Making homemade hand sanitizer

sanitizerCold and flu season is in full swing, and with H1N1 running around all over the place, taking a few extra precautions to keep germs at bay is never a bad thing. I’m not saying you need to bathe yourself and your kids in hand sanitizer every few minutes. Washing your hands with soap and water is still the best way to get rid of germs. But after an outing where you come into contact with a lot of germs (like the grocery store, the gas pump, public bathrooms) it’s a good idea to kill off some of those foreign attackers when you don’t have access to a sink and soap. And when you have an 11 month old sitting in the grocery cart who insists on putting as much of the cart in her mouth as possible, you like having a little piece of mind that your daughter isn’t going to break out in hives from all the germs at any moment.

There are many, many hand sanitizing products on the market, but I’ve found that you can make your own hand sanitizer for a fraction of the cost. Most products you buy are made with an alcohol base but as the green craze continues, more natural products made with essential oils are finding their way to the market. If you elect for an alcohol based product, make sure it has an alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent so that it kills most harmful bacteria and viruses. Check those labels on your hand sanitizer products so you know they are actually getting the job done and not just smearing the germs around.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to combat disease and you may already have all of the oils in your home that are necessary to make your own hand sanitizer. Using essential oils with disinfectant, antiseptic and antiviral properties will allow you to create a homemade hand sanitizer with no alcohol at all.

Essential Oils to Use

Cedarwood, lavender, lemon, lemon grass, myrrh, neroli, patchouli, peppermint, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, thyme and ylang-ylang essential oils all have antiseptic properties.

Clove, niaouli and pine oils have both disinfectant and antiseptic properties.

Tea tree oil is the most powerful of these essential oils and has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties–making it the recommended essential oil to use in the following recipes. But it should not be used on infants or pregnant /nursing women. Adding more tea tree oil to any recipe will make the hand sanitizer more effective but the smell can be overwhelming. View the American Society for Microbiology’s study about TTO for further information about its effectiveness. Most organisms can be killed with a 0.50% concentration (E.coli, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus special and others) but to kill the penicillin-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a 3.0% concentration is neeed. All of these findings have been published in international journals. A few drops of essential oils like basil, rosemary, rose, lavender, lemon or geranium will lighten and balance the aroma.

Always be careful with essential oils and consult an herbalist before using if you have any current health conditions. As mentioned, some oils (like tea tree, cedar wood and hyssop) are not suitable for pregnant and nursing women. Tea tree oil should not be used on children under 1 year old. 

In the recipes below, you can mix oils to suit you tastes or just use one type of oil but their effectiveness will be reduced versus using tea tree oil. These mixtures are 0.5% tea tree oil, and therefore should be effective enough to kill most bacteria, even without the presence of alcohol.

One essential oil blend option which is safe for families is a combination of lavender and pine but the number of drops of oils used will need to be increased to be effective. This will create a disinfectant, antiseptic hand sanitizer with calming effects. Add a little citrus or rosemary to enhance and round out the aroma.

Aloe vera gel is in ingredient in all of these recipes and I just wanted to mention that this means pure aloe vera gel without the coloring, flavoring and so on. It’s not the same as juice. It should say “100% aloe vera gel” somewhere on the bottle. If it doesn’t, it’s the wrong stuff.

If you have trouble finding any of these ingredients in your local stores, try online sources. I’ll be happy to give you a few sites myself.

So here’s the homemade hand sanitizer recipes with and without alcohol. Mixing up a batch of hand sanitizer only takes a few minutes but there’s often a question of what you have available in the house. You’ll probably want to do the mixing in a glass bowl (plastic may take on the aroma of the essential oils and metal may react with the ingredients) but you can also just pour the ingredients directly into a bottle if you prefer. Either way, a funnel is going to be useful. Add the ingredients together in your mixing vessel, then shake or stir to combine. Fill the mixture into hand sanitizer and other small bottles you’ve washed out to keep those landfills empty. Some more liquid recipes may need to be shaken before use to distribute the oils.

Alcohol Free Hand Sanitizer Gel

  • 1 cup pure  aloe vera gel
  • 1-2 teaspoons of witch hazel (add until the desired consistency is reached)
  • 25 drops (1/4 tsp) tea tree oil (or increased amounts of other essential oils as listed above)

Mostly Alcohol Free Hand Sanitizer Gel

  • 2 cups pure aloe vera gel
  • 2 tablespoons 90% SD40 alcohol (perfumer’s alcohol if you can get it)
  • 2-3 teaspoons tea tree oil (or increased amounts of other essential oils as listed above)

Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer

  • 1/4 cup pure aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 cup grain alcohol or vodka
  • 13 drops (1/8 tsp) tea tree oil (or increased amounts of other essential oils as listed above)
  • http://thequeenofseaford.blogspot.com Janet

    interesting…like the one with the grain alcohol or vodka. whoa

    • Tiffany

      Yeah I never really thought about using vodka or strong alcohol for a hand sanitizer but it makes sense…I mean people use it to sterilize wounds when they’ve got nothing else so why not this? Of course, if you still have the smell of vodka strongly lingering in your hand sanitizer, people might start thinking you’re a drunk. But at least your hands will be germ free :)

    • Makayla

      Do you have any recommendations for Witch Hazel? What I’ve found so far has alcohol in it. Are there any other options?

      • Tiffany

        You want to look for witch hazel distillate. It only contains a small amount of alcohol versus the traditional stuff you find on the shelves, which is basically premixed to be a skin toner.

        • Makayla

          Thanks! That helped! Now I’m having trouble finding 100% pure aloe vera gel. If it’s 100% pure, it’s usually not GEL, but it’s really hard to find anything 100%. Any recommendations of brands?? I’m really excited to get started making my own sanitizer!!

          • Tiffany

            Hi Makayla. Try looking for the Fruit of the Earth brand. I’ve found it everywhere, from Wal-Mart to Target and so on. They also have it on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fruit-Earth-100-Aloe-Vera/dp/B0009VNI40/ref=pd_sim_bt_4 There are others, but they are the most economical.

          • Barbara Smith

            NOT 100% ALOE VERA

            It’s NOT 100% Aloe Vera. The bottle says 100% Gel….How sneaky of them…
            Here is FRUIT of the Earth so called 100 % gel. (they are ALL like this)
            Here is the ingredient list:
            Aloe Vera Gel, Triethanolamine, Tocopheryl, Acetate, Carbomer, Tetrasodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl UREA.

          • julia scibich

            there is aloso 99% aloe vera in trader joes… but idk if u want that.

          • Susan

            I found aloe vera 100% gel made by Fruit of the Earth at Walmart for $3.97 by the sunburn/suntan section in the healthcare section.

          • http://www.noordinaryhomestead.com Tiffany

            Nice find! Thanks for sharing!!

        • Bob

          Well, sorry but I don’t know any other way to leave a comment. I have been using the sanitizer for over a year as deoderant. Works great. May try to make some.
          Bob

    • Julie

      What about 1/2 Hibiclens and 1/2 water? I know it’s very important not to get in your mouth, eyes or ears, but as just a hand sanitizer, would this be a great thing? Hibiclens many surgeons use before surgery as their “scrub”.

      Ju

      • Tiffany

        Hi Julie,

        Yes, I imagine that would work. I know that you can dilute about 1:3 with water as 3 parts for wound dressings since you don’t want to get it directly into a deep wound. Normally you would want to wash off hibiclens after sanitizing with it, so I would be very careful about what you do after using this solution if you decide to go that route.

    • Barbara Smith

      Don’t purchase Grain alcohol..as ALL GRAIN alcohols contain GMO’s!!! A ‘Better’ Vodka to use would be one that is made from 100% Rye or Potato!! because MONSANTO has not messed with either of those crops….Yet!

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  • http://homemaderachel.wordpress.com/ rachel

    I will definitely try the alcohol free version, because my kids and I always have little boo boos and that alcohol based stuff stings so bad!

  • Jingolo

    Using those 3 recipes won’t kill any bacterias; running water would do better.

    For example, the alcohol version has 1/4 cup of grain alcohol or vodka. This is likely to have 40% alcohol in it, which makes you final product less than 20% alcohol, a lot less than the 70% used in hospitals and 62% used in Purell and others.

    You can use isopropyl alcohol 90% or 100% or ethanol (as close to 96% as possible) and make sure the final product has AT LEAST 60% of alcohol. Go safe and use 2/3 alcohol 1/3 moisturizer (glycerine and aloe are a good choice).

    For the other ones, essential oils won’t kill bacterias or viruses. A few will, but not all will, so be more specific. If you really want to be safe and alcohol-free, chloride hand sanitizers are another safe solution but should be bought from the store, not homemade.

    It should be noted that even with 70% alcohol no product will kill all the germs. Most bacterias are fairly easy to kill with alcohol, but viruses are another story and against the flu, only chloride solutions will be really effective. Also, chlorstridium difficile is somewhat resistant to alcohol-based sanitizers.

    • Tiffany

      Thanks for your comment, Jingolo. As noted, alcohol-based hand-sanitizers should be at least 60% alcohol. But if tea tree oil (TTO) is added, as is described as the best essential oil for use in these recipes, the antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial of the sanitizer is boosted. But because TTO is a very overwhelming essential oil, it must be diluted before being applied to the skin. See the American Society for Microbiology’s study about TTO for further information about its effectiveness.

      Other weaker essential oils have been included for those with sensitive skin, who are pregnant, for children and so on. It is true they will not be as effective as the solutions including TTO.

  • Amy@homemade bath products

    I knew that about tea tree oil being anti-fungal and antibacterial, but I had no idea about those other oils having those properties. Great information. By the way, I like your theme. I’ve used it on one of my blogs.
    .-= Amy@homemade bath products´s last blog ..Funky Monkey Soap (Kitchen Smell Dispel) =-.

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  • http://www.gjsilluminations.com Gary Althaus

    The US Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms restricts the resale of drinking or beverage alcohol in perfumes and related products, regardless of whether you add essential oils, absolutes or other scenting materials. Adding beverage alcohols, such as vodka, to perfumes and then selling them is against the law because it is considered serving alcohol. Permits are required to use drinkable alcohol. In order to stay within the law, you must use the formulas specified by US ATF for cosmetic applications. Local liquor control rules may also apply to beverage alcohol use in cosmetics and perfumes.

    You must also obtain a license to use specially denatured alcohol directly from ATF and have your formula approved, if you do not use one of the general use formulas. There are certain Perfumery Blends that have been approved for unrestricted use in cosmetics by the ATF eliminating the need for your uses to be regulated by the ATF, I use the one manufactured by the company Snow Drift out of Tucson, AZ.

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  • Pat Schenk

    Thanks for your website – I really needed this information for an upcoming emergency prepareness fair we are putting on in our community. Thanks for your help

  • Jessica

    Hi! Why are your recipes calling for less than 60% alcohol? You reference the importance of at least 60% alcohol in your article, yet the recipes below are too diluted. This is really important because scientists (and home grown science experiments) have shown that under 60% not only does not kill germs, the liquid actually helps them to be mobile/move around. Please consider revising your post after doing some more research… I am a VERY natural lifestyle person but I am concerned that you are putting people’s health and lives at risk.

    • Tiffany

      Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for your comment. I actually have done some further research and slightly adjusted two of these recipes, but please notice that the recipes are primarily NOT alcohol-based and therefore that is why they do not contain 60% alcohol. If you will read up on the effectiveness of tea tree oil, you will find that just a 0.5% concentration is high enough to kill most types of illness-causing bacteria. These recipes rely on essential oils (namely tea tree oil) to kill germs and bacteria, not alcohol. So even the alcohol-based recipe which contains only 50% alcohol is still effective because of the presence of tea tree oil.

  • Sarah

    Hi, I find your blog very informative. Thanks a lot for sharing with us:)

    I just have a question though. I want to try the alcohol free version to use on my baby. But should I substitute some other essential oil in place of tea tree oil as TTO might be too harsh for babies?

    Thanks a lot in advance for your advice :)

    • Tiffany

      Tea tree is definitely not going to work on a baby…WAY too harsh. I would actually try to use as few sanitizers and antibacterial products as possible on your child because it will seriously hamper his/her ability to build up a healthy immune system. With that being said, you can substitute with about 10 drops lavender and 10 drops pine oils with the other ingredients to get a similar effect. It will kill some bacteria, just not be as effective as tea tree.

  • Phaedra Arnold

    Hello!

    I have been poking around for a recipe for homemade hand sanitizer. I researched a few other recipes and general information on the information super highway, found some interesting and hopefully useful tidbits. Armed with this 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!

    • Tiffany

      Thanks for sharing your recipe, Phaedra. The amount of lavender you add should definitely help to kill off quite a bit of bacteria and germs…plus it smells great and has a nice calming effect. ;)

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  • Jessie

    Thank you for these awesome recipes. My husband is starting a new job in a hospital– so I’m hyper-aware of the germs he’ll be exposed to, and those that can tag along home. One thing I want to add to your list of essential oils is oregano oil. It’s being used in several European scientific studies that I’ve heard about because of it’s effectiveness on antibiotic resistant strains of staph & other nasties. Also, if you omit the aloe vera gel & use only witch hazel & vodka, you can make a decent hand sanitizer spray that doubles as a bug spray. I’ve been making bug spray for years & the recipe is almost identical to the vodka based sanitizer but without the aloe. Thanks again!

  • Cat

    Hi, this looks like a great way to get the new year started. I bought 2 large bottles of the aloe vera gel and when I got home I read at the bottom that it should be refrigerated after opening. Does this mean that the sanitizer has to be refrigerated too? Will the ingredients break down or lose consistency if I leave it out? How long of a shelf life does it have? Thank you

    • Tiffany

      I’ve never refrigerated my gel and haven’t had any trouble with it breaking down, even several years later. Most companies claim their gel has a shelf life of at least a year. Some claim refrigeration can boost it to two years.

  • http://katrinaskitchen35.blogspot.com Katrina J

    I have been researching DIY hand sanitizer and came across your blog. Thanks for all the great information! I would like to know, though, more about where you got your information on melaleuca essential oil (tea tree). Why is it not okay to use while nursing? Is that just if it is not a CPTG oil, like doTerra’s? I have been to many classes and presentations on doTerra oils and have never heard anyone give any warnings on melaleuca for pregnancy and nursing. (The only oil I’ve heard that about was for peppermint when nursing, and that is only because for some women it decreases their milk supply.)

    • Deserae

      Tea tree oil is very harsh. DoTerra, I have found, spreads lots of dangerous information about the safety of essential oils.

      Any essential oil used topically can infiltrate your milk supply. As a nursing mother, you need to be aware that anything as harsh as tea tree oil, which can cause severe allergic reactions, should be avoided.
      DoTerra, for some reason, has elected to risk these allergic reactions in their customers.

      No, CPTG is a made-up term… DoTerra essential oils are of lower quality and less pure than many essential oils. They aren’t even Organic certified, fair-trade certified, or sustainably farmed certified. And they cost anywhere from 3-10 times as much as organic, fair trade, sustainable essential oils.

      All certified therepeutic quality essential oils are tested with mass gas chrometography.

      Essential oils are potent medications and should be treated as such. Never use undiluted. Never use on a child under 1 without first doing an allergy test. Never use while pregnant or nursing.
      Why risk an allergic reaction?
      I had a terrible allergic reaction to lavender essential oil. I would have hated to see my 3 month old undergo such a reaction.

      Essential oils such as Tansy will cause uterine cramping and miscarriage with as little as 10 drops in the bath tub. Drinking 10 drops will kill you (deep blue contains tansy along with several other highly toxic EOs).
      Please be aware of the active chemicals in the EOs that you use and what those active ingredients do.

      Some people drink alcohol and dye their hair while nursing. These are the types of people who think that taking drugs, including EOs, is not something to worry about while nursing.

    • Seensay2

       you can leave the tea tree oil out if you want too I make mine with just the aloe and the alcohol

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  • Barbara Smith

    WHERE can you find “PURE” Aloe Vera gel?? The 100% Aloe Vera gel being sold in the stores have a miriad of “other” ingrediants!!!(some even say alcohol) I cannot find JUST the AV Gel by itself.

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  • julia scibich

    my dad and me do it a lot… he is a massage theripist, thats why he likes all the natrual things

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