Pandemic Sanitizing

In the light of the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, consider this sanitizer information to be a public service, an additional tool to protect the disease-free status of anyone who chooses to use it. While I have no medical status to legitimately make any direct medical claims, I’ve included links to the sources from which I’ve derived the information I present here. If you find those sources to be as convincing as I find them (and having quite a bit of experience with these sanitizers, all of it good, I’m convinced), I give you here the process to produce your own highly effective anti-coronal virus (hand and anything else) sanitizer to help protect you and those close to you.

How Do We Deal With the Coronavirus when
There’s No Hand Sanitizer?

For most of us, avoiding infection by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is some combination of avoiding infected people (or possibly infected people) and removing (or killing) the virus from our bodies or our environment. We can, and do, alter our behavior to avoid infected people, and we try to remove the virus from our bodies by washing with soap and water, a time-consuming and exacting job. Covering one’s skin with hand sanitizer is quicker, easier, and typically more effective than washing, but it’s awkward to use on the face, and besides, the market shelves are completely empty of hand sanitizer. What to do?

At Cultus Bay Distillery we work, as distillers, brewers, wineries, and food packing companies do, with a range of sterilizers designed to kill bacteria and fungi while posing no danger to the worker using those products. An ideal sanitizer for us would be one that we could bathe in for long periods of time without bodily harm, one that, should traces remain in the food (beer, wine) product would not harm that product’s flavor or cause toxicity.

And we’ve got ‘em. They exist already. Better yet, one of them is easily and inexpensively made from common household items, and that makes it almost the perfect replacement for hand sanitizer. Because viral infections are normally not an issue in the food and beverage industry, so far in this discussion we don’t know yet if this exact product kills viruses. We’ll resolve that in a sec.

In a podcast for a homebrewer audience, the founder and CEO of 5-Star Chemical Co. is asked about one of those miracle food sanitizers I mentioned earlier, Star San, but he spent much of the interview discussing another miracle home-made sanitizer, the one we’re interested in to reduce COVID-19 coronavirus infection. The name of the active ingredient of this sanitizer is hypochlorous acid (chemical formula HOCl). If the acid part scares you, note that DNA, the molecule that makes us us, is an abbreviation of DeoxyriboNucleic Acid. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Lots of acids are really, really good for us.

So back to killing viruses. When Charlie Talley, the aforementioned CEO of Star Chemical Co., makes his version of a hypochlorous acid sanitizer, we don’t know if it kills viruses. A study in The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science tests the virucidal activity of three different concentrations of hypochlorous acid, sprayed on avian influenza virus H7N1, and finds it effective, especially at the higher concentration (more on that soon). Another company, Briotech, a producer of medical-grade hypochlorous acid, has undergone the clinical testing to prove their hypochlorous acid does kill viruses, specifically coronaviruses, and their product is currently deployed in the China coronavirus epidemic.

What’s the difference between these products and my recipe here? For our purposes (we won’t be doing any IV transfusions like Briotech does) the only difference is hypochlorous acid concentration. Charlie’s sanitizer is 80 parts per million (80 ppm), the veterinary medicine paper tested 50, 100, and 200 ppm (with 200 ppm the most effective), and Briotech’s “sanitizer” is 200 parts per million (200 ppm) hypochlorous acid. The strongest hypochlorous acid concentration I found for medical use was Innovacin AX250 Puracyn Plus Wound Irrigation Formula, at 240ppm, and that’s safe for use in an open wound.

Picking a concentration that we know to be virucidal, I went for 200ppm hypochlorous acid, which differs from Charlie’s recipe by a factor of 2.5. Since Charlie’s recipe was 2 US tablespoons of chlorine bleach and 2 US tablespoons of vinegar to five US gallons of water, for our product we’ll use one US tablespoon of chlorine bleach, and four US teaspoons of vinegar to one US gallon of water. Yes, that four teaspoons vinegar is a bit more than Charlie’s recipe would be, but it makes the pH (the acidity/causticity) very close to neutral.

The Recipe

Before you start mixing, however, there’s one very, VERY big caveat. You must NEVER mix the bleach and the vinegar first, or deadly chlorine gas will be produced! If it starts smelling awful, get out quickly!

Correct procedure is this:

  1. Fill a plastic gallon jug about 3/4 full of cool or room temperature water.
  2. Measure 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach into the water in the jug.
  3. Measure 4 teaspoons of (best with white) vinegar into the mixture in the jug.
  4. Cap the jug and shake until well mixed.
  5. Remove the cap and fill the rest of the jug with water.

How to Use:

Load a clean pistol bottle with solution. Spray to wet hands. Close eyes (not absolutely necessary) and spray to wet face. Rub hands together as if washing and rub face with wet hands. Either towel off face and hands or just allow to dry. While skin or any other surface is wet with this solution, it is sterile. For fresh fruits and vegetables, just spray and rinse with tap water. Be sure to disinfect all Amazon or mail-order packages, both exterior and the item inside. Also use on doorknobs and elevator buttons, or anything else that people touch often.

Good luck and stay safe

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