The sad state of the hand sanitizer shelves at the downtown City Target

In our end-of-times days, when a coughing co-worker is an instant office pariah and the news alerts about coronavirus’s insistent push into the Pacific Northwest just won’t stop coming, stocking up on some extra hand sanitizer seems prudent.

Problem is, everyone else in town has had the same idea. Many stores around the metro area are sold out. Amazon can help, so long as you don’t mind a little light price gouging—the going rate on the site is around $40 for two eight-ounce bottles.

Or you could listen to zero waste guru Jenica Barrett, a former Portlander who decamped for a new job in Seattle about six months ago, and blogs at zerowastewisdom.com.

Now a home-based speech therapist, Barrett has been making big batches of DIY hand sanitizer over the last week, both to avoid buying single-use plastics that are destined for the landfill and because it’s cheaper and easier than the alternative right now.

Start with either rubbing alcohol, vodka or witch hazel, Barrett says—the first two meet the Centers for Disease Control criteria that hand sanitizer contain 60 percent alcohol in order to be fully effective. Both are hard to find in bulk, so you may not be able to avoid plastic bottling, but are much more readily available than Purell. Witch hazel is less potent, but can be found in bulk, Barrett says.

Next, add aloe vera, from a plant or that green, goopy gel you rub on a sunburn—besides its well-documented soothing tendencies, it also has anti-bacterial properties in spades, Barrett says. She also includes a soupcon of moisturizing oil, usually vegetable glycerin, which is derived from coconut and palm oil, and finishes it with a blend of essential oils, so it will smell nice—her picks are essence of orange, tea tree oil and cinnamon. (Find her complete recipe here.)

Barrett’s also keeping an eye on the proliferating tubs of anti-bacterial disposable wipes that are another hot item right now (Clorox wipes are currently out of stock on Amazon until mid-March.) Instead, she suggests washing down surfaces with soap and water and a towel, and then spraying a white vinegar based spray for an extra disinfecting punch, with orange and lemon oils to cut the scent.

 “We think about disposal wipes as being so much more clean, but we are putting those into the trash can, they are sitting in our house, and then you have to handle that trash and bring it outside,” Barrett says. “Whereas the towel goes into the laundry and goes through its own cleaning cycle.”

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