The Dangers of DIY E-Liquid

With many regions placing heavier and heavier restrictions on the sale of e-liquids and vape juice , there is a growing community of vapers who are turning to DIY e-liquids to get their favourite flavours and formulas. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea - making things yourself is usually cheaper, plus you’ll learn a new skill, learn more about vaping and be able to completely customise your e-liquid, right?

Unfortunately, the truth is a bit different. It can actually be quite difficult to make DIY e-liquids safely, and there’s a lot of science behind it that isn’t often manageable for the average person, and particularly for the new or beginner vaper.

Is DIY Vape Juice Safe?
The short answer here is no in the majority of cases. It can be very unsafe to make your own vape juice, and there are a few important safety risks and adverse health effects associated with a DIY vape juice that you might want to be aware of.

First and foremost is the risk of miscalculating your DIY e-liquid and being left with a product that has the potential to cause you some serious harm, particularly if you’re adding nicotine to your vape juice recipe . Since you inhale e-liquid vapour directly into the lungs, you need to be sure that you’re doing so safely and aren’t inhaling any harmful chemicals, to prevent damage to the lungs and your respiratory system. 

There are also a lot of costs associated with DIY e-liquid mixing. As well as purchasing all the ingredients for your e juice recipe (this includes liquid nicotine, flavourings, a PG/VG base and additional PG and VG, to make just a few), you’ll also need a variety of safety equipment. This includes gloves to protect your skin, goggles, protective trays, funnels, bottles, syringes for moving the ingredients around isopropyl alcohol and other cleaning products and more. While we do recommend not mixing your own e-liquids, if you do, you should never ever use pure nicotine in your recipe. Not only do you never actually need it, but it is also incredibly dangerous, difficult to measure, calculate and mix and if spilled, even just on your skin, can make you very sick . If you are mixing your own vape juice, stick to a 60mg/ml formula or less to prevent a trip to the hospital or worse.

At the end of the day, DIY e-juice just isn't worth it unless you’re very highly experienced both as a vaper and a chemist! The risks of consuming an e-liquid you’ve miscalculated are high, and can easily land you in hospital. Whether it’s the use of dangerous chemical compounds, the lack of safety protocols and procedures, unsanitary chemicals or bacteria getting into your e-liquid, cross-contamination from other vape juices or a dangerous amount of concentrated nicotine in your e-liquid, there are quite a lot of different safety risks that you’re exposing yourself to when you mix DIY e-liquids. When there are literally thousands of regulated, pharmaceutical-grade e-liquids out there with insanely delicious and inventive e-liquid flavours , as well as nicotine-free or unflavoured e-liquids, there’s really no reason to invest in DIY e-liquids.

How to Make DIY E-Liquid
You could be forgiven for thinking that mixing your own e-liquids is as simple a process as putting all your ingredients in a bowl and mixing them together! However, this is not the case, and while we don’t recommend anyone mix their own e-liquid, if you are less experienced in the world of vaping, this advice applies even more.

If you’re mixing an e-liquid without nicotine content, the risk is lowered a fair bit and you can generally be a bit less meticulous in your process, however, your e-liquid is still likely to be exposed to external bacteria at home, compared to a professional lab with might more stringent safety regulations, which is one of the reasons that making e-liquid at home can be unsafe. If you’re working with a nicotine solution, the stakes are much higher and you should weigh out everything you add to your vape juice as precisely as you can, including your flavours, strength and any additional formulas and chemicals. If in doubt, always put in a lower strength of nicotine than you think you need, never higher.

You should also avoid any kind of flavouring that you’re not used to seeing in e-liquids, as well as any household products - even if it’s been portrayed as a “hack”, adding olive oil to your vape is not a good idea. You also cannot vape with essential oils, or add essential oils to your e-liquid recipe. Essential oils are very highly concentrated and are not safe to consume or inhale in most cases, so they are an ingredient you should avoid at all costs. Steer clear from adding water to your e-liquids too. While this might be a quick, cheap way to thin your e-liquid to the desired consistency, all it will do is make your vape spit and pop, as the water in your juice actually boils before the liquid is vaporised . There’s no real benefit to it and it simply leads to a bit of an unpleasant vape experience.

Safety Standards for E-Liquids
Every region has its own safety standards for e-liquids, and as a vaper, you should always make sure you have at least a basic understanding of the rules where you are. Not only does this help you get better value out of your e-liquids as you can spot better quality juices easily, but it also means you won’t unwittingly pick up an unsafe or unregulated product.

In the UK, the rules around vaping are governed by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), and they are the ones who implement the majority of rules around the e-liquids and vape juices that can be sold in the UK. At the time of writing, these rules include:

·A strict set of minimum standards to ensure the safety and quality of both e-liquid and e-liquid containers.
·A requirement that e-cig and vape companies make a variety of information about their products available to customers, to allow them to make informed choices about vaping.
·Companies must prevent an environment that encourages children and young people to use vape products. This comes mostly in the form of an advertising ban that affects almost all mass media in the UK.
·E-cigarette tanks must be restricted to a capacity of no more than 2ml
·E-liquid bottles and refillable containers must be retracted to a capacity of no more than 10ml per bottle.
·E-liquids must be restricted to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml (2%).
·Vape products and packaging are required to be child-resistant, similar to most medicines and a variety of other household products.
·Vape products and packaging are required to be tamper-evident, to help ensure that consumers are only ever getting a safe, sanitary and secure product.
·Certain ingredients are banned for inclusion in e-juice recipes, including colourings, caffeine and taurine.
·Stringent labelling requirements and warnings to be put on all vape products and e-liquids.
·All e-cigarettes and e-liquids need to be notified to the MHRA before they can be sold, so that only legitimate products created with all of these regulations in mind make it to the shop shelves.

These rules are part of the Tobacco and related Products Regulations (TRPR), which are the successors to the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) rules. Currently, there have been no significant changes to the regulations since the UK left the EU, but different bodies govern them, and it looks likely that UK rules around e-liquids will change at some point in the future .

For vape users, being aware of what is and isn’t allowed is really important to help keep you safe. You should only ever buy vape devices and e-liquids from a trusted seller, and you should always do your research on the brands and products you buy. If you’re struggling to find that information, that’s a massive red flag, and a sign that you shouldn’t purchase that brand or shop with that company.

Are Shortfill E-Liquids Safe?

Shortfills are nicotine-free e-liquids that are designed to be mixed with a nicotine shot by the user . This might sound quite similar to DIY liquids, but it’s important to note that shortfills are very safe to use. Your shortfill e-liquids have been made specifically to mix with a nicotine shot, and as long as you’re using high-quality, legitimate and properly regulated shortfills and nic-shots, you’ll be perfectly safe. As both shortfills and nic shots are made by qualified lab experts in a pharmaceutical-grade facility, you don’t have to worry about sub-standard ingredients or bacteria getting into your vape juice, and since the nicotine content has been measured out for you in advance, you can feel sure your shortfill won’t pose any danger to you.

Will DIY Vape Juice be Banned?
In the US and many other countries, the number of restrictions on vapes and e-liquids are rising all the time, which has given rise to even more people interested in mixing their own DIY e-liquids. For example, Reddit forum /r/DIY_ejuice has more than 50,000 subscribers and in the week after an FDA statement about increased restrictions for flavoured e-liquids, the forum saw almost 600 new members. Forums like this can be a blessing and a curse, as well-moderated boards can be a great place for users to get safety advice and guidance on how to improve their e-liquids in regions where they can’t get vape products legally. However, they also promote the use of DIY e-liquids, which is something that can be incredibly dangerous, particularly for beginners.

Sadly, this kind of regulation is a bit of a vicious cycle, making it really difficult for lawmakers to strike the best balance. As regulations around vaping and the availability of e-liquids become tighter, more users will turn to black market or homemade e-liquids, which are considerably more dangerous. Then, when issues arise as a result of black market and DIY products (such as the US EVALI Outbreak in 2019, which killed more than 60 people), more regulations are put in place to try and prevent more people from vaping.

While DIY e-liquid mixing can be very risky, there are still thousands of homemade e-liquids out on the black market today, as well as being made for personal use, as it’s incredibly difficult for authorities to ban DIY e-liquids. The ingredients you need to make DIY e-liquids are very easy to get hold of and are used in hundreds of other, harmless products, so it’s not as simple as banning the supply of nicotine, PG or VG, for example. You can find PG in many household products, including makeup, shampoo, topical medical products, baby wipes and even asthma inhalers. VG is derived from vegetable oil and can be found in sweeteners, baked goods, toothpaste, bubble baths and hand creams, to name just a few. Even nicotine is relatively easy to get hold of online as long as you’re over the age of 18 in most European states and 21 in the US.

It’s easy to see how and why the prevalence of DIY e-liquids is rising, however, it is so important that when you vape, you do so with an e-liquid you know you can trust, and for the vast majority of us, that e-liquid will not be a homemade one.