Hand sanitizer has had a gush of popularity in the past few months, quickly filling dispensers and becoming indispensable for killing the coronavirus.
To help keep the community safe, an Ocean View resident with a doctorate in molecular pharmacology started making sanitizer in his kitchen — in pleasing peppermint, eucalyptus and blood orange scents with moisturizers added.
“I’m getting all my materials from companies I have worked with for the soaps and lotions I also make, but the big difference I am experiencing is the alcohol,” explained Michael Schaber.
“Ethanol is preferred, instead of rubbing alcohol, because it doesn’t have a strong fragrance,” he said, adding that he follows guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, and, to some extent, the Food & Drug Administration.
Although hand sanitizer availability has improved since mid-March, when it was nearly impossible to find, Schaber said he’s still making it because, unlike factory brands, his contains natural ingredients.
“Common denaturants used in alcohol — isopropanol, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, pyridine, benzene, diethyl phthalate and naphtha — are not natural products. I only use food-grade grain alcohol in my hand sanitizer,” he said.
Schaber is also increasing production of the insect repellent he fashions, made without the chemical DEET.
So far, he has produced nearly 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, for sale at Hocker’s Super Center and a few more shops — especially those that offer items made with natural ingredients. A 4-ounce bottle costs $6.
He made the first batch in March and approached a manager at the supermarket, who agreed to carry it. Neither Schaber nor Hocker’s is making much of a profit on the sales, but they share the common interest of meeting a need, he said.
“I’ve also provided my hand sanitizer to multiple friends and family members to keep them safe during this pandemic,” he said, adding that customers’ comments have been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“People love the fragrances, the moisturizing feel and skin-soothing ingredients that counteract the drying effect of the ethanol,” he said.
Working in the kitchen of his home, “much to my wife’s chagrin,” he said with a laugh, Schaber sanitizes everything before he begins, dilutes the alcohol to 66 percent and adds ingredients.
“The fragrances are the fun part. I use essential oils in those scents I told you about — peppermint, eucalyptus and blood orange,” said Schaber, a native of upstate New York who vacationed in Ocean View for a few years before moving to town.
“From March 26 until now I have sold hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer. I spent my career developing protocol and operating projects and doing prep work in the lab, so it’s all a matter of scale,” he said.
“It caught on, and people said, ‘You should really distribute this more widely.’ If I can help one person from getting COVID-19, it’s a job well done.”