After the COVID-19 outbreak began in the United States in 2020, many disinfectant cleaners and wipes disappeared completely from store shelves. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised everyone to disinfect commonly touched areas in the home as well as areas outside the home that were touched by others, such as shopping cart handles and ATM keypads, triggering panic buying of stockpiles of supplies.
Because of the shortage in disinfecting cleaning supplies, many people started thinking about ways to make their own safe, effective disinfecting wipes. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it’s never a bad idea to know how to make your own disinfectants, even if it’s a talent you only hope to need in the future for saving money. Here’s what you need to know to make disinfecting wipes at home using only a few materials.
Make Disposable Disinfectant Wipes
Before gathering supplies to make disinfectant wipes, decide if you want to make disposable (single-use) wipes or ones you can wash and reuse. Both types use 5.25% to 8.25% sodium hypochlorite bleach or high-concentration alcohol as the main ingredient, based on CDC recommendations that diluted bleach solutions and 70% alcohol solutions are good disinfectants capable of killing coronavirus and other germs on surfaces. Note that it’s extremely important to be careful when handling bleach and to keep it out of the reach of children at all times.
To make disposable wipes, you’ll need a roll of high-quality paper towels, an airtight container to hold the roll, gloves to protect your hands and a solution of 1/3 cup of bleach mixed with one gallon of water. If you can’t use bleach on the surfaces you want to disinfect, you can use a 70% alcohol solution instead.
Be sure to make the wipes in a well-ventilated room to avoid problems with the fumes. Start by putting your gloves on and then add the bleach solution to the airtight container. Next, add the paper towels and allow them to soak for at least five minutes. Take the towels out and pour the excess bleach solution down the drain or into a spray bottle to use as a spray disinfectant. Put the paper towel roll back into the airtight container.
Two important notes: Homemade wipes made with a bleach solution are only effective for disinfecting for about 24 hours. Clorox bleach products labeled as splash-less or no-splash do not have a strong enough concentration to disinfect.
Make Reusable Disinfectant Wipes
If you prefer to make disinfecting wipes you can wash and reuse, the process is fundamentally the same as the one used to make disposable wipes. However, instead of making the wipes from a roll of paper towels, you would place a stack of microfiber kitchen cloths in the airtight container with the bleach or alcohol solution. Just like the single-use disinfectant wipes, these wipes are only effective for up to 24 hours when made with bleach, so keep that in mind and only make as many as you need for cleaning on a single day.
Make Disinfectant Wipes Without Bleach
While bleach is a very common core ingredient in homemade disinfecting wipes, you can make them with alcohol using similar instructions. The key with alcohol wipes is that the alcohol must be highly concentrated to effectively kill coronavirus or other germs. To make alcohol-based wipes, you need either 70% (or higher) isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a 140-proof spirit alcohol, typically a grain alcohol like Everclear. Some vodkas are very high in proof as well.
The process for making the wipes is similar to the process for bleach wipes. Use either a roll of paper towels or microfiber cloths. When you’re making 70% isopropyl alcohol-based wipes, don’t dilute the alcohol with water. However, wipes made with 91% isopropyl alcohol should be mixed at a ratio of three cups of water to seven cups of alcohol. If you use 95% ethanol alcohol, mix at a ratio of four cups of water to six cups of alcohol. You also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, like lemon or peppermint, to achieve an appealing scent.
Soak the paper towels or cloths in the alcohol for about five minutes before removing them. Put them in an airtight container immediately, as alcohol evaporates quickly. Alcohol-based wipes can be stored for later use.