The chemical cocktails used to make store-bought hand sanitizers can be concerning for more writers than just this one. In recent times the American Food and Drug Administration has investigated concerns about active ingredients commonly used in hand sanitizers such as triclosan (or triclocarban) and benzethonium chloride. Next up they will be looking at isopropyl and ethyl alcohol, two other commonly used ingredients.
The FDA ended up banning its use in soaps, but not in hand sanitizers and other products that are used without water.
According to Choice Australia
“Neither triclosan nor triclocarban are banned for use in Australia and can still be found in a number of personal care products, from soaps to toothpaste and even cutting boards and cleaning cloths. This is despite concerns they may contribute to antibiotic resistance and disrupt hormones”
Triclosan may also be found in other products with the words ‘antibacterial’, ‘antimicrobial’ or ‘antiseptic’ on the label like soaps, or even toothpaste. Major retailers in Australia stated intentions to phase out products containing the contentious chemical back in 2016 but at the time of writing, I could not find evidence of a ban in place. Pretty concerning right?
My vote goes to nature in terms of designing antibacterial substances (she’s been at it a lot longer than us) and this has led me to investigate making less toxic hand sanitizers myself at home. We must be realistic however that a homemade hand sanitizer will not be up to the task of a medical-grade one and their efficacy cannot be compared to those recommended by the World Health Organisation in helping to prevent the spread of serious diseases (like Covid-19 for example). For that, washing hands with soap and water would be the best measure to take.
There is a really good breakdown by academics about how homemade version stack up against the WHO recommendations here, along with some good explanations on how and why we are using the ingredients we use and what proportions are important for efficacy.
For anti-viral oomph, you’d have to up the alcohol component to 70% according to the research I have read however I’m not sure if that takes into account the naturally occurring anti-viral properties of essential oils like Tea Tree.
I was also unable to find research around the combining of the two and what effects this may have. For that reason, I’d personally summise this is a ‘better than nothing’ option when you’re out and about and not able to wash hands with soap and water, but by no means a sure-fire answer to eliminating germs or serious viruses. Always, washing hands is best.
I do know that essential oils help to boost the body’s own immune response, so that is a positive.
Links below will take you to online suppliers of some products or ingredients.
Small Hand Sanitizer Recipe
30ml glass pump bottle or 30ml glass spray bottle
8ml aloe vera gel (for pump) or aloe vera juice concentrate (for spray) OR you can use Witch hazel acting as a preservative (replaces Vitamin E below)
20ml Isopropyl Alcohol
10 drops essential oils of choice
A few drops of vitamin E oil
Mix alcohol and aloe vera thoroughly. Funnel into bottle, add essential oils and mix. Give it a good shake before each use to disperse the essential oils.
Essential oils to try
Combo 1: Tea Tree + On Guard Blend
Combo 2: Lavender + Tea Tree + Lemon
Combo 3: Eucalyptus + Wild Orange + Clove
Note: Aloe vera juice concentrate acts as a moisturiser and is a great carrier oil for the essential oils added. Adding a few drop’s of witch hazel or vitamin E will prolong the life of your hand sanitizer by acting as a preservative and is also great for your skin.
Here is an alternative recipe shared by the local supplier of my bottles, Aromabottles. The essential oils have excellent anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties whilst the witch hazel and alcohol are general germicides. I have modified it slightly to up the alcohol content by suggesting Isopropyl instead of Vodka (which is only around 36% alcohol usually).
Strong Hand Sanitizer Recipe
– 8 drops of pure tea tree essential oil
– 6 drops of pure peppermint essential oil
– 3 drops of pure cinnamon essential oil.
– 25ml of Aloe Vera gel.
– 15ml Witch Hazel
– 10ml Isopropyl Alcohol
– 50ml amber glass bottle with serum pump
– Large syringe.
1. In a small cup, add the aloe, witch hazel and alcohol and stir until combined.
2. Add the essential oils to the mix and stir.
3. Use the syringe to transfer the mix to the 50ml Amber glass bottle.
4. If the mix thickens over time through heat or evaporation, it can be thinned by adding a little extra alcohol.
The 50ml bottle is a great size for carrying with you whilst you’re out and about.
How did you go trying these recipes? Have you got another one to share? Post your comments below.
Alena Turley is a founder, mentor, ethical content creator and mother of three based on Sydney's Northern Beaches. She is equal parts loved and fired up to support mums in making deep and lasting changes inside and out. We at the Soul Mama Hub acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we live, learn and create and invite you to feel deeply and tread lightly.