Pepper Spray Uses, Effects And Making Your Own

Pepper Spray

So you finally decided to look into defending yourself with pepper spray. It is one of the best nonlethal ways to protect yourself against most attackers.

What I love about pepper spray is that it is not lethal. The reason for this is that you do not have to wait for a situation which justifies deadly force. The problem with firearms is that you need to be a situation desperate enough to use it.

Another problem is that most people do not have a clue about how pepper spray should be used. In this article, I am going to show you everything that you need to know before buying your first canister.

I will also show you how you can make your pepper spray from home. I will also discuss it’s uses, effects, a tutorial on how to use them and also how to treat a person or yourself when exposed to pepper spray

Pepper spray ingredients and uses

You will never forget the first time you sank your teeth into a chili pepper only to realize that it is burning. You cannot help but let the tears flow and reach for a cup of milk.

Just imagine how that burning sensation would feel like in your eyes? That is what pepper spray is. You can use pepper spray for self-defense purposes to where you will spray the liquid or powder into your attacker’s eyes stopping him/her in their tracks.

1. Pepper spray active ingredients

The active ingredient in pepper spray is a compound called capsaicin. It is this compound that reacts with all mucus membranes to create that burning sensation and guess what the surface area of your eyes are made out off.


The compound capsaicin is then mixed with oil which is then pressurized in a canister which will allow it to shoot outwards if released. Some canisters will also contain propelling agents such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen.

Only a little bit of this oil is needed to blind an attacker temporarily. Depending on the nozzle of the canister, the solution can be ejected in the form of a very fine mist or a stream of liquid.

2. Can pepper spray kill you?

Yes, it can. The most common victims of death are children who accidentally sprayed this product down their throats which then resulted in respiratory failure. This is the reason why it is imperative to store this product away from children and out of their reach. Pepper spray can also be lethal to people that are allergic to the ingredients.

3. Most common uses

The individuals that use pepper spray the most are law enforcement. Sometimes it is a better and safer option than firearms because it is not lethal but will effectively disable the attacker.

You will also find that joggers love to carry pepper spray with them because the container is tiny. Women also like to carry pepper spray inside of their handbag.

The effects of pepper spray

The active ingredient called capsaicin is harmless when applied to the surface of your skin but very painful when applied to mucous membranes. This compound will react with the nerve endings that monitor temperature at the surface area of the mucous membranes.


You can also measure the potency of capsaicin with the help of Scoville heat units (SHU). The higher the SHU, the hotter it will be. The Jalapeno pepper amounts 10 000 SHU while the Carolina Reaper reaches 2 200 000 SHU which is 220 times stronger.

The amount of capsaicin is so concentrated inside pepper spray that it can reach up to between 4 000 000 and 6 000 000 in SHU units. Your face and eyes will start to turn red once you come into contact with it. There is also the risk of breathing in the pepper spray which will result in inflammation inside of your airways.

The blood vessels around the inflamed area will dilate to get rid of some of the heat. Once your face comes into contact with it, you will struggle to breathe and will not be able to open your eyes.

How to properly use pepper spray

It is critical to know how to use pepper spray effectively because if you do not, you can put yourself into harm’s way. There is also the possibility of accidentally spraying yourself which will make it easier for your attacker to do with you what they want.

This section will teach you what not to do and also how to use the pepper spray canister appropriately.

1. Take the wind direction into consideration

I can still remember the day back when I first tested my new canister of pepper spray. I went outside on the street, aimed at a tree on the sidewalk and boom, the mist backfired and went straight back to my face.

Why did this happen?

It happened because of the wind. The other problem was that the force of my canister was not strong enough which resulted in a weak strength of mist (external factors can easily control the direction).

There are two ways to prevent this from happening to you. The first way is always to know the direction and strength of the wind. You do not want to release the pepper spray against the wind as it will blow the mist back to your face.

Secondly, you want to make sure that the force of the canister is strong enough which will also prevent the mist from heading back to your face. The wind will also blow the mist away from your attacker which makes it less effective.

2. Hold the pepper spray canister the right way

Most canisters will be cylinder shaped which makes it easy to hold with your hand. You should keep the canister with a firm grip as your attacker might try to disarm you.

Use your thumb instead of your index finger to press the button on top which will release the pepper spray. This method will ensure that you have a better grip and more control over the bottle. The image below will show you the correct way to hold the canister.

You will also notice that if you want to press the button with your index finger, that there will be a space between the bottle and the palm of your hand which compromises grip and control.

3. Keep your arm slightly bent

It is terrible practice to fully stretch out your arm to your attacker while holding the bottle. The reasoning behind this is that when stretching your arm fully, it will be easier for your attacker to get hold of your arm and also preventing you from defending yourself.

Every self-defense instructor will tell you to slightly bend your arms and knees to have more control and to prevent your attacker from dislocating your joints.

4. Remove the safety cap

Pepper spray canisters will have a safety cap on top to prevent you from accidentally pressing the button on top and releasing the pepper spray. Before you can use the bottle for self-defense, you need to know how to remove the cap quickly.

How to remove safety cap

You can do this by using your thumb and pressing the cap upwards which will release it from the top of the bottle. Try not to use your other hand or index finger as it takes too much time.

5. Keep a safe distance between you and your attacker

It is important to know that you want to keep an appropriate distance between you and your attacker before using the pepper spray. You do not want to be too close as you want to keep a safe distance and you do not want to be too far as you want the stream to reach your attacker.

A reasonable guesstimate would be around three to four meters between you and your attacker. You can also adjust this distance according to what the instructions manual says. Try not to use at a distance of fewer than two meters.

6. You should aim for the face

When aiming make sure that the nozzle is pointing in the right direction. You also want to aim for the face where you have a good chance of the spray hitting the eyes, nose, and mouth. You preferably want it to reach the eyes of your attacker.

how to spray pepper spray

Hitting the eyes will cause temporary blindness which will stop the attacker in their tracks.

7. Move out of the way after hitting the shot

Your attacker will still be able to know your location even after you effectively blinded them with your pepper spray. Your attacker might remember your position and will then try to reach you. If they manage to reach you, they can still cause harm even if they are blinded.

Their attack will also be more ferocious as you might have angered them with your pepper spray. You should also not try to assault your attacker after blinding them. Escape from the scene as fast as possible.

8. How many sprays are left

What if you carried an empty canister with you all along? There are few things worse than having a false sense of security. This is why you need to know how many shots your canister has left.

Most manufacturers will give you the exact amount of shots that you can take with the bottle. You can also shake it now and again to feel if there is any liquid left inside to confirm the volume inside the container.

Making your homemade pepper spray

So you want to make your pepper spray. In this section, I am going to show you how to do just that.

But, before I start, you should know this.

First, you need to realize that homemade pepper spray will never be as effective as that which you can buy. There are two reasons why I say this and I will explain each one below

1. Homemade pepper spray will never replace the real deal

Homemade pepper spray can work, but unfortunately, you will not have access to the same machinery and ingredients as that which comes from the companies that manufacture these products.

They have access to a very highly concentrated form of the active ingredient called capsaicin. They have the machines and processes available to refine the recipe to something useful accurately.

They also have the machines that will inject the liquid into the canisters with very high pressure. This will allow the bottle to eject the liquid at a distance of at least 3-4 meters. I highly doubt that a homemade spray bottle will be able to spray that distance.

But here is the thing.

It is far better to have a homemade version instead of not having anything to protect yourself.

2. How to create the liquid

If you have access to peppers that exceed 1 000 000 SHU (such as the Carolina Reaper), then I would highly recommend you use that pepper instead. Some of us will not have access to those very hot peppers and needs to be happy with using cayenne pepper instead.

Cayenne pepper has a hotness rating of between 30 000 up to 50 000 SHU which is not bad but better than nothing. You can use standard chillis and grind them up, but then you need to make sure that they are hotter than cayenne pepper otherwise it will not be worth the extra effort.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for the liquid:

  • Cayenne pepper.
  • Alcohol (96%).
  • Some lemon juice.
  • Sunflower oil.

Pour half a cup of alcohol into a small bowl or glass. Add at least one tablespoon of sunflower oil and one tablespoon of lemon juice to the mix. Now you need to add 20 grams of cayenne pepper into the liquid.

Add the cayenne pepper slowly into the mix and make sure that you do not add too much. We do not want to create a thick paste but do want the liquid to be dark red. Once the cocktail is mixed to your liking, you need to let it stand for at least 30 minutes for the alcohol to extract all of the capsaicin out of the cayenne pepper.

Now make sure to filter the liquid as you do not want any pepper granules inside of the bottle. These granules can get stuck inside the nozzle and compromise the effectiveness of the spray. You can use a coffee filter, or a fine piece of cloth will also do the job. Now that your liquid is done, you should now focus on filling a bottle with this liquid.

3. Which spray bottle should you use?

There are many types of bottles with nozzles that you can use, and they all will use the same pepper spray liquid. There are two types of containers that you can use to contain and spray the mixture that you have made. The two options will include a regular perfume bottle and an aerosol canister.

a) Perfume bottle

This type of bottle will be the best option for most people because of its availability. You are also not limited to a perfume bottle just as long as the container can make use of a nozzle. The only drawdown of this type of container is that it will only effectively cover a distance of between 0.5 up to 1 meter.

What you need to do is to remove the nozzle, add the hot mixture inside of the bottle and then put the nozzle back on. You should also spray the bottle a couple of times to test the effectiveness of your creation. There is also no limit on the size of the container that you want to use.

b) Aerosol canister

The canister will have the most force (cover longer distances) and will be the most effective, but it has two drawdowns. The first drawdown is going to be the larger size of the canister which might be too large for some people. The second drawdown is that you need to know how to refill a canister and also have the proper tools.

The first thing that you need is an empty aerosol canister. It can be in the form of spray paint or other types of lubricants. You can also choose between different sizes (the smaller, the better).

First, you will need to use a pressure gauge which will tell you exactly how much pressure is in the can. Remove the top of the can and place the pressure gauge on top. Make sure that the pressure is below ten psi. If it is not below ten psi, then make sure to release any extra pressure by pressing on the top.

Once enough pressure has escaped, you can now start with the second phase.

With the second phase, the first tool that you will need is going to be a tire valve. You can get a tire valve at most auto stores. You will also need a 4-way tire valve tool which will remove the valve core. You need to remove the core to refill the bottle with your hot sauce.

Once the core of the valve is removed, you can not attach the valve to your canister and then pour some of your mixture inside of the can. The opening of the valve is tiny so make sure that you do not spill most of your mix. For ease of use, you can use a medical syringe to inject the solution inside of the can.

Once your precious solution is inside of the can, you can now insert the core which you removed earlier from the valve back again. Once the core is inserted in the valve, you can now attach the valve (with the core) to the can.

Now all you need to do is to add some pressure to the canister. You can either use a hand pump or an air compressor to fill air into the canister. Make sure to regulate the pressure inside of the canister so that it does not go over 90 psi otherwise it might explode. You can use a pressure gauge for this purpose.

Once the aerosol canister is filled, you can put the top on again and then spray the bottle for testing your new homemade pepper spray.

Pepper spray treatment

If you should ever find yourself on the other side of a pepper spray canister or if you accidentally sprayed yourself in the face, then you might want to read this section on how to treat the effects of pepper spray.

1. Do not touch your eyes

By touching your eyes, you will contaminate your hands with pepper spray residue. If your hands or fingers are contaminated, you can potentially affect other areas of your body or other people with your touch.

2. Blink your eyes rapidly

Your eyes will start to release tears once you blink them. These tears are very helpful at washing away some of the oil out of your eyes.

3. Use gloves

If you are the person that treats someone who got pepper spray in their eyes, then you need to wear latex gloves.

4. Wash their eyes with milk

Milk is fat soluble and can help by bonding with the pepper spray which will remove it out of your eyes. It is important to remember that capsaicin is oil based and will bond with any other oily substance.

5. Use saline water

Saline water is also a good option for those that do not have access to milk. Just make sure the saline flows continuously over the patient’s eyes to wash away some of the pepper spray particles. Milk of magnesia is also a good option.


Hopefully, this guide taught you something new today, and I hope you never need to be in a situation where you need to use pepper spray. It is one of my favorite methods for self-defense.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

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