BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT/CBSN) — Hand sanitizer is flying off of store shelves in Alabama as communities stock up supplies to protect them from the coronavirus.

Public health experts advise that cleaning your hands with either soap and water, or an alcohol-based solution, is one of the best ways to avoid infection – guidance the public appears to be heeding.

Consumer demand for hand sanitizers has soared 1,400% in recent weeks, according to retail industry data.

Local Targets, Walmarts, and pharmacies are heavily picked over leaving some stores without hand sanitizer. If you can’t find it on the shelves, it’s extremely easy to make. All you need is 60%-based alcohol or more and aloe vera gel.

Complete recipe:

  • 2/3 cup of rubbing alcohol 
  • 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
  • 5-10 drops of essential oil (optional)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Funnel
  • Two-ounce spray bottle or liquid soap container
  • Masking tape and pen or marker for labeling the container (or adhesive labels)

“Homemade hand sanitizers are just as effective as what you buy as long as you use the right percentage of alcohol,” CBS News contributor Dr. David Agus told CBS MoneyWatch. “This is a good way to get around people price-gouging for Purell.”

Do-it-yourself sanitizers must contain at least 60% alcohol by volume to work, Agus said. Isopropyl alcohol (better known as rubbing alcohol) or ethanol are both suitable varieties, experts told CBS MoneyWatch.

Directions: Pour the alcohol and aloe vera in a bowl and stir until blended. Add several drops of essential oil and stir to help mask the smell of alcohol. Use the funnel to pour the eight ounce mixture into containers, then affix the strips of marked masking tape (or adhesive labels) to identify the bottles’ contents.

Hand sanitizer doesn’t kill all viruses, but it is effective against the coronavirus, Agus said. The virus is protected by a shell, called an “envelope glycoprotein,” which the alcohol scrambles.

“When you take away the protective part of the virus, it dies pretty quickly,” he said.

Dr. Sanjay Maggirwar, professor of microbiology at George Washington University, said homemade sanitizers can last weeks if they are properly stored in closed bottles.