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You Can’t Use Vodka As Hand Sanitizer

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Monday, March 9th, 2020
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Reactions to the outbreak of COVID-19, or coronavirus, can range from increased hand-washing to full-on panic, with stores being emptied of products like Purell, pasta, and oat milk. And because of the hand sanitizer shortages, some people, it seems, are turning to the idea of making DIY hand sanitizer at home. But googler beware: If that recipe calls for using vodka to kill germs, it’s probably not going to do anything. As the Dallas Morning News pointed, Texas-based liquor brand Tito’s Handmade Vodka has taken to combatting misinformation on social media.

“As soon as we saw the incorrect articles and social posts, we wanted to set the record straight,” a Tito’s spokesperson told Food & Wine via email. “While it would be good for business for our fans to use massive quantities of Tito’s for hand sanitizer, it would be a shame to waste the good stuff, especially if it doesn’t sanitize (which it doesn’t, per the CDC).”

 vodka for washing

Echoing statements posted on social media, they continued, “As a reminder, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, ‘washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.’ Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC.”

Indeed, most vodka products you’ll find in liquor stores are somewhere around 80 proof, meaning you’ll have to go for a lot harder (read: undrinkable) stuff to make an effective Purell replacement.

As Rolling Stone reports, when it comes to best practices for lowering your chances of contracting the virus, hand sanitizer isn’t the first course of action. It’s most important to wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching one’s face. Hand sanitizer is only listed as a third option if the first two aren’t immediately possible.

Despite Tito’s dissuading people from using its vodka to wash their hands, the brand is hoping to increase sales the old-fashioned way—with foot traffic. The first brick-and-mortar Love, Tito’s store opens in Austin, Texas, this week ahead of the SXSW Festival. Opening Saturday, March 7, the store includes Tito’s merchandise, neon signage, a dog photo booth, and interactive features showcasing the brand’s history. One thing you won’t find, due to local law, is a drink containing Tito’s vodka. You’ll have to go to a nearby bar for that.


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