How to Make Homemade Disinfectant Wipes

Woman with gloved hands wiping doorknob

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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Disinfecting wipes like those from Lysol and Clorox in a pop-up canister or pouch are convenient and simple to use and, if used correctly, kill most bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces. If you like to make your own cleaning products, you can make disinfecting wipes at home with just a few simple ingredients.

Before You Begin

While there are many disinfectants registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not all are safe for consumers to use in DIY projects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that consumers use a product that contains at least 70% alcohol to disinfect hands and surfaces.

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is sold in drug and grocery stores in 70, 91, and 99% solutions. Ethanol (grain alcohol), used for consumption, is sold in varying proof levels. Read the labels of grain alcohol and vodka bottles to determine their alcohol content. For instance, Everclear Grain Alcohol is 190 proof, 92.4% ethanol.

Using less than 70% alcohol when making your own disinfecting wipes will not provide the microbe-killing protection you desire.

Warning

While hydrogen peroxide is an excellent disinfectant, it must be fresh and stored in an opaque container to provide disinfecting properties. When exposed to light, hydrogen peroxide reverts to plain water. Do not substitute hydrogen peroxide for alcohol when making these wipes.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Air-tight container
  • Measuring cup
  • Cotton or microfiber cloths

Materials

  • Heavy-duty paper towels, napkins or guest towels
  • Isopropyl alcohol or grain alcohol
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Label or masking tape

Instructions

  1. Select a Container

    The container you select must be air-tight if you are making more wipes than you plan to use in the next hour or so. Alcohol evaporates very quickly and you'll be left with dry wipes.

    A glass container like a wide-mouth jar, an old commercial disinfectant wipes container, or a plastic container with a lid works well. It should be large enough to hold 40 folded paper towels and 3 cups of liquid.

    Tip

    If you plan to add essential oils, choose a plastic container that is labeled #1 HPDE or #2 PET. Other types of plastic can react with essential oils and discolor or dissolve.

  2. Select the Towels

    The paper products that you use to make the wipes should be strong enough to stand up to cleaning while they are wet. Heavy-duty paper towels, paper guest hand towels, and paper napkins work well. You can leave them full-size or cut them into smaller pieces if desired.

    If you would like to go green and create reusable wipes, 100 percent cotton, bamboo, or microfiber washcloths can also be used. Reusable wipes should be machine-washed in hot water after every use.

  3. Layer the Towels

    Separate the towels into individual pieces and fold or roll to fit the container. If you are reusing a pop-up wipe container, fold them with one layer interwoven with the next towel so they will pull up together.

    If you have a round container, you may be able to cut a roll of paper towels in half and remove the inner cardboard core to create a "pull-from-the-center" roll of wipes.

  4. Measure the Disinfecting Solution

    You need enough alcohol to cover and saturate the towels. Three cups of alcohol will saturate about 40 folded paper towels.

  5. Add Essential Oils

    Essential oils add a pleasant scent and some oils do have antibacterial qualities. You may mix and match to suit your sensibilities in the quantity that you desire.

    Recommended oils with some antibacterial qualities are tea tree, lavender, geranium, lemon, orange, eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, clove, thyme or peppermint.

  6. Saturate and Cover the Wipes

    Pour about half of the alcohol (with essential oils, if desired) over the towels. Wait until the liquid is absorbed and pour in the rest. You may need to add a bit more alcohol if the towels are not fully wet. There should be some liquid visible in the container. Cover the container tightly and the wipes are ready to use.

  7. Label the Container

    Use a paper label or a piece of masking tape to label the container. Place out of reach of children and pets.

How to Use a DIY Disinfecting Wipe

Now that you know how to make your own disinfecting wipes, be sure to use them correctly to disinfect surfaces.

  1. Remove Heavy Soil

    While your disinfecting wipes will remove some grime from surfaces, they will be more effective if you clean away grease and heavy soil from surfaces first before disinfecting.

  2. Check the Moisture Level

    The wipes don't need to be drippy, but they do need to be very moist. There must be enough of the alcohol left on the kitchen counter, doorknob, or television remote to kill bacteria.

  3. Allow the Disinfectant Time to Work

    To kill most bacteria, the surface you are cleaning should remain wet for at least four minutes. Do not wipe away the alcohol; allow it to air dry.

  4. Use More Than One Wipe

    One wipe will not disinfect an entire kitchen or bathroom. One wipe will usually disinfect an area of around three-square-feet.

  5. Dispose of the Wipe Properly

    Paper products soaked in alcohol should not be added to a compost pile. Dispose of the wipes in a trash can. If you are using cloth wipes, place them in a small hamper until it is time to wash a load of laundry.

  6. Wash Your Hands

    After cleaning and disinfecting any area, wash your hands properly to remove any cleaning products or lingering bacteria.