Kootenay distilleries are doing their part to help us in the COVID-19 pandemic

The distilleries are turning waste alcohol into hand sanitizer

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Owners of Fernie Distillers standing in their distillery room.

Fernie Distillers will take your hand lotion and add waste alcohol to create a personalized hand sanitizer. — Photo courtesy birr

During the Second World War, my mother’s employer switched from making silverware to making bullets. Manufacturers were repurposing their equipment for wartime needs.

Now all across North America and including in the Kootenays, distilleries are stepping up to help their communities in a time of need. They are making a hard-to-find commodity these days—hand sanitizer—from their byproducts.

The active ingredient in hand sanitizers is alcohol, which needs to comprise at least 60 per cent of the product in order to be effective.

“In times when everyone bands together to help out each other and neighbours, we need to do the same!” said a Facebook post by Taynton Bay Spirits in Invermere.

Owners of Taynton Bay Spirits appearing on CBC Dragons Den.

Taynton Bay Spirits in Invermere will fill up your container with waste alcohol to make your own hand sanitizer. — Photo courtesy CBC’s Dragons’ Den

“With every batch that runs through our still, we have unusable alcohol. This is now available to the community for free to bring home and make your own sanitizer. It has been measured at 80% ABV [alcohol by volume]. Please bring your own container to the distillery for pick up; we are limiting it to one cup per person.”

And from a Facebook post by Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley:

“If anyone is in need of hand sanitizer, we've got some you can come get for free. Essentially we have lots of rubbing alcohol that's a byproduct of distilling—we use it for cleaning tools, but at times like these we feel it makes sense to get it out into the community. Bring a small bottle to 215 Mark Street and we will fill it with 95 per cent alcohol. It won't smell like aloe vera or make your hands soft, but it'll kill what it's supposed to kill.”

Owners of Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley.

Bohemian Spirits is welcoming folks in Kimberley to come on by with their own containers for some byproduct alcohol. — Photo courtesy Josh McLafferty

The Facebook post from Fernie Distillers says this:

“People can bring in their own hand lotion and a container and I will mix to the needed alcohol percentage. Containers to dispense it may be an issue for most people. Travel shampoo bottles or empty Purell bottles are best. It is still quite liquidy but will do the job.”

According to a segment on CBC Radio One’s Daybreak South on March 19, Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery in Revelstoke is also helping their community this way.

The internet is full of directions for making our own hand sanitizer from alcohol. For example, mix three parts isopropyl alcohol to one part aloe vera gel. You can add a few drops of an essential oil, such as tea tree oil, to give it a nice scent.

If you’re not a math wizard, here’s a simpler recipe: mix together 2/3 cup of 99 per cent rubbing alcohol with 1/3 cup aloe vera gel. You can add five to 10 drops of essential oil to mask the smell.

Thank you to these Kootenay distilleries! If any other distiller in the region is also doing this, please let us know and we’ll add you to this list.

Virginia Rasch

Virginia is a writer and copy editor with Koocanusa Publications. She is an avid outdoor recreationist in all seasons and has lived in the Kootenays for 10 years. With degrees in the natural sciences, she has worked as a tour guide, an environmentalist, a writer, and a copy editor of scientific publications. Virginia now brings her passion for everything green to Kootenay Business. View all of Virginia Rasch’s articles

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