes in hand luggage.
You can now take 12 oz of hand sanitizer in your carry on luggage. This can be in 1 large 12 oz bottle or multiple smaller bottles.
You currently don’t need to take hand sanitizer in a travel-size bottle.
Crucially for this page, this relaxed rule also applies to homemade DIY hand sanitizers.
This new rules will remain in place until further notice.
Diy Hand Sanitizer Recipes
The World Health Organization has published this guide to making hand sanitizer.
There are also many homemade recipes doing the rounds. Be careful of any recipes called “natural hand sanitizer”, it may not be powerful enough to kill viruses.
In order to make a hand sanitizer, you need 2 main ingredients. You require something to kill the germs and a humectant or emollient to stop your skin from drying out.
For the disinfectant, it’s common to use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. This is commonly available in the US. In some other parts of the world, you might find it easier to find ethanol or surgical spirit in other countries.
There are some recipes out there for natural hand sanitizers that don’t include alcohol. While these might help to some extent they are not recommended. Hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol to make sure viruses are killed and the disinfectant is effective.
In fact, some store-bought hand sanitizers have alcohol concentrations that are less than 60% alcohol and could be ineffective against colds, flu, and coronavirus.
While you could just use pure rubbing alcohol it’s harsh on your hands. That’s why most recipes mix the alcohol with something to soothe the skin.
The options for this are aloe vera gel or glycerol (glycerine is a brand name for glycerol). Glycerol is often used as a food additive and also used in the cosmetics industry to increase skin hydration.
Some recipes suggest adding essential oils to the mixture to add a pleasant scent. We don’t recommend adding any extra oils unless you are 100% sure nobody who uses the homemade sanitizer has an allergy to the essential oils.
Steps To Make DIY Hand Sanitizer Gel For Travel:
- Take 2 parts 91% rubbing alcohol (or stronger)
- Take 1 part aloe vera gel
- Mix together in a bowl
- Fill a travel size squeezable bottle that is smaller than 3.4 oz or 100 ml
- Label the bottle so the TSA security officer can see what it is
The rubbing alcohol must be at least 91% alcohol so that the final alcohol percentage is greater than 60% which mixed with the aloe vera gel. If you can’t find strong isopropyl alcohol then use less aloe vera gel. However, these formulations might be drying for your skin.
Steps To Make DIY Hand Sanitizer Spray For Travel:
- Take rubbing alcohol with a minimum alcohol percentage of 75%
- Add 1.5 ml glycerol to 98.5 ml rubbing alcohol
- Mix together in a bowl.
- Fill a travel size pump spray bottle that is less than 3.4 oz or 100 ml using a funel
- Make sure the spray bottle has a cap to prevent accidental pressing on the pump
- Label the bottle so TSA agents know what is inside.
Keep in mind that hand sanitizers are less effective if your hands are greasy, oily, or dirty. Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water when you get the opportunity.
Some health experts don’t recommend making your own sanitizer, this is mainly because they are worried you’ll end up with a product that is ineffective.
Hand washing is a priority even if you have a store-bought hand sanitizer.
Is Homemade Hand Sanitizer Effective?
So long as your mixture is 60% alcohol your diy sanitizer will be effective…
But only if you use it correctly.
Make sure you check this video so you know how to properly use hand sanitizer:
Travel Size Bottles For Diy Hand Sanitizer
If you are bringing your own homemade hand sanitizer onto a flight in hand luggage it will need to be in a travel size bottle that is under 3.4 oz or 100 ml. Don’t fill the bottle all the way to the top you need to allow a little space for the liquid to expand or contract due to changes in air pressure.
Since hand sanitizer is a liquid you also need to pack it inside your clear plastic quart toiletries bag.
Some people like to use a bottle with a pump dispenser. If you choose a bottle like this then make sure it has a cap to stop the liquid being spilled while it is in your bag,
Other people have used bottles with rolling ball dispenser like a roll-on deodorant.
Your best option might be your old empty travel-size hand sanitizer bottle so don’t throw it away if empty.
You might have read that alcohol over 70% percentage is banned on planes. This is true only for alcoholic beverages. You can take rubbing alcohol that is stronger than 70% without a problem.
Homemade Hand Sanitizer In Checked Luggage
Since the principal ingredient of homemade hand sanitizer is isopropyl alcohol I think it’s safe to assume the same rules apply.
Isopropyl alcohol is flammable and the FAA doesn’t want you to take bottles that are greater than 18 oz in your checked luggage. You also can’t take more than 70 oz in total.
The same rules will apply to diy hand sanitizer for safety. The FAA don’t want checked bags filled with large quantities of flammable liquids in the aircraft hold area.
Safety While Mixing Your Recipe
Please avoid making your own hand sanitizer in large batches.
This post is not about industrial production, I strongly advise against handling large quantities of flammable liquids for safety reasons.
It is possible to make your own hand sanitizer that is equally effective as a store-bought hand sanitizer.
However, hand-sanitizer alone is perhaps not the best way to stop picking up germs while in airports or sitting in planes.
A sanitizer product is only a tool in your toolkit. Your flight packing list should also definitely include antibacterial wipes. You can use them to wipe down your tray table and armrest.
If possible consider getting up early and flying on the first flight of the day. Airplanes are usually cleaned and disinfected overnight, the first flight of the day is when the plane will be cleanest.
Also, handwashing with soap and warm water is still important EVEN if you use hand sanitizer. Wash your hands when you have the opportunity.
Often viruses are spread through coughing and sneezing. It won’t matter how clean your hands are if you are sitting next to someone who is putting out droplets of a virus into the air.
I’d also pack pocket tissues not only for yourself but in case you end up sitting next to someone who is not sneezing or coughing into a tissue. You can offer them some of your tissues.
Above all please don’t panic too much about viruses on planes. Yes, airports and planes are a danger zone. Take sensible precautions but panic and hysteria won’t help anyone.