Homemade Hand Sanitizer

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:

Ingredients

Method

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.)


Homemade Hand Sanitizer 1

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.


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Comments

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Aryadne! When mixed with other things, essential oils do not last indefinitely. I would make small batches that you can use up this season. Unfortunately, I can’t give a concrete expiration date like milk or bread would have, since there are so many factors that affect the shelf-life of products containing essential oils. Keep in mind that when essential oils are heated and cooled repeatedly the beneficial properties begin to deteriorate. Don’t leave in a freezing car or near a heat source in your house. :)

  1. Christine says

    Do we have to buy aloe vera gel, or can we just “milk” one of our own aloe plants? And thanks for all of your great ideas!

    • says

      Great question Christine, and you’re welcome. If you have plants available for milking there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use them over buying commercially sold AV gel. Let us know how it turns out.

    • says

      Yes, you definitely can! Matt made his own eye drops a while back, but I’m not sure what he put in them. Maybe this will have to be a future post. :-)

  2. Donna says

    I can’t wait to try this! Along with doorknobs and meeting room tables, I just read that some of the germiest places are bank machines and gas pumps. I plan to keep a little bottle in my car.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Donna…although I used to keep commercial hand sanitizers in my car, I would hesitate to keep this natural hand sanitizer in the car. Keep in mind that the essential oils in the recipe will begin losing their beneficial properties if the mixture gets too hot or too cold. A bottle in your purse might be a better option. :)

  3. Phaedra Arnold says

    Hello!
    I have used several of your other recipes to great success so I naturally had to try this one. I also researched a few other recipes and general information on the information super highway, found some interesting and hopefully useful tidbits. Armed with new data, I decided to improvise my own concoction.
    12 oz aloe vera
    1/3 cup rubbing alcohol
    1/3 cup witch hazel
    5(ish) drops of tea tree oil
    25 drops of lavender oil

    It has come out to be a decent consistency, smell is very lightly pleasant, no tacky feeling and few little burning in nicks and cuts. Here’s hoping it helps keep away the plague!
    Thank you!

  4. BlogShag says

    i just wanted to point out for anyone who hasn’t tried making their own sanitizer, it will usually smell better. Some of that store bought stuff smells cheap and awful. And with the home made sanitizer, you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.

  5. Bre says

    I’m so glad I found this post. I tried making some of my own hand sanitizer. I used the knowledge of my RN friend and other research I had done. I used glycerin, alcohol, and essential oils. It was effective and helped with chapped “wintery” hands but it left a weird oily feeling to my hands. So I am super excited at trying yours!

  6. Stace says

    I am a bit concerned about this recipe. I do think that making your own sanitizer is absolutely brilliant considering the way companies probably mark-up commercial sanitizers at least 200% (and that is me being nice). However, to be effective, sanitizers must have at least 60% alcohol. This is harsh on your skin, but this is why conditioners are added to most. “A little bit” of alcohol will not do the job of killing the majority of bugs (predominantly viruses…of which there are over 200 that cause the common cold alone). I am a RN completing my Master’s and have been teaching nurses for some time :) I just want you to be informed!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks Stace! Keep in mind that the tea tree oil in this recipe is the germ-fighter. We believe in the therapeutic properties of essential oils. :)

  7. Carrie Kilgore says

    I have had a blast on this site the last two days. The tea tree oil is in other recipes I would like to try as well. Thanks.

  8. Jessica says

    I would love to know about the tea tree oil as well. I am 22 weeks preggo and work in a day care, so I am constantly washing my hands. Any alternatives you would suggest for the time being?
    Ps: LOVE the laundry detergent recipie!! Thanks for all you do :)

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Carrie & Jessica,
      I recommend checking with your doctor about using tea tree oil. He/she might say it’s okay to use it for topical applications, but you’ll want to ask to be sure.
      From things I have read, there is not enough scientific information right now on tea tree (and a few others like rosemary & peppermint essential oil) to recommend during pregnancy/nursing. I’m also assuming that’s why all the warnings I see discourage parents from using it with infants and young children.
      The following website gives more information, but you will also notice that this site says tea tree oil generally has a reputation for being safe during pregnancy…lots of contradictions out there. http://www.aromaweb.com/articles/aromatherapyduringpregnancy.asp
      Read up on everything you can about these oils, consult your doctor, and make the best informed decision you possibly can! :)

  9. Kat says

    I love the idea of this. But when I made it, it was so thick I couldn’t get it into the pump bottles no matter what I did. I ended up wasting about a third of it. Did anyone else have that problem or is it just me?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I’m guessing the problem was a result of the aloe vera gel being too thick. What kind did you use? My sanitizer actually turns out pretty thin.

  10. Amy says

    I am also wondering about the aloe vera gel. Is it the kind you can eat? That is what I got and it comes out kinda chunky. Mine finished product is pretty thick. I did not put it in a pump, though.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Amy, it should be pure aloe vera gel. I’m sure the consistency depends on the brand. I use Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel. It’s runny enough to put in a pump bottle.

      • joyce says

        If the Aloe Gel is too thick you can put it in your blender and it will break up the lumps and make it thinner…

        • JSpann says

          I used the Aloe Vera Liquid from Bulk Apothacary and put my mixture in a small bottle with a fine mist sprayer. It worked great!!

  11. Teresa says

    Hello!

    Couple of questions – for the AV does that need to be refrigerated after opening? Also do you have any recipes for an all natural foaming hand soap?

    Thanks!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Check your bottle of AV to be sure about refrigeration. If it’s 100% pure aloe vera gel, it will need to be refrigerated after opening. For foaming hand soap, I put 1/3 liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and 2/3 water into a foaming pump. Simple! :)

  12. marla says

    I bought a small aloe vera plant last so I could use the gel at home. It has multiplied into several pots now and I would like to harvest it…any special tips on it or do I just peel away the skin and blend it smooth to mix?

  13. Erin D says

    I wonder if coconut oil would work in some manner? “Coconut oil is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil kills viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, etc. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, etc. Coconut oil is also effective on fungi and yeast that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, etc.” http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Interesting thought! I knew it was antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, but hadn’t seen all of those disease-related uses for coconut oil. Thanks for the information Erin!

  14. Tara says

    I made hand sanitizer using this recipe but it seems to dry out my hands. I have to use it frequently due to the nature of my work. Do you have any suggestions? I did use pure aloe vera, not the green kind. Thanks!

  15. Jevena says

    Tee tree oil is amazing but should also be used with caution until you know for sure if you are allergic. I tried it for nail fungus only to find I was allergic. I thought I would go nuts from the wicked itchy oozing bumps that lasted for over a week.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yikes, sounds horrible! I agree everyone should perform a patch test (instructions can be found in the post under “Tips and Warnings”) if they have not used a certain essential oil before.

  16. Amara says

    My s.son’s teacher informed me of your site and I am so thankful you have this recipe for hand sanitizer! I used to use commercial sanitizer until my s.sons teacher informed me it was toxic to kids (EEEEEK!!!!) I will be ordering the necessary ingredients and mixing up a batch to keep in my purse! Thank you :)

  17. Deborah says

    Betsy, what a wonderful thing to read the recipe and realize I had everything I needed to make this handy alternative. Thanks so much and I have been sending your articles to various people that needed some help. It’s really great that you two are doing this so keep up the great work!

    Love and light,
    Deborah

  18. Laurie says

    I love this! I am allergic to any chemical cleaner – so, no commercial soaps and the quick cleaners leave my already damaged fingers like alligator skin. I’m thrilled to have this – no allergy to TT as I use it all the time for other things. Something I’ll be able to keep in my purse and use in public restrooms – happy day!

  19. create4good says

    This is great! And I even have all the ingredients — awesome!
    Couple of questions — is it necessary to “swirl” the ingredients? My vitamin E oil is quite thick, and would need to be stirred with something to incorporate with the essential oils. Could we stir it with something? I thought a wooden chopstick would be good, so I could throw it away if necessary, but it wouldn’t affect the ingredients (like plastic or metal might).
    Also, my pure aloe vera is VERY liquidy, almost like water, so I combined them in a bottle with a spray top. If I shake it very well, do you think the important ingredients would get through the spray nozzle enough to be effective? I wish there was a way to test the efficacy of the germ-fighting!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi there,

      You can absolutely stir the ingredients! There’s no reason in particular I said to “swirl,” other than the fact that I hate dirtying up more utensils while doing a project. :) If your pure aloe vera gel is a pourable (thin) consistency, then it will work fine in a spray bottle.

      Have fun making this!

  20. Barb says

    Perfect timing! I had been thinking about how to make my own, and once again, you beat me to it! I have an AV question though…I also use Lily of the Desert, but mine says 99% pure. It is the “Gelly” and has quite a list of ingredients such as vitamins and preservatives in addition to the aloe. Is there another type I should be looking for? I love this site and use so many of your recipes and suggestions, THANKS!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, the “gelly” isn’t totally pure and natural, but it will work if that’s what you have. I typically use Lakewood Organic Pure Aloe Vera Gel. It’s usually found in the health section (as an aloe supplement that you can drink). It’s pure aloe vera gel, in a pourable consistency, that only includes a little lemon juice as a preservative. I have also used Lily of the Desert pure aloe vera gel, but they have changed the formulation recently to include a thickening agent and more preservatives. Basically, you can use whatever you’re comfortable with, but just be sure that you use an appropriate container for the consistency of your aloe gel. (For example, I would not try to use a spray bottle for your sanitizer if you’re using the thick “gelly.”) Hope that helps!

  21. JSpann says

    I made my first batch last night and gave several of the bottles away to get feedback. I love it and most everyone I’ve “squirted” did too. The ones that didn’t, didn’t like the lavender tea tree combo. I will be trying a batch with peppermint and tea tree next.

    Another good thing about this sanitizer……if you lick your fingers after putting it on it does not taste bad!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Peppermint and tea tree would be a great combo in this sanitizer! I’m so glad everyone is liking your homemade batches. Thanks so much for returning and leaving your comments! :)

  22. Rachel says

    I’m just starting the all-natural DIY and thought this would be a good product to start with. I have a 9mo baby and am nursing though, so not sure about the tea tree oil-been researching but can’t find anything definitive one way or the other…
    Also have a question about witch hazel. I bought a bottle at my local health food store called Thayers original witch hazel with aloe vera formula, got home and looked up this recipe again then realized this might not be okay to use. Should I return it and find something that specifically says that it’s witch hazel extract only?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Rachel,

      The witch hazel you have will work well. As far as essential oils go, I have always learned that if pregnant or nursing, products containing 1% essential oils are safe. The essential oils in this recipe only make up approximately 0.5% of the product.

      Hope this helps!

  23. says

    Great recipe for home-made hand sanitizer. It’s good to see information getting out there about the dangers of Triclosan. Hand sanitizer based on essential oils and natural alcohols can help wipe out germs safely without putting you at risk for antibiotic resistance. Keep up the great work, Betsy!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks for your kind words! It’s true — our society has been so bombarded with promises of the effectiveness of things like Triclosan, but rarely educated on the multiple dangers. And instead of trusting in the natural alternatives, many consumers think that only products made in a lab will work. We work to help consumers move away from this mindset, and are so thrilled you enjoy our work! :)