Hand Sanitizer

Caframo Tips for Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

Published in Dissolving, Mixing

Woman's hands under running water at sinkIn these extraordinary times of COVID-19, both people and organizations are rapidly adapting to critical needs as they emerge.  One product that has risen in priority is alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  It is important to note that both the CDC and Health Canada, amongst other authorities, recommend washing hands with soap and water as the best method for hand hygiene, including the COVID-19 virus.  However, when water and soap are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be helpful to minimizing spread of microbes.

With a shortage of hand sanitizer available, both people at home and manufacturing sites are investigating how to make their own alcohol-based sanitizer.  For healthcare settings, alcohol-based sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol are recommended.  The basic ingredients required include alcohol, a skin conditioning agent, and water.  A commonly referred formula is published by the WHO, which uses ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide, and water.  A popular DIY formulation is a 3:1 alcohol:aloe vera gel.  Regardless of formula used, accurate measurement is key to ensure the minimum concentration of alcohol is present to be effective.  Also critical is that both alcohols used in these formulations are highly flammable.  The mixing environment and equipment used in the vicinity of these materials should follow safety guidelines and legal requirements for your jurisdiction.

More formal manufacturing formulations will often include a thickening agent, but this is not required.  For formulations adding thickeners a wide range of options are available, including various cellulose derivatives, carbomers, and gums.  A variety of alcohol-based hand sanitizer formulations are available from raw material suppliers for cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, and other resources within these industries.  It is important to understand the properties of the thickener being used.  An example is carbomers which are highly specialized for their applications – be sure to check it will thicken in the high alcohol concentrations required for the final formulation.  Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) are insoluble in organic solvents such as ethanol, but hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) is commonly used in alcohol solutions of 62-70%.  As well, carbomers and cellulose thickeners are water soluble, so there is risk of agglomerating or lumping when first wetted.  There are grades of these materials made specifically to disperse and delay hydration to avoid this.  It is also important to know the shear tolerance of these thickeners once they are activated.  A discussion with your raw material supplier can help direct you to the product that best suits your formulation requirements.


When making alcohol-based hand sanitizers as a gel, a Caframo overhead stirrer can be valuable to increase productivity and ensure quality in production.  Caframo overhead stirrers such as the Ultra Torque 1850 and Universal 3030 have proven performance in premixes of gums and other thickeners, having the torque required to maintain flow as the particles hydrate and the gel thickens.  With accurate speed control, creating a stable vortex is helpful for wetting the thickener and avoiding agglomerates.  The ability to change impellers as required provides the flexibility to use a typical prop for low shear yet effective flow, but adjust to high shear mixing with a crossed blade or dispersion blade as needed.   Caframo overhead stirrers have brushless DC motors which are sparkless, which allows small scale formulation or production with alcohols with the proper environmental controls, such as a fume hood, if permitted by local regulations.

Caframo qualifies as an essential service as a manufacturer, so we are continuing production and maintaining our commitment to be in stock. Contact us today as you have in the past, to see how we can support providing hand sanitizer to meet this most urgent need.

1540 Crossover Mixer


BDC1850, Ultra Torque





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