Whether it’s a natural disaster, a blizzard or a pandemic, when crisis strikes and stores start running out of supplies, the first instinct may be to panic. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, paper towels & toilet paper become hot commodities during these times and store shelves can quickly empty. Instead of panicking, put on your DIY hat and read below for some crafty ways to create your own supplies and keep your family safe & clean. Disclaimer: Essential oils are not on the CDC list of recommended disinfectants. The following DIY supplies are alternatives until disinfectants approved by the CDC become readily available again. 

DIY Hand Sanitizer

Making your own hand sanitizer requires only a few simple ingredients and is definitely cheaper than paying the outrageous price tags you might find during crisis price-gouging. Here’s a recipe to DIY:

    • 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol
    • 1/3 cup aloe vera gel or vegetable glycerin
    • Pour into a squeeze or pump bottle

Can’t find rubbing alcohol? Here’s an alternative that relies on the germ-fighting power of essential oils:

    • 3 oz. filtered water
    • 1 Tbps. Aloe Vera Gel
    • 10 drops each of cinnamon, clove, rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils
    • Pour into a spray bottle and use 2-3 sprays on hands as needed

Make Your Own Hand Soap

The best way to get your hands clean and prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands. Personally, I stopped buying hand soap and started DIY-ing it years ago by making my own with 3 simple ingredients. My hand soap recipe:

    • 1 Tbps. liquid Castile soap (I prefer Dr. Bronners Tea Tree Pure-Castile Liquid Soap)
    • 1 Tbps. Vegetable Glycerin
    • Pour those two ingredients into a foaming soap dispenser and fill the rest of the bottle with filtered water. Shake gently & voila — natural hand soap!

If you don’t have a foaming soap dispenser, no worries, you can use the same recipe. Just double or triple the amounts of soap and glycerin to thicken the mixture, depending on your viscosity preference.


DIY Disinfectant Spray & Wipes

When germs are spreading, disinfectant spray and wipes can be very handy — but they can also be hard to find, or only available in limited quantities. To make your own full power version, all you need is bleach & water.

    • 1 1/2 tsp. Bleach **Note: the CDC recommends 4 tsp. of bleach per 1 quart of water. I find that to be “too bleachy,” but that’s a personal preference**
    • 1 clean, empty spray bottle
    • Add the bleach & fill the rest of the bottle with filtered water

Don’t want to use bleach (or can’t find it)? Here’s a natural alternative:

    • 2 cups white vinegar
    • 2 cups of filtered water 
    • or 1:1 ratio in whatever clean, empty spray bottle you have

To make disinfectant wipes, pour one of these solutions over a roll of paper towels or a bag of cotton rounds (the kind you use to take off eye makeup) and let it soak in. Store them in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag.

Another way to disinfect hard surfaces like counters, or even cutting boards, is with hydrogen peroxide. Pour some directly onto a cloth and wipe surfaces to kill germs.


Paper Towel Alternatives

I didn’t realize how many paper towels we use a day until I was faced with the real possibility that we might run out. So I started brainstorming for DIY alternatives and here are some of (what I think are) my best ideas.

    • Cloth Diapers: This option might mean a little more laundry to wash, but these are a fantastically absorbent, cost-effective and greener option. Cloth diapers are actually my preferred method for cleaning up big spills because they are able to soak up so much liquid and are easy to wash. Plus, you can buy a pack of 10 for less than $15! Any old washcloths, towels or rags can also be used to help clean up spills or clean surfaces.
    • Baby Wipes: I find baby wipes to be a great option for so many uses around the house. In fact, my son has been potty trained for years and I still keep them on-hand because they’re so useful. When faced with a paper towel shortage, they can be used to wipe faces and hands and can be rinsed, rung out & reused since they’re made to be strong and cloth-like.
    • Coffee Filters: Not the softest or most absorbent of the bunch, but coffee filters actually work great for cleaning glass and, in a pinch, they will work to wipe hands or surfaces. After all, they are made to get wet and not completely fall apart, so they can be used for other things when resources are limited.
    • Reusable/washable microfiber towels: These are a great addition to any household and can be sued over and over. Just make sure to wash on the hottest cycle in your washer machine!

Toilet Paper Options

Here’s where things get dicey. Unless you’re a rugged outdoors person, most of us are used to the cushy softness of our favorite 2-ply TP. The thought of being without that modern-day comfort can be downright terrifying. But have no fear, similarly to paper towels, there are alternative options.

    • Baby Wipes: If you’ve got them, or can get them, use them! These are made to wipe the smallest bottoms in the family but will clean them all fantastically. Just don’t flush them! Baby wipes MUST go into the garbage, or they can clog your pipes and leave you sick to your stomach from a plumbing bill later.
    • Cloth Diapers: Another viable option, as long as you don’t mind washing them. They are super soft and absorbent! This might be a bit messier than some are used to, just make sure to wash them in hot water.
    • Coffee Filters: Possibly the least appealing option for me personally. Coffee filters seem like they might be a little rough for your most sensitive areas. But, again, when times are tough, they might work — just make sure not to flush them either.
    • DIY Bidet: Any mom who has experienced a vaginal birth can attest to the joys of using a squirt bottle filled with warm water to wash her nether regions. If TP is scarce, those cleansing bottles might come in handy. My advice, get one for each member of the family, label them and make sure they’re cleaned with soap and warm water after each use — especially #2.
  • Whether facing a crisis, product shortage, or if you just want some alternative options to save money or conserve resources, you now have some easy DIY options. For more DIY recipes, check out this post.
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Katee Schalau
Katee moved to Florida at three years old and was raised in Ponte Vedra Beach. She graduated from Nease High School and went on to the University of North Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. After graduating from UNF, she moved to the Midwest but longed to return to the sunshine state. In 2019, Katee returned to Florida with her son and settled in St. Augustine. She works from home fulltime in marketing for an electronics manufacturer based out of California. When she’s not at home working or writing, Katee and her son are usually out and about, exploring and enjoying fresh air and sunshine. She is excited to be a part of the St. Augustine Moms team, combining three of her favorite things: being a mom, writing and St. Augustine.