It’s flu season and hand sanitizer is available everywhere from grocery store entrance ways to offices and libraries. Clean hands can certainly prevent illness and the transfer of toxic chemicals into our mouths. On the flip side though, over-sanitizing can lead to antibiotic resistance, weaker immune systems, and breaking down of the skin’s natural built-in defense against outside intruders (the acid mantle).
Hand sanitizers do kill many germs, but they do not remove dirt or debris from hands where toxins we encounter throughout the day accumulate. And unlike soaps which are partially rinsed from the skin, sanitizer gels remain on the hands and are absorbed further, making any shady ingredients even more troubling.
Commercial hand sanitizers either rely on Triclosan (pesticide used as an active ingredient in antibacterial products) or a high concentration of alcohol to kill of germs. Triclosan is certainly worth avoiding as it has been associated with liver toxicity, hormonal/endocrine disruption, thyroid dysfunction, antibiotic resistance, and can harm the immune system. Not to mention, it doesn’t protect against viruses!
Isopropyl alcohol, on the other hand, does kill some viruses, but is a petrochemical and can be highly toxic or damaging if consumed (or, say, splashed in an eye). Though I’d prefer to stay clear of alcohol-based sanitizers, most of the risks posed seem to be more associated with misuse, and when properly handled I do believe they are a better option than triclosan.
One other thing to look out for in many store-bought sanitizing gels is “fragrance” in the ingredient list. This one word is a wildcard, covering a slew of undisclosed chemicals. Most synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals and contain phthalates (associated with hormone disruption, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and autism).
Well, friends, the great news is that making non-toxic sanitizer at home is so EASY, inexpensive, non-toxic, and effective! I have played with several recipes over time, and the following combination is my favorite.
DIY Non-toxic Hand Sanitizer
(Makes about 4.5 oz. Recipe can be halved or doubled, but should probably not be made in bulk due to the lack of added preservatives.)
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 5 drops Lavender essential oil
- 15 drops Tea Tree essential oil
- 1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil (I use this one)
- 1.5 tsp Alcohol-free Witch Hazel (find it here)
- 1/2 cup pure Aloe Vera Gel (find it here)
- Air-tight Pump Bottle (Preferably dark glass to preserve quality of the essential oils & lengthen shelf life.) (find it here)
NOTE FROM ARSY:
I only recommend using essential oils that have been steam distilled or cold-pressed, as many of them (probably most!) are extracted using chemical solvents (which can end up in the final product) or high heat (which can damage many of the beneficial properties of the oils). You can learn more about which oils I use HERE.
Pour ingredients into a mason jar, one at a time, in the order listed. Gently swirl the jar after each addition to combine. Transfer mixture into a tightly sealed glass pump bottle.
WHY THESE INGREDIENTS?
Lavender & Tea Tree oils have strong cleansing properites. They could theoretically be substituted for other essential oils with similar properties, but keep in mind that some oils aren’t recommended for use on young children or when pregnant (get a free copy of my child-safe essential oils chart here). Also, some citrus oils are photosensitive which can be problematic if worn in the sun. Lavender and tea tree are great gentle oils that are safe for the whole family!
Vitamin E oil softens the hands and has natural preserving powers. Witch hazel helps to blend the ingredients and makes the solution easier to apply. Note, witch hazel can be purchased without alcohol, but generally comes with. Aloe vera moisturizes, is anti-aging, and puts the gel right into diy hand sanitizing gel!
Have you made your own hand sanitizer or hand soap before? Let us know in the comments below!