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Thursday, March 5, 2020

How Much Hand Sanitizer My Family of 4 Is Using

I opened this bottle of hand sanitizer about 10 days ago and placed it on the kitchen table. I would guess that most of our use of this bottle has occurred in the last 7 days. We are primarily using soap and water for hand-washing and backing that up a few times (5 or so) per day, each, with the hand sanitizer.

We've had 2 very mild viruses in the house in the past week, so I'd guess that our usage has been moderate. For moderate use, it appears that we are going through about 1/3 of an 8-ounce bottle every week to 10 days. (The black pen line on the bottle is the actual level.) 

At this rate (should no one become more ill than minor viruses) an 8-ounce bottle should last my family about 3 weeks to 1 month. Should we increase our usage, due to major illness in the family or visitors (not likely), we would probably use the hand sanitizer at almost double the current rate, or an 8-ounce bottle every 2 weeks. I bought three 8-ounce bottles in February, so we have enough here for between 6 weeks and 3 months, depending on need. Six weeks brings us to about April 10, and 3 months brings us to about May 22. 

I understand that our local Target was completely cleaned out of hand sanitizer a week ago, before the terrible news of this past weekend. I don't know if they've been restocked since. Even if I couldn't find hand sanitizer in my local stores this week, I do believe that I will be able to find some by early April, at the very latest. The current, regional hand sanitizer shortage is not indefinite. Store shelves and websites will have it again in a matter of weeks.

I just wanted to share our usage so that if you've only been about to find a small amount of hand sanitizer, you would have an idea of how much this family of 4, who also is using soap and water, is using under our current circumstances. And, if you're thinking you need to buy several gallons, this might help you understand that not only would that be more than average families might need, but it would hoard quantities that others can't find. Also, it doesn't keep forever (so would just be a waste of money). Hand sanitizer has an expiration date on the bottle because it does lose effectiveness over time.

If you can't find any hand sanitizer at all, there are alternatives. Ethyl alcohol is the active ingredient in most bottled gel hand sanitizers. Some folks pour ethyl alcohol into a small spray bottle (think purse-size spray bottles that you can get from places like Amazon and fill with your favorite perfume) and spritz their hands, rubbing together well. 


  1. I came in to work on Monday and found a bottle of hand sanitizer on my counter in a common area. During the day, I noticed that all common areas had the same kind of bottled hand sanitizer. I have no idea who placed them but it sent a strong message. I don't love hand sanitizer as it dries my hands too much but I am a big advocate of soap and water.

    My husband and I talked about the dishwasher issue last night. For now, we will continue to hand wash since we have so few dishes it would take a while before I could run the dishwasher. On days where I use more dishes, I'll run the dishwasher. We will just be very mindful of using hot water.


  2. I don't keep hand sanitizer at home, but maybe I should. I keep a bottle in my car, and took a bottle with me to the hospital Tuesday. I've told both of my sons they should keep a bottle in their cars.

    You mentioned the spray bottle of alcohol, I wonder if that would be helpful at all for sanitizing cart handles in stores? I'm not sure if spraying the alcohol on the handle would provide any benefits. Both Walmart and Kroger have the sanitizing wipes in the cart area, but sometimes the containers are empty.

    Like Alice mentioned, hand sanitizer, and for me even soap and water, really dries out my hands. The cold weather I'm sure compounds this issue, and my hands are so chapped. I've been using a Eucerin hand cream, and that seems to help. I have to use it many times a day though.


  3. I saw an article online yesterday regarding how to make your own hand sanitizer--basically, isopropyl alcohol plus aloe vera gel. I'm sure you could Google it to find out the specifics. The article said that many add other ingredients such as essential oils, but those are the 2 most important to have. A good option if supplies are sold out in your area!

    Lili, you mentioned in your comments that your husband is working from home and you are hoping he can continue to do so. I really hope employers will allow that to happen in areas where there is an outbreak, especially for those in higher risk categories. It just makes sense.

    Angie, I'm glad Eucerin works for you--I find it to be greasy on my skin and I prefer Cere Ve (just mentioning it in case others have the same problem I do).

  4. I don't use hand sanitizer, but for years have carried an alcohol spritzer in my purse. I use an old lens cleaning sprayer which produces a nice, wide aerosol, and the little sprayer goes a long way. I never figured the math out, but a 16 oz bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol on sale is 99 cents where I live, and it refills the tiny sprayer bottle numerous times. I don't keep track, but it certainly seems cheaper than hand sanitizer. And after about 10 years of routinely using this, we don't have any adverse reactions. We started spritzing our hands before returning to our car during annual vacations to Vegas, and now it is just a habit. Our grandkids know the routine, they all spritz their hands when we return to the car.

    Lili, I hope your husband will be able to work from home. I think we too fall in the high risk category, so have chosen to self isolate. However, we did break that committment two days ago, and ventured out quickly to the garden section at Home Depot to buy some flowers for my parents niche. I figured that would be the least crowded store to buy flowers, and there is a separate checkout in Garden that usually is not busy. But boy was I surprised. There were lots of elderly people there and no one seemed worried yet.

    Have a safe, good day,

  5. Hi Kris.

    The Eucerin does seem a bit greasy, but right now my hands are soaking it up. I have heard good things about Cere Ve. I will try that! Thanks for mentioning it.

    My hands are so bad, I'm getting 'finger splits'. I'm not sure what those are really called, but my skin splits open around my nails. It's so painful, honestly it hurts worse than a paper cut. I start getting them when the weather turns cold at night in the fall, and continue through spring.


  6. Hi Alice,
    I prefer washing with bar soap and water, myself. It's kinder to my skin. The soap that is in public bathrooms is the worst for my skin. We don't usually use hand sanitizer when in the house, but are for right now as back up for the soap and water. I have read conflicting reports about soap/water vs. hand sanitizer. My daughters are still working daily, so if anything is coming into the house, we're just being ultra-cautious.
    In addition to going through a lot of hand sanitizer and soap, we're also using a lot of hand cream.
    That's nice someone placed the hand sanitizer at your work.

  7. Hi Angie,
    For shopping carts, you could bring your own homemade alcohol wipes. Just fold a paper towel into a square so it would fit i a baggie and pour in a little ethyl alcohol. I used to do this on vacations when my kids were younger. I'd use these homemade wipes to wipe down tables before picnic lunches or eating in fast food restaurants or for wiping grimy hands before meals when we didn't have soap and water handy. I've seen the same thing with our store being out of those wipes. Because it's still on the cool side, I also wear my mittens while shopping, and I think that's got to help.

    Oh yes, my hands are getting pretty dry. I use Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream. It feels like it has a bit of petroleum jelly in it, so makes a good barrier. I was just using this at night when I went to bed, but am finding I need to use it throughout the day for the time being.

    1. Great idea about the homemade alcohol wipes! I had used Neutrogena Norwegian formula before, but had forgotten. I'll have to try that again.


  8. Hi Kris,
    I saw a similar recipe for homemade hand sanitizer online, too. It called for 91% isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera. It claimed this made sanitizer with about 60-65% alcohol, which is within the CDC's guidelines for what you need to kill germs. My only negative thought about this was it used isopropyl alcohol and not ethyl alcohol. I'm not sure if ethyl alcohol can be found in 91%. Ethyl alcohol has been said to be the preferred type of alcohol for this virus. Just my thoughts on this. But I've also read that isopropyl alcohol may work, too.

    I love CeraVe products. I've used them on my face for a long, long time. They seem to put a barrier on the skin as well, but feel lighter than my Norwegian formula.

    Thank you, Kris. I am hoping he can work from home for several weeks, too. Parking in downtown Seattle is hard to find and expensive, so he commutes by multiple buses each way. There is no way to maintain that 6 to 10 feet distance when riding a busy commuter bus.

  9. Hi YHF,
    Oh thanks for sharing your experience with alcohol in a sprayer. And you've found a good type of bottle -- lens cleaning sprayer.
    In our area, I was still seeing lots of people out shopping a week ago and none seemed to be worried. But many must've been worried enough, because all of the hand sanitizer was gone from shelves. Then over the weekend the news of the first US death broke and that's when I heard reports of stores being jam-packed with folks stocking up. Your state hasn't reported any cases, yet, I don't think. I think once there are cases there, more people will be concerned.

    You sound a bit like me -- worried in advance of the reported cases. My thinking on this is that there are cases out there that haven't been caught yet. So, I'm just being cautious over the unknown of what is lurking yet to be found. I told my family they were lucky to have a mom who panics early, cuz we're all well-stocked and don't need to go out for supplies.

    If this eases your mind at all -- for the most part, the deaths in my area have been not only elderly, but elderly who no longer can care for themselves due to declining abilities or health, and most tied to the nursing home in the news. Your own health may be more robust than you think, in the grand scheme of things. I pray you and your husband stay safe and well, too!

  10. Hi all--

    This is the article I read about DIY hand sanitizers. It agrees with you, Lili,on ethyl alcohol.

    Angie, I know just what you mean about the finger splits! This ain't pretty, but it works--put on a layer of petroleum jelly all over your hands and cover them with gloves (garden gloves work best for me, I think because they are looser and don't absorb the petroleum jelly as much) and sleep with them. It usually takes 2-3 nights for me to get relief. And get someone else to wash the dishes!

    I have problems with the skin on my feet cracking. I have been prescribed a cream which contains urea and the dermatologist told me this is hugely helpful for that problem. My favorite OTC product which contains urea is called Flexitol--it really is amazing. Gold Bond also has a cream with urea in it but I don't find it quite as effective. However, it's easier to find in stores. Now that you all know wayyyy too much about me, I'll sign off. :)

    1. Kris,

      Thanks for the tip about petroleum jelly and gloves! I will try that. I haven't had that problem with my feet as of yet. That does not sound fun!


  11. We've been fortunate to not have a big problem in Utah, yet. A couple of people that have contracted it on cruise ships, but that's about it. I am a little nervous because I have a major surgery scheduled for next Tuesday. That puts me at the mercy of others caring for me, so I keep praying for the best. Good luck everyone!

    1. Ruthie, I will say a prayer for your surgery. Good luck.


  12. Hi all, just had to add my 2 cents to the hand cream bandwagon. I have a large amount of sensitivities and tried countless creams and lotions for my hands. (Being a cancer survivor, I always use a spray type alcohol based hand sanitizer.) A friend gave me a sample of her Aveeno eczema therapy daily moisturizing cream, and it worked for me.

    Also, if anyone can't locate rubbing alcohol, go buy some cheap grain alcohol or vodka.

    Jo Ann

  13. Ruthie, me too. Let us know how you are doing when you are feeling up to it.

  14. Thanks for providing that link to information on homemade hand sanitizers, Kris. Much appreciated.

  15. Ruthie,
    I'll be keeping you and your upcoming surgery in my prayers.

  16. Hi Jo Ann,
    Thanks for sharing about Aveeno eczema cream. Good to know that worked so well for you. I've tried so many different eczema treatments and it's so frustrating trying to find a good one. So, big thanks!

    I've read conflicting things about using vodka for this particular virus. One of the things I read is the alcohol content needs to be at least 60%, and I don't know enough about liquor to know if vodka has that level of alcohol. The other is the type of alcohol, as ethyl alcohol is what the CDC works best with coronavirus. Like I said, I don't know enough about vodka to say whether or not this would protect someone in this instance.

    Okay, so I found an article that gives the % of alcohol as well as proof. Proof and percentage by volume are not the same thing, for anyone wanting to know. Here's the article:

  17. Hi Angie,
    You're welcome! Homemade alcohol wipes are also good for cleaning screens on phones and computers. Just make sure they're not too "wet".


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