Why natural hand sanitizer?
As a former public school employee, hand sanitizer was a mainstay on my desk (and in any other strategic location that might encourage students to use it when needed). However, I had a love-hate relationship with this germ fighting, often offensively scented gel. I typically didn’t have time for the necessary 30-second hand wash while working with kids, but knew I had touched something icky, gooey, and most definitely packed with tons of bacteria. Commercial hand sanitizers were often so chemically-scented that I could not bear to have it on my hands all day, and more importantly, I worried about the safety of these commercial formulas for myself and the kids.
The good news? There really is no need for your nose and eyes to burn every time you apply hand sanitizer, and this DIY formula won’t dry your hands out! A non-chemical, naturally scented version of hand sanitizer can be made right at home using powerful essential oils and a few other ingredients. The essential oils I chose to use boast the following beneficial properties: antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.
* Tea tree oil has been found in clinical studies to kill most types of bacteria at a concentration of 0.5-1%. If you are making adjustments to the recipe, make sure your tea tree is adjusted accordingly so it remains at this concentration.
Homemade Natural Hand Sanitizer recipe
Arm yourself with a softly-scented natural version of hand sanitizer using this recipe:
- 5-10 drops lavender essential oil (where to buy 100% pure lavender EO)
- 30 drops tea tree essential oil - this is a 0.5% concentration (find 100% pure tea tree EO here)
- 1 Tablespoon witch hazel extract or high-proof vodka (find witch hazel here)
- 8 ounces 100% pure aloe vera gel (where to buy 100% pure aloe vera gel)
- ¼ teaspoon Vitamin E oil - a natural preservative to increase shelf life (It will also help soften hands!)
Add essential oils and Vitamin E oil to a small glass bowl or container and swirl to mix. Add witch hazel (or alcohol) to the oils and swirl again. Add this mixture to the aloe vera gel and mix well. Shake gently before each use. (Sanitizer should last several months with the addition of Vitamin E to help preserve.)
Tips and warnings
The lavender is used in the recipe to round out the strong scent of the tea tree oil. If you’re not a fan of lavender, choose another antibacterial oil such as rosemary, sage, sandalwood, or peppermint. (where to buy 100% pure essential oils)
I simply added my new hand sanitizer to clean 3 or 4 ounce squirt bottles that had once contained commercial hand sanitizers. They already have the perfect lid that drops a dime-size portion into my hand for each use. Perfect for throwing into a purse or a backpack! You could also mix up a batch and keep in a container with a pump.
Always take care when handling essential oils. Keep in mind these are very concentrated, powerful plant extracts. If you are new to using essential oils you may want to test for an allergic reaction before slathering on this hand sanitizer. As with any natural plant, family members could be allergic. For a simple patch test mix one drop of essential oil with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Rub a bit on the inside of your elbow, cover with a bandage, and wait 24 hours to see if there is any negative reaction.
Note: If you’ve been reading recent reports about how unhealthy the use of hand sanitizers can be, keep in mind that the danger exists in the chemicals used in commercial sanitizers. This hand sanitizer recipe uses NONE of those harmful chemicals, and relies on pure essential oils to kill germs. One of the unique qualities of essential oils is that they do not cause bacterial resistance like antibacterial chemicals do, and are actually effective in killing strains of bacteria that have become resistant to our man-made medicines and chemicals. (source)
Sometimes it’s good to allow our bodies to encounter germs and strengthen our immune systems, but sometimes it’s nice to have a hand sanitizer available for emergencies. (Think dirty porta potty, or child next to you having a sneeze-fest.) In these cases, this gentle homemade formula is one of the best alternatives to commercial hand sanitizers.