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I am trying to formulate a gel hand sanitizer for a thesis project. The sanitizer that I have right now is watery and will not gel. My teacher told me to change our formulation because it is not good. Our ingredients are ethyl alcohol, aloe vera gel, and lavender scent. What else could we add to this mixture to really "gel" the hand sanitizer?

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried adding a thickening agent such as agar, arrowroot, guar gum, carrageenan, gelatin, etc? $\endgroup$ – LDC3 Aug 11 '14 at 4:46
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According to the wikipedia article on hand sanitizers, polyacrylic acid and polyethelyne glycol are commonly used thickeners.

You could try any hydrophilic polymer if those aren't available. Cornstarch might even work if you dissolved it in the alcohol before adding the other ingredients.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you need a source of Polyethylene glycol from the grocery store, buy some miralax, it's an osmotic laxative and it's pure PEG. Might not be the right length for a good gel though. It will take a pretty high concentration to get a gel with any polymer though. $\endgroup$ – user137 Aug 12 '14 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 - one of the main advantages of polymeric thickeners is you need less to get a gel, compared to monomers or oligomers. As chain length increases, the chances of forming a percolating network go up for a given polymer mass concentration (for a polymer in a theta solvent). $\endgroup$ – thomij Aug 12 '14 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ I've never made a gel with PEG from miralax, but I know that if you follow the instructions on the bottle it won't make a gel, it all dissolves and the viscosity does not noticeably change. $\endgroup$ – user137 Aug 12 '14 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 - I believe you. But if you took an equal mass of ethlyene glycol in the same amount of water, it probably won't gel either. My objection was to your general statement that "it will take a pretty high concentration to gel with any polymer" - emphasis is mine $\endgroup$ – thomij Aug 12 '14 at 19:25
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One component that has gelling effect and is added to cosmetic products is hydroxyethylcellulose. It creates clear gel and is soluble in EtOH, but possibly not in highly concentrated. It is safe and inexpensive.

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