Making Hand Sanitizer and Face Mask

Sep. 17 | 2020

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As many of our lives have moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, so has our volunteering. During this time we are continuing to train, educate and work with different groups and organizations in Mali to make sure people continue to get the support they need. 


The pandemic has led to scarce resources, including equipment that protect us from the virus. As we all work together to stop the spread, volunteer Erin Thomson put together a training on how to make your own hand sanitizer and face mask to utilize resources that are easier to obtain than the “ready to buy” type products. 


Making your own hand sanitizer is easier than you think. With access to isopropyl alcohol, a hydrating addition and basic household objects, you will be able to make a hand sanitizer that is accessible when running water and soap isn’t.



About COVID-19


The virus is said to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when a person talks, breathes, coughs or sneezes. It can result in severe illness to no symptoms. The wide symptom spectrum means people should be using precautions at all times in case they don’t show any. By taking six preventative measures it can reduce and stop the transmission of the virus. 


  1. Wear a mask: A face mask that covers your mouth and nose prevents respiratory droplets from traveling from you to another person. Some face masks also help with preventing a person from breathing it in. 
  2. Wash your hands: Washing your hands for 20 seconds on a regular basis eliminates the possibility of infecting yourself by touching your eyes, mouth and nose. 
  3. Distance yourself from others: Keeping a distance of one meter or more reduces the chances of the virus traveling from person to person. It also helps to be in a well ventilated area, stay away from small rooms with multiple people. 
  4. Clean surfaces: Although the virus spreads easier from person to person, it can be on frequently touched surfaces such as a counter top or a door handle. 
  5. Stay home: If you have symptoms such as a fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and so on, it’s important to stay at home and get tested in case you have COVID-19. 
  6. Avoid crowds: Crowded places increase the chances of a “super spreader event” where one person (or multiple) can infect a large group of people. Crowds are hard to social distance as well as there might not be space for people to move away from one another. 


With all of that being said, sanitizing and wearing a face mask are important pieces to stop the spread. 


Hand Sanitizer  



To make the mixture it requires two important substances: isopropyl alcohol and glycerin. The glycerin can also be substituted for aloe vera gel but the results are practically the same. For materials there needs to be a mixing bowl, mixing tool, a measuring cup and a container for use and storage. In the video Erin used a pump bottle but a spray bottle would work great because of the thin consistency of the hand sanitizer once it is finished. 


The most important part of the process is to have the proper strength of alcohol at the end result. The end product must have at least 70% alcohol for it to be able to kill bacteria. That means, if you use a 99.9% alcohol you can use more glycerin than you could if you use a lower alcohol like 80%. 


For the training video Erin used 99.9% alcohol. With a high concentration of alcohol she used a ratio of 2 parts glycerin to 8 parts alcohol. During the training with participants, 90% alcohol was the highest concentration available in the local market. The lower concentration of alcohol meant using 1 part glycerin to 9 parts alcohol. 



During the training there was confusion about the measurement of “parts” so Bara Kassambara, the translator and Country Director, used one small cup to represent 1 part. The demonstration used the cup to represent each part going into a mixing bowl. With the visuals of the PowerPoint and demonstration during the training, participants understand the ratio to keep the concentration of alcohol high enough to kill bacteria. 


Face Mask 



To be able to make sure that participants had access to resources and the skill level, Erin used a method of a “no sew” face mask. The mask itself has three parts. A piece of cloth that is about 20” x 20” and two elastic bands. The mask can be made in seconds and all participants have access to the materials if there is a need to make their own face mask in a public setting, around others, selling a product and so on. 


This method was demonstrated in the video, during the training and shown in pictures adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 


Proper mask use was demonstrated by putting on and taking off the mask with the elastic bands, washing the mask, drying the mask in the sun and covering your mouth and nose with the fabric. Bara was also able to explain the access of materials and options for masks in his local market. 


“This training is of vital importance mostly in rural areas where sometimes even having money hand sanitizer gel and face mask are not available or the quality is questionable. Also it can be a business source for youth,” said Kadiatou Dembélé, member of AFIMA.


Overall, participants were fully engaged and had plenty of questions during important parts of the presentation such as the mixture ratio. They expressed how thankful they were about the training and they’re excited to try both methods of prevention in the future. 


Erin is open to any questions that may arise in the future as well as sharing new, easy and cost effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to share with the group. It’s important now more than ever to remember that it takes all of us to make a change.



Click Here for the hand sanitizer information.


Click Here for a printable label for hand sanitizer.