3/18/20 Update- I just read yesterday that COVID-19 lives on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours. So, while copper discs may be a good alternative to hand sanitizers for the milder strains of coronavirus, please ignore that entire section in terms of COVID-19. At the time I wrote this, the research supported it as a “legit” option.
I was going to delete this whole post, but I feel like it’s better to just update it and tell you flat out, I was mistaken. Things evolve so freaking fast with this virus. Many of us were wrong about so many things. I think it’s super important to admit that, to say, “You know what, forget what I said last week, I made a mistake…” instead of trying to hide it or dance around it.
As I originally said, soap and water remains the only “expert approved” alternative to hand sanitizer. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), there’s still plenty of soap on the shelves.
Nearly every store (including Amazon) is totally out of hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and pretty much anything else that allegedly “kills germs like the coronavirus.” Don’t worry, though. There are actually plenty of things you can use that work just as well (or better). Keep reading to find out what they are!
While we’re admitting where we were wrong, just 10 days ago, I did say that this isn’t as bad as we probably think it is. Turns out, it is. Well, sort of. The fatality rate is still up in the air. Some experts put the death rate at about 1%, according to BBCNews (and fact-checked against 5 other sources), once you factor in all the people who haven’t been tested that probably have the virus.
I’m not trying to belittle your fears. Believe me, I would never do that. I have more irrational fears than all of you combined. Case in point, I’ve literally driven 10 miles out of my way just to avoid making a left-hand turn across traffic. So I get fears and panic.
What I don’t get, though, is the need to buy up every single freaking “sanitizing” product in the country. It makes zero sense to me. That said, if you’re feeling panicked because you’re currently santizerless, maybe these alternatives will help calm your fears a bit.
Alternatives to Out-of-Stock Hand Sanitizers
Finding alternatives to hand sanitizer is easy-peasy! In fact, even the CDC says you should only use it when you don’t have access to the first alternative!
Please note, though, this is NOT meant to be taken as medical advice. If your doctor tells you something different, listen to her, not some rando girl on the internet. I research the heck out of everything I write and fact-check it against multiple legit sources, but I’m still not perfect. Nor am I a doctor.
Also, please (pretty please) remember, antibacterial gel alone WILL NOT keep you from getting sick from ANY virus, and neither will these alternatives. They merely help remove germs from your hands…sometimes and only if you use it correctly.
FYI, this post uses affiliate links, which means I make a commission at no extra charge to you if you buy through them. Hey, if everyone else can capitalize on the coronavirus, why can’t I? Kidding!!! I use affiliate links because this blog makes up a good chunk of my income and those links help me feed my “can eat an entire pizza on his own” teenage son. 😀 I only recommend products that I actually do or would use.
1. Soap and water.
There’s no better alternative than plain old soap and water. In fact, hand sanitizer is supposed to be an alternative to this, not the other way around!
When you’re done, dry your hands on a towel. NOT those “we’re too cheap to buy paper towels so we’ll tell everyone these are more sanitary when studies actually show they spread poop particles around” hand dryers. When I was in nursing school, my teacher told me I’d be better off drying my hands on my pants than with one of those things.
Oh, and make sure you’re getting your wrists, too! When I was in nursing school, we had to take a “hand washing test.” After washing, our instructor used a light to see what we missed. Nearly everyone missed that spot where your hand connects to your wrist.
I like the soap below because it’s EWG Verified, but really any soap will do. Carry a travel-sized bar and a jug of water in your car. Voila, on-the-go hand sanitizer! Seriously, it’s that simple.
2. Tea tree oil.
Before you write me off as a “Karen with her lavender” type, hear me out. Essential oils really DO have antibacterial properties. In fact, those properties helped keep apothecaries from getting the plague. I’m trying to find a legit source for you for that online, but I actually read it in a well-researched book about the history of the plague (I read a lot of those because I’m fascinated by viruses).
However, I did find some legit studies to back up the “antibacterial” claim, including a 2010 study by the Society for General Microbiology (Essential oils to fight superbugs) and a 2018 James Cook University study (Essential oils to fight bacterial infections).
That said, lavender isn’t going to help if you do catch a virus. Plus, just like antibacterial gel alone won’t keep you from getting sick, nor will essential oils. Remember, we’re talking alternatives to sold-out items, which themselves are not sure-fire ways to kill germs.
As for tea tree, it’s one of the few essential oils that you can apply “neat,” meaning without a carrier or base oil. That said, it can be irritating to sensitive skin. I recommend grabbing a little bottle (like these airline-approved ones on Amazon) and filling it up with almond or olive oil. Then, toss in about 5-10 drops of tea tree (depending on how much carrier you use).
3. Copper discs – DELETED BECAUSE IT’S NOT EFFECTIVE
New research suggest that this is NOT a good alternative for hand sanitizer when it comes to COVID-19!
4. Rubbing alcohol
Straight rubbing alcohol is one the WORST alternatives to hand sanitizer because it’s so hard on your skin, but since it’s the ingredient that actually makes hand sanitizers sanitize, it’s a good alternative nonetheless.
Unfortunately, it’s sold out on Amazon. Fortunately, literally every dollar store, Dollar General, Big Lots, grocery store, drug store, and even half of the convenient stores sell it, so there’s a good chance you can find it. You probably even have a bottle of it in your medicine cabinet.
If you’re really desperate and can’t find it anywhere else, buy a first aid kit, like the ones below. They have rubbing alcohol antiseptic wipes in them.
5. Aloe Vera
Don’t spend a fortune on it. Just go to your dollar store and grab a bottle from the skin care aisle. Or, you can go the extra mile and get an aloe vera gel with essential oils in it, too, like the one below (price is for a 4-pack).
Once again, I want to remind you that this is not medical advice. Only the first one- plain soap and water- is a CDC-approved method (and is, in fact, more highly recommended than hand sanitizer).
Honestly, though, this whole “buy every sanitizer in sight” thing is a bit absurd. Besides, it only helps if the virus spreads by touching “infected” surface. According to the CDC, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Last update on 2022-12-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API