DIY Alternatives for Out of Stock Products

The whirlwind of panic buying that accompanied the first arrival of COVID-19 continues to leave store shelves empty of disinfecting and protective necessities. In addition, on April 3rd, the CDC recommended that people wear mouth and nose coverings in public spaces. Here in NJ, this is now a requirement before entering retail establishments after an order put forward by Gov. Phil Murphy. So the question remains, where and how do people get these face coverings and disinfectant products? Thankfully, the CDC and other resources online have provided plenty of do-it-yourself alternatives in this time of shortage.



Experts stress that people should not buy surgical or N95 masks for everyday activities like grocery shopping, as medical professionals and first responders are already facing shortages of protective equipment. Rather, people should make their own fabric masks at home. Everyone from at-home sewers to the CDC have released instructions and patterns to help transform household materials into homemade masks. Masks, even makeshift ones, are important for helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, even for people who appear healthy.

DIY alternatives
DIY face masks. Photo courtesy of

No Sew/ No Cut Mask with Filter

This method is perfect for those of us who can’t sew or don’t have the materials to sew, such as a machine. It requires just three materials and takes less than 5 minutes to make!

  • Materials you’ll need
    • Bandana or square cotton cloth, about 20″ x 20″
    • Coffee filter (Cone or Basket)
      • If you have cone filters, cut the bottom half off before placing in bandana
    • Rubber bands or hair ties

It’s super easy! Check it out:


Hand Sewn Mask with Filter Pocket

This method is just as effective as the first, the only difference is you’ll be able to wash this mask over and over without having to remake it each time.

  • Materials you’ll need
    • Tightly woven cotton fabric
    • Elastic (or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, hair ties)
    • Needle & thread (or sewing machine if you have one)
    • Scissors

Check out the step-by-step instruction:


No matter the method you decide to use, the mask should fit “snugly but comfortably” to the face, have “multiple layers of fabric” and allow for unrestricted breathing, per guidelines included with the CDC mask patterns. Proper safety precautions must be taken to ensure the mask is being used as effectively as possible. For instance, make sure your hands are clean before putting on the mask, and avoid touching or removing the mask in public. Once home, remove the mask using the ties or elastic at the back and avoid touching the front. Wash your hands and immediately clean the mask (by hand wash or washing machine) and wash your hands once again after. Most importantly, masks do not replace the social distancing measures. Still try to maintain at least six feet from others and stay home as much as possible.


Hand Sanitizer

Nothing beats good old-fashioned handwashing. But if water and soap aren’t available, your next best option, according to the CDC, is to use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. But unless you have a stockpile of store-bought hand sanitizer, you’ll likely have a hard time finding any at a store or online right now due to the high demand. So here are two DIY hand sanitizer recipes with just a few ingredients.

DIY alternatives
Photo courtesy of

Disclaimer: Homemade hand sanitizer is only recommended in situations when you’re unable to wash your hands for the foreseeable future. Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds is the recommended method.

Hand Sanitizer Spray

This formula works best as a spray and is from the pamphlet “Guide to Local Production: WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations” with measurements scaled down for home use.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol 99%
    • 1 Tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide 3%
    • 1 teaspoon of glycerin
    • Water to make a total of 1 and 1/3 cups (1/3 quart)
  • Directions:
    • Combine the first three ingredients in a container.
    • Add clean water to reach a total of 1 and 1/3 cups (320 ml).
    • Mix thoroughly by stirring or shaking.
    • Pour the mixture into dispensing bottles.

Watch how it’s done:


Hand Sanitizer Gel:

This is a hand sanitizing gel formula by Healthline that will come in handy if you’re out for necessities and don’t have access to soap and water at the moment.

  • Ingredients:
    • ¾ cup (2 parts) of 99% isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
    • ¼ cup (one part) of aloe vera gel
    • 10 drops of any essential oil. If you don’t have essential oils, use lemon juice.
  • Directions:
    • Stick to a 2:1 proportion of alcohol to aloe vera. This keeps the alcohol content around 60% which is the minimum amount needed to kill most germs, according to the CDC.
    • Pour all ingredients into a bowl, mix them together until you get a gel-like texture and pour the result into a plastic container

Watch how it’s done:


Disinfectant Products

To keep your home virus-free, you’ll want to clean and disinfect which, yes, are two very different things. Cleaning is about removing contaminants, dust, or debris. You can do this by wiping the surface with soapy water and a hand towel. Disinfecting is about killing pathogens. Do both daily if you or anyone in your family has left and then entered back into your home. These next two methods require just bleach and water. When diluted with water, bleach loses its effectiveness after 24 hours. So make a new batch for each use!

DIY alternatives
Photo courtesy of Taryn Williford on

Disinfectant Wipes

You can easily make disinfectant wipes with just bleach, paper towels and a spare container. The following formula also follows CDC guidelines.

  • Directions
    • Take a sturdy roll of paper towels and cut it in half
    • Mix two cups of water with a tablespoon of bleach
    • Put the paper towels in an airtight container and pour the solution over
    • Put on some gloves and wipe down your surfaces (let the surface air dry for five minutes)

YouTube channel “Do It on a Dime” can show you how to make these wipes step-by-step!


Disinfectant Spray

Do you prefer using a spray when disinfecting? The same simple mixture of bleach and water will do the job.

  • Directions:
    • Mix 4 teaspoons of bleach to 1 Quart of distilled (or boiled then cooled) water
    • Pour into a clean spray bottle, put on some gloves, and disinfect away!
    • Tip: Add a few drops of Tea Tree, Lemon, and Lavender essential oil to mask the strong smell. Each of these essential oils also have antimicrobial properties that can help boost the effectiveness!


We hope you found some (or all) of these DIY alternatives to be helpful in this time of shortage. Stay safe!

Adia Atwell
Author: Adia Atwell