The need for clean, germ-free environments is nothing new: In facilities such as labs, hospitals, doctors’ offices and medical manufacturers, cleanliness and sterilization are critical for health and safety. High-traffic or high-risk settings, including schools and airports, have also long recognized the need for proper sanitation as a public health measure, preventing the spread of germs through rigorous cleaning and the presence of hand sanitizer and other disinfectants.
Now, hand sanitizer has taken on new significance in the fight against COVID-19, used as a highly effective safeguard against contact-based transmission of the virus. With an elevated demand for the product, many manufacturers answered the call to put available equipment to work for hand sanitizer processing.
However, as preparations for this much-needed commodity accelerated, manufacturers learned that hand sanitizer production can be challenging, especially when the facility is not experienced with these germ fighters. Without the proper equipment and processes, hand sanitizer mixing can result in lost batches, inconsistent product and extended production lead times.
Here, we will look at how to manufacture hand sanitizer using the right equipment and materials — reducing production time, increasing product quality and utilizing materials more efficiently.
How to Manufacture Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer can be made in many forms: gel, liquid, foam — even powder. In this article, we will focus on the most common types: gel and liquid. Like many personal care products, hand sanitizers contain numerous components. Typically, the ingredients are:
- Alcohol — the active sanitizing agent
- Carbomer/thickener — a powder that stabilizes the solution, turning it into a gel
- Other additives such as fragrances and/or bitterers, which help prevent consumption of the product
Aside from the active alcohol, carbomers are the most critical ingredient of hand sanitizer. Carbomer and other thickeners are polymers that attach to the atomic structure of water, stabilizing it through their own physical makeup and increasing the viscosity to the desired level. In other words, these powder-based materials turn the water base into a thicker gel, to which the remaining ingredients are added. The gel formulation makes for easier packaging, dispensing and application, thus playing a key role in the efficacy of the product.
(One language note: Whether a sanitizer is sold as a “gel” or “liquid,” carbomer is still added to thicken the product. Even a “liquid” sanitizer has a higher viscosity than water.)
To combine these ingredients, manufacturers often rely on high shear mixers. A high shear mixer is the most effective type of hand sanitizer equipment and can be used for numerous personal care products, from perfumes to shampoos. While other mixers are technically capable of producing these products, a high shear mixer is one of the fastest, most cost-effective methods.
A high shear hand sanitizer mixer works by dispersing powder, such as a carbomer, into the water base. Carbomer is, however, notoriously difficult to distribute evenly and effectively, especially when using standard mixers. With an average mechanical mixer, the technique is to mix continuously until the carbomer is completely hydrated and absorbed — a process that can take hours or even days to complete. This is inefficient across a number of levels, including time and cost.
Hand sanitizer production with a high shear mixer, however, can significantly cut these production times, often by up to 90%. The effect of the shearing action on the carbomer makes it exponentially easier to bond with water molecules and speeds hydration of the powder. In addition, an inline high shear mixer provides time benefits by introducing the powder into the water base at the time of shearing, preventing breakdown or modification of the molecular structure and making for the easiest possible hydration. This method allows for “single-pass” mixing, as opposed to the continuous mixing required by other techniques.
Investing in an inline, high shear hand sanitizer mixer for your operation could address a number of potential issues, beyond those of time and cost. The high shear mixing process:
- Creates a more uniform, consistent texture and viscosity
- Eliminates lumps and unhydrated powder
- Reduces lost batches due to poor quality
In addition, a more efficient dispersal of powder could result in lower material usage, yielding further cost benefits.
Hand Sanitizer Mixing Equipment from Quadro Liquids
At Quadro® Liquids, we offer a range of high shear mixers, including the inline Quadro Ytron® ZC. The Quadro Ytron® ZC is ideally suited for single pass hand sanitizer manufacturing and the production of other personal care goods. To learn about how we can help you produce this critical public health product, contact us today or request a quote.