Amid the coronavirus outbreaks, people are prompted to look for other alternatives to guard against the spread of the infected disease as retailers run out of stock of masks and sanitisers across Singapore.
Lately, there have been posts and articles on social media feeds on making DIY hand sanitizers and sprays to prevent infection.
However, health experts stress that formulations of hand sanitizers and sprays that are not being done properly may cause severe health issues.
Fawn Labs Co-Founder Hann Chia, who is also a Certified Formulator posted on Facebook on 29 January to share how formulations should be rightfully done for DIY hand sanitizers and sprays and why having good personal hygiene practice beats relying on hand sanitisers — or worse those that are self-made.
She listed out the commonly used ingredients for the formulations, which include distilled or purified water, solubilizers, Xanthan gum, preservatives, essential oils, Isopropyl alcohol, and Ethyl alcohol.
In the post, Ms Chia stressed on the importance of solubilizers and preservatives in the formulations.
Sprays or sanitizers that do not contain solubilizer and preservative could cause the spreading of viruses, germs and bacteria without the person even realizing it, Ms Chia said.
“If you are unable to formulate properly or do not have the right ingredients, it is safer to buy ready-made products that have gone through proper formulating to ensure the products perform their desired functions,” said Ms Chia.
In terms of some myths about the formulations being shared on social media, she mentioned that vitamin E, Rosemary CO2, essential oils are not preservatives.
“You will need a broad-spectrum preservative to kill any contaminants in the form of viruses, bacteria, germs, mold, parasites in your formulations,” she added.
As for witch hazel, Epsom salts, and common alcohols, Ms Chia clarified that these are not solubilizers, thus will not be able to disperse oil evenly in a water-based formulation.
What happens when the formulation does not contain solubilizer and preservative?
Ms Chia explained that viruses and germs can spread if a sick person contaminates a spray or hand sanitizer that contains no preservatives. This is because water can be a breeding ground for the germs, mold, and bacteria, causing rapid microbial growth to occur.
“Incidentally, the Coronavirus is passed through droplets of water and suspected through fecal matter as well,” she said.
She further explained that solubilizers are needed to ensure the oil is being dispersed evenly in water. Without solubilizers, the oil will end up floating on top or clustered and concentrated in a small percentage of the entire product.
“When sprayed or applied, the essential oils will be unevenly spread with the possibility of not even having any essential oils in each spray, rendering the product completely ineffective,” Ms Chia stated.
She also added that sensitizing from essential oils can be risky when solubilizers are not present.
“When the amount you spray or dispense has a concentrated amount of essential oil (which means dermal limits are not observed), it will cause the skin to have an adverse reaction,” said Ms Chia.
Ms Chia suggests that a far simpler way to try and prevent the spread of this virus is practicing good personal hygiene.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as seen in the diagram below.
That is considered more effective than using a Hand Sanitiser.
Ho Ching’s alternative options to make hand sanitisers
In another Facebook post on 30 January, Ho Ching, Head of Temasek and spouse of Singapore’s Prime Minister shared some alternative options to make hand sanitisers and disinfectants which involve using mouthwash or antiseptic mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, Maotai or Vodka.
“If we are using these, rub thoroughly including the back of hand and between fingers, and let dry naturally,” said Ms Ho.
Ms Ho also encouraged to use baby lotion or moisturizer after to prevent hands from getting too dry, noting that symptoms of excessive dryness include peeling skin or redness.
“There are also antiseptic wet tissues – if these have become too dry, just pour some mouthwash or brandy,” she added.
Her post was widely reposted and reported by media outlets.
However, netizens commented on Mothership’s Facebook page for her suggestion, pointing out that the average Singaporeans wouldn’t be able to afford such an expensive alternative to hand sanitizers.
Furthermore, Ms Chia comments that not all alcohols are suitable or have the right percentage for the purpose of disinfection.
She opined that the promotion of improperly formulated sanitizer or disinfecting wipes, sprays of any sort can be even more harmful for the current viral outbreak.