To sanitize or not to sanitize? That is the question….
My opinion is that our (American’s) overuse of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer has been encouraging bacteria to change and become resistant, and harming us in the meantime.
Here are some facts for ya… Any time you use a commercial hand sanitizer, you’re being exposed to the active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps -triclosan- which is believed to be an endocrine disruptor. (source)
This means it can interfere with your thyroid, and potentially lead to greater problems, including infertility and cancer.
Toxins in hand sanitizer?
The FDA is working on regulating and removing triclosan… but only from hand soap and body wash. Their rulings don’t apply to shampoo, lipstick, or other personal care items- most importantly, hand sanitizer!
The FDA also doesn’t cover three of the other toxins found in hand sanitizer (benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol).
And beyond being bad for you, the chemicals in antibacterial soaps and sanitizers are harmful to our environment! Even after being treated, triclosan can stick around and get into our water, harming algae and other sea life.
AND, who’s to say that whatever chemical they eventually find to replace triclosan will be any safer?
On top of how easy it is to learn how to make your own hand sanitizer spray (toxin-free!), there’s no reason to ever buy the store-bought stuff again!
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Just say no to antibacterial hand sanitizer!
The FDA says they don’t have any adequate evidence that antibacterial products work any better than just washing with soap and water. (source)
For years, that normal old-fashioned idea of washing your hands with soap and water has been the way to go.
It actually cleans stuff off your hands, vs hand sanitizer which just takes care of the bacteria.
But we all know there are times when you just can’t access a sink and want a quick fix to feeling icky.
Not that dirt or germs are a bad thing or necessarily harmful… kids actually need some to help develop their immune system! (source) But, ehh, I just feel the need to do something to my hands after I walk out of a bathroom in Mexico that had no running water and no toilet paper.
I dunno. Maybe it’s just me.
And on top of that, we all hang out with sick people, deal with unclean public areas, and go through cold and flu season (not to mention Coronavirus- more on that below!).
Everyone should carry a safe, effective hand sanitizer with them.
But since the storebought variety is usually so toxic, I learned how to make an easy hand sanitizer at home– and it’s way more simple and inexpensive than I thought!
Homemade hand sanitizer to the rescue!
Just in case you can relate to that feeling of needing to clean your hands but not having a sink handy, hakuna matata!
Making your own homemade hand sanitizer is super simple, and DIY costs less than regularly buying Purell or any other hand sanitizer.
It’s also completely zero waste depending on where you get your ingredients and what you choose to store your hand sanitizer in. No more using up and tossing out tons of little plastic bottles!
Related: Creative ways to use less plastic
The essential oils listed in the recipes below can make your hand sanitizer scented, plus they have been studied and been shown to have antibacterial properties. (source)
Who needs toxins?
One time that you might want to make to your homemade hand sanitizer a little differently is when you’re dealing with COVID-19.
To protect yourself from Coronavirus, numerous studies (source) recommend an alcohol-based hand sanitizer made with at least 60% alcohol.
To make the recipe below with alcohol to kill Coronavirus, just use 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol instead of water.
Please note that alcohol shouldn’t be used for long periods of time since it can dry out your hands and encourage bacteria resistance.
It can also be tough to find when everyone is stocking up!
Thankfully, hydrogen peroxide is just as good and it makes a great addition to Coronavirus-fighting hand sanitizer.
How to make hand sanitizer that kills Coronavirus
The studies mentioned above have actually shown that just 0.5% of hydrogen peroxide is as effective as alcohol at killing Coronaviruses! (source)
Since hydrogen peroxide is super cheap and hasn’t been flying off the shelves quite as quickly as alcohol, it’s the base I chose for my extra-strength, Coronavirus-safe hand sanitizer.
If you get normal hydrogen peroxide from the store, it’s usually already diluted to around 3% (check the bottle) so to substitute 3% hydrogen peroxide, use the recipe below but make sure that you use at least 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 5 parts water.
And when you substitute either alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, you can omit the witch hazel (which helps the essential oils blend in but is unnecessary if you’re using a different emulsifier, plus it hasn’t yet been proven to be effective against Coronavirus).
I would still highly recommend both hydrogen peroxide and essential oils for the best protection.
Note that for this recipe, an essential oil dilution rate of 2% would be about 120 drops of essential oils. This recipe uses much less -about a 0.5% dilution rate- so that it’s less costly, well below safety guidelines for kids, and still effective.
But if you want to increase the amount of essential oils in your homemade hand sanitizer (up to 2% max), go for it!
Using your homemade hand sanitizer
Make sure you’re still washing your hands with hot water and soap when it’s available, but use your hydrogen peroxide-based hand sanitizer any time you’re out in public, or when sinks aren’t available.
Rub your hands for at least 30 seconds any time you use your hand sanitizer.
And try to use your homemade hand sanitizer within a month. Thankfully, it’s very cost-effective to make more any time you need!
If you don’t have purified or distilled water, store your hand sanitizer in the fridge or try to use it within a week to avoid any bacterial growth.
Easy Coronavirus-Safe Homemade Hand Sanitizer
This extra-strength hand sanitizer is easy to make at home. Hydrogen Peroxide has been proven to kill Coronavirus, and the essential oils are antimicrobial for even better protection against viruses!
- 2 oz. Amber Spray Bottles
- 4 tbsp Hydrogen Peroxide (3% solution)
- 30 drops Essential Oils (see below)
- 5 drops Aloe Vera (optional, for moisturization)
- 1 cup distilled/purified water
Combine all ingredients except water and mix well
Add water and mix well
Pour mixture into individual bottles
Shake before using
Antimicrobial essential oils: oregano, tea tree, eucalyptus, and clove. Other good choices include citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, patchouli, and peppermint. Use tea tree sparingly, as some people are sensitive.
This recipe stores well but try to use it within a month- you can store extra in a jar in the fridge until you need to refill your spray bottle, or share it with friends!
To use: spray on hands 2-3 times and rub in for at least 30 seconds
If you aren’t facing any immediate sicknesses, you might want to opt instead for the alcohol-free version of DIY hand sanitizer below.
Also, if you’re around sickness and you want to clean the air of germs, you might be interested in smudging. Learn about how to smudge your house here.
And if you want to sanitize and clean not just your hands but your entire home, check out my post on all the recipes you need for a non-toxic house cleaning!
Why alcohol-free hand sanitizer?
The DIY hand sanitizer below doesn’t have alcohol in it- why not?
Many doctors and official sites recommend a minimum percentage of alcohol for hand sanitizer to be effective.
This is because they’re relying on alcohol to kill the bugs, without looking at any other ingredients. But a lower percentage of alcohol in your hand sanitizer, or no alcohol at all, can work just as well as long as the other ingredients are antimicrobial.
There’s also a possibility that, just like with antibacterial hand sanitizer, bacteria can grow accustomed to the alcohol and develop into superbugs more quickly.
Alcohol in hand sanitizer might just give the bacteria one more thing to become immune to.
Not to mention the alcohol dries out your hands- dry, cracked hands can be more susceptible to infection. And not just that, it’s dangerous because it can remove the good stuff and natural antibacterials on your hands too, which actually leaves you more inclined to catching bacteria and viruses!
The recipe below might be slightly less effective but it’s a good choice for everyday use.
When you aren’t facing cold and flu season or global pandemics, the recipe below won’t dry out your hands- but it’s still an effective defense against bacteria!
If you have been regularly using hand sanitizer with alcohol and have dry hands as a result, I’d highly recommend a good body butter to remoisturize and nourish your skin to help it heal!
Easy DIY Hand Sanitizer Recipe
It's super easy to make your own alcohol-free hand sanitizer at home with simple ingredients. This hand sanitizer lasts a long time, is great for everyday use, and won't dry out your hands!
- 2 oz. Amber Spray Bottle
- 10 drops Essential Oils
- 10 drops Witch Hazel
- 5 drops Vitamin E
- 5 drops Aloe Vera optional
- Distilled/purified water
Put everything except the water in your spray bottle.
Shake to mix ingredients, then add water to fill up the bottle. Shake before using.
(Refer to the recipe above to make to a stronger, Coronavirus-safe hand sanitizer.)
Antibacterial essential oils: tea tree, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, orange, patchouli, and peppermint are all good choices. Use tea tree sparingly, as some people are sensitive. For smell, you can also use lavender, lemon, rosemary, orange, or vanilla.
Store in an airtight container and keep out of reach of kids.
DIY hand sanitizer recipe notes
It’s alright to store your homemade hand sanitizer in a plastic container since it isn’t purely essential oils, but there is a chance the plastic can break down over time.
Since I’m trying to reduce my use of plastic, I put it in this spray bottle and I recommend you do too!
This hand sanitizer is alcohol-free and safe for babies, but don’t overuse it. Even though it’s child-safe, kids still need to develop their own protection to the germs in their environment. Use child-safe hand sanitizer sparingly with children. Adults shouldn’t use it multiple times a day either.
If you’re wondering about the other ingredients, here’s why you need them:
Vitamin E acts as a preservative and moisturizer. Water can contract pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and fungus, and the Vitamin E helps preserve your mixture. If you aren’t using purified or distilled water, store your hand sanitizer in the fridge.
The aloe vera is a moisturizer but can be left out if you don’t have any, or it can be substituted with one teaspoon of sea salt. Sea salt has antibacterial properties, and, unlike refined salt, includes minerals that support skin health and help keep your skin hydrated!
Using essential oils for hand sanitizer
My favorite blend of essential oils for hand sanitizer is eucalyptus, peppermint, and citronella. These essential oils smell wonderful and are useful sanitizing agents that are safe for your hands!
Witch hazel is a critical component of this recipe, because water and oil don’t mix. So many people get this wrong with their recipes that use essential oils… If you add any essential oil straight to water, the essential oil will form little droplets that float on top of the water.
Then when you spray it on your hands, you might get straight essential oil, which might burn… We don’t want that!
Always add an emulsifier (such as witch hazel or oil) to any essential oil recipe that’s going to go on your skin.
And this won’t stain your clothes- feel free to use it as a spritzer or air freshener, and just enjoy the aromatherapy benefits!
Want to get more toxins out of your home?
Homemade hand sanitizer is just the beginning- there are loads of toxins and chemicals that hide out in the products we keep in our houses. But the good news is, you can learn where the toxins are lurking and find good substitutes!
Hand sanitizer spray is one part of holistic living, but if you really want to see benefits, you’ll need to remove toxins from other areas of your life too.
It’s possible to do this in small, manageable steps over time. Don’t get overwhelmed- it’s easy and possible for anyone to live more healthfully, and I’m here to help you make steps toward natural living!
To get started, download my free guide to reducing toxins by entering your email below!