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Supply of Ethanol for Hand Sanitizer

When it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, nothing beats good old-fashioned handwashing. But if water and soap aren’t available, your next best option, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. At present, alcohol-based handrubs are the only alternative means for rapidly and effectively inactivating a wide array of potentially harmful microorganisms on hands.

The potential for the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Africa is a great concern for all African Governments, and many are implementing active measures to slow the infection rates. These include travel restrictions, social distancing, face masks and hand sanitizer stations.

There is a global shortage of hand sanitizer due unprecedented demand created by COVID-19. However, with the right supply of ethanol, it is a simple product to make. It is also substantially cheaper to manufacture your own hand-sanitizer.

The World Health Organisation (or “WHO”) has produced a practical guide to produce hand sanitizer in Africa: Guide to Local Production: WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations.

A simple preparation of 10 litres of hand-sanitizer requires:

  1. Ethanol 96%: 8333 ml

  2. Hydrogen peroxide 3%: 417 ml

  3. Glycerol 98%: 145 ml

Labelling should be in accordance with national guidelines and should include the following:

  1. Name of institution

  2. WHO-recommended handrub formulation

  3. For external use only

  4. Avoid contact with eyes

  5. Keep out of the reach of children

  6. Date of production and batch number

  7. Use: Apply a palmful of alcohol-based handrub and cover all surfaces of the hands. Rub hands until dry

  8. Composition: ethanol, glycerol and hydrogen peroxide

  9. Flammable: keep away from flame and heat

Production and storage facilities:

  1. Production and storage facilities should ideally be air conditioned or cool rooms. No naked flames or smoking should be permitted in these areas.

  2. WHO-recommended handrub formulations should not be produced in quantities exceeding 50-litres locally or in central pharmacies lacking specialised air conditioning and ventilation.

  3. Since undiluted ethanol is highly flammable and may ignite at temperatures as low as 10°C, production facilities should directly dilute it to the above-mentioned concentration. The flashpoints of ethanol 80% (v/v) is 17.5°C.

  4. National safety guidelines and local legal requirements must be adhered to the storage of ingredients and the final product.


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