[EXPERT REACTION] Should you make your own disinfectants at home?

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Can you make your own disinfectant at home? Sure you can. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a guideline for making your own disinfectants, the question is, should you? We asked experts to comment about cleaning and disinfection for households during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dr Fatimah Salim, Chemist & Senior Lecturer at the Centre of Foundation Studies, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), said:

“Yes. People can make their own disinfectant at home. The list of chemicals that have been suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is available in the following link: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2 

“Common household disinfectant and detergent, for example, Clorox, Dettol, Antabax are safe to be used without hazard implication. It shouldn’t be a problem if the user reads and follows the instructions given for respective disinfectant in the product label. The label normally indicates on which surface the product is suitable for.”

Chan Siok Yee, Pharmacists & Member of Academic Staff in the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said:

“It is fine to make your own disinfectants and use them for cleaning as long as the user is aware of the external use. However, it is not a good idea to make high alcohol sanitisers at home, plus it is not appropriate to be used for big surfaces due to the potential of ignition from its vapour at a slight increase in temperature/spark. Non-alcohol disinfectant is absolutely fine for deep cleaning for big surfaces as it covers a wider range of germs.” 

Dr Thaigarajan Parumasivam, Pharmacist & Senior Senior Lecturer at School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, USM, said:

“People should not make sanitisers at home. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a concise recipe for making alcohol-based hand sanitisers. The chemicals needed are ethanol or isopropanol, glycerol, and hydrogen peroxide. Only pharmacopeial grade chemicals are allowed. I don’t think any household items have these high-grade chemicals. Using lower-grade ingredients may cause harm to the skin. Moreover, if we didn’t get the correct concentration of these ingredients, we will end up with something not effective. 

“Washing hands is the golden standard for hand hygiene and prevention of pathogens. Sanitisers are only meant for quick cleaning to inactivate viruses if soap and water are not readily available. Also, hand sanitisers have a proper technique to use and may not be suitable for greasy hands and after the toilet.”  

Dr Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah, Microbiologist & Senior Lecturer at Medical Microbiology, Universiti Sains Malaysia, said:

“In the laboratory, we regularly use 70% ethanol to disinfect surfaces (60% is apparently sufficient for disinfecting the virus). However, in the laboratory we are constantly growing different bacterial cultures and we want to avoid accidental infection and cross-contamination. I don’t think people need to be making disinfectant at home, because these chemicals can be quite dangerous if not handled properly, and especially risky when there are curious children around. The best way to control contamination at home is still regular hand washing with soap and water.”

Disclaimer: These comments were complied to provide journalists with a range of expert perspectives on the subject. The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the experts. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Science Media Centre or any other organisation unless specifically stated. 
Bionotes of experts

Chan Siok Yee is currently a fully registered pharmacist and a member of academic staff in the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, USM since 2013. Prior to this, she was also a clinical pharmacist in the general hospital of Melaka from 2008-2010. Her research interest lies in the development of formulation and drug delivery system using solid dispersion technique and the use of polymeric material in the said system. She is also a President of PharmSci USM Alumni (PUSMA), a member of the Malaysian Pharmacy Society and serves as the Vice President for Malaysia Society of Pharmaceutical Technology. 

Fatimah Salim, PhD (Chemistry) is currently a senior lecturer of chemistry at the Centre of Foundation Studies, UiTM. She is also a research fellow at Atta-ur-Rahman Institute for Natural Product Discovery (AuRIns), UiTM. She is a registered chemist and has been appointed as a committee member of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry Section, Malaysian Institute of Chemistry (IKM). She is an active member of Young Scientist Network- Academy of Science Malaysia (YSN-ASM) and a lifetime member of Malaysian Natural Product Society (MNPS). She is an editor for Suara Saintis Muda of YSN Science Communication Working Group. While her research interest covers a broad spectrum of chemistry, she is trained in structure identification, isolation, elucidation of secondary metabolites from plants and microbes. She is also into quantum mechanics calculation in modelling spectroscopic characteristics of chiral molecules predicted through DFT and TD-DFT methods. 

Dr Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah is a senior lecturer in Medical Microbiology at Universiti Sains Malaysia, and an affiliate of Young Scientists Network-Academy of Sciences Malaysia. She is active in science communication and infectious disease biomedical research. She was the first female Asian champion of FameLab, the world’s longest-running science communication competition, in 2018. 

Dr Thaigarajan Parumasivam is a senior lecturer at School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is an affiliate of Young Scientist Network – Academy of Sciences Malaysia (YSN-ASM) and an executive member of the Malaysian Society of Pharmaceutical Technology (MSPT). He is also a recipient of Global Young Scientist Summit, Singapore 2019 and 2019 ASEAN Fellowship. 

**All previous posts about COVID-19 here: https://sciencemediacentremalaysia.com/tag/covid-19/

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