Ever since I’ve embraced this new green lifestyle of mine, there are a few things that I really miss from my old life. Slowly, I’ve been finding ways to find natural alternatives, and a couple weeks ago I finally decided to make some homemade hand sanitizer. This was a big one for me because I used to use the store bought stuff like it was going out of style! I had it at home, I had the travel size one in my purse, and as a former school teacher, you better believe I had a big old bottle of that stuff right on my desk!
But once I started purging my home of the not-so-natural cleaning and personal care products, I sadly had to let go of my beloved hand sanitizer. Of course there’s no substitute for good hand washing, and nothing is more effective at killing germs than a good hand soap and some warm water. But for those times when you need some germ fighting power and you’re nowhere near a washroom, hand sanitizer really does come in handy!
What’s wrong with the store bought sanitizers?
As we discussed in my all natural antibacterial spray post, these products kill nearly all bacteria – good and bad. As effective as those store bought hand sanitizers may be at killing bacteria, they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. Since the good bacteria protects our bodies from infection and helps it to fight off the bad bacteria, it’s a bit counterproductive to kill off those helpful good bacteria, isn’t it?
Also, the main ingredient in these store bought products is ethyl alcohol – a minimum concentration of at least 60%. As much as I like using alcohol for cleaning and disinfecting, I really don’t like the idea of rubbing alcohol on my hands over and over again since it can be drying to the skin. Alcohol is also very toxic and can be deadly for young children, and with a 60% concentration, I definitely don’t want these hand sanitizers anywhere near my kiddos!
And have you checked the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) data sheet on Purell Hand Sanitizer (the brand we used to use)? Not only does it have an overall score of 5 (I don’t like using anything with a score higher than 2 or 3), it contains about 10 other questionable ingredients, including artificial fragrance (EWG score of 8) and artificial colors, both of which I try to stay far away from.
So what’s the alternative?
Why, I’m so glad you asked! 😉 There are a ton of homemade versions floating around on the internet, so I kind of took a bit from here and there. The main ingredients we’ll be working with are aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and essential oils. I also added some vitamin E oil to act as a natural preservative and for some skin softening properties.
The witch hazel I used has 14% alcohol by volume. Some brands of witch hazel can have up to 70% alcohol, so look for one with a low alcohol concentration. You may also find one with no alcohol at all at a natural health food store, but I’m confortable with the small amount of alcohol in this one.
Essential oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, so they’re a great (and necessary!) addition to a homemade hand sanitizer. For this recipe, I’m using tea tree oil and lavender essential oil. The tea tree oil is kind of a must, since it has very potent antimicrobial properties (use at least 0.5% concentration). The lavender oil helps mask the strong scent of the tea tree oil a bit, but it’s also very calming. Other oils you may want to experiment with include lemon, neroli, patchouli, peppermint, ylang ylang, clove, or pine – all of which have antiseptic properties.
- 1 cup pure aloe vera gel (as pure as you can get)
- 1 tablespoon witch hazel
- 30 drops (1/4 tsp) tea tree oil
- 10 drops lavender oil (or essential oil of choice)
- 3-4 drops vitamin E oil (optional)
- In a small glass dish, add the essential oils and stir.
- Add the witch hazel and vitamin E oil and stir again.
- Add the aloe vera gel and mix very well.
- Using a funnel, pour the mixture into your container of choice.
- Shake well before using.
- The vitamin E oil helps to soften hands and will extend the shelf life up to 3-4 months. In either case, the sanitizer should be discarded after 6 months.
- This recipe filled 3 travel size (3 oz) squirt bottles. To fill just one 3 oz bottle, use 1/3 cup aloe vera, 1 teaspoon witch hazel, 10 drops tea tree oil, and 3 drops lavender oil.
- As with all products that contain essential oils, please keep in mind that some oils are not recommended for use while pregnant or breastfeeding, and others (like lavender) are known to mimic estrogen in the body and are not recommended for use with boys. So please, research the oils you wish to use before you add them to your recipe.
- Before working with essential oils, keep in mind that you or a family member may be allergic to certain oils. It’s always a good idea to do a patch skin test by diluting one drop of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and applying it to your arm. If there’s no reaction after 24 hours, then you’re good.
- Although this recipe is safe for adults and young children, I wouldn’t use this (or any sanitizer) on children younger than 2 years of age.
Do you use hand sanitizer when you’re out and can’t wash your hands? What’s your favorite natural brand to use, or do you make your own?