Hand sanitizer is impossible to find around me and I have 4 family members who are essential and not around a sink or soap during their work day (delivery drivers), and they are out. I make a lot of soap, shampoo, lotions, things like that and I thought hand sanitizer would be easy - but I was WRONG. I have 99% anhydrous isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. Tonight I weighed everything to make it 70% IPA and 30% aloe vera gel. It formed these solid squishy jelly clumps and didn't form a gel at all. What am I doing wrong? I added the IPA in kind of slow, but was stirring the whole time. I saw all these YT videos of people doing this and their gel/IPA combination makes a perfect gel. HOW?! I'm thinking about adding some HEC to help thicken it but am not sure to how it will react. Ideas?

  • $\begingroup$ I think the better method that's not clumpy requires glycerin $\endgroup$ – Cody Aldaz Apr 17 '20 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but given the current pandemic I voted to close all questions about sanitizers as personal medical questions. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Apr 17 '20 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ If your delivery drivers don´t finger their nose or eyes, the already very low chance of getting corona via smear infection becomse zero. And believe me, if you work outdoors, in a dusty delivery van carrying packages, you have internalised to not rub your eyes before you have washed your hands. DONT PANIC. $\endgroup$ – Karl Apr 17 '20 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ Err, no, handwashing or handrubbing is important, especially if you have regular contact with non porous, high-touch surfaces such as door knockers or buzzers. The risk may be low, and there are other relevant mitigation measures, but having handrub to hand is one of the most effective in this scenario, so seeking to make some is a very sensible precaution and not panic. $\endgroup$ – eisd Apr 17 '20 at 11:57

HEC works ok, but it's not that easy to use. You have to hydrate in pure water for a few hours or more, ideally with stirring, and then incorporate the alcohol a little at a time with high shear mixing. You can use a blender, though it will incorporate a lot of air. If you use too much HEC, the "mother" gel (the HEC and water that will become 30% of your final product) will be very firm and it will be difficult to avoid lumps throughout, and the line is very thin between this and ending up with an unusually thin product. When I'm using this, I err on the thin side and use about 0.8% w/w HEC, so the "mother" is 2.67%.

Some other polymers are much easier to work with if you can get hold of them, notably Sepimax Zen aka. GelMaker PH (Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6). These can be added directly to a 70% isopropanol or ethanol mixture and need no further ingredients to activate or correct the pH afterwards.

I have not tried aloe vera but I think it would be difficult to get a gel with 70% alcohol. I know lots of YouTubers and bloggers are recommending it. Success may depend on what other thickeners have been used in the aloe vera product. I've seen some videos where the result was the extremely thin liquid with a bit of stickiness that you would expect from the recipe.


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