How to Make Natural Homemade Hand Sanitizer

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Homemade DIY natural hand sanitizer
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I am not a fan of commercial hand sanitizers. (Probably doesn’t surprise anyone!) This may sound strange but I don’t use antibacterial soap or strong cleaners at home because I actually believe having a little bacteria around is a good thing.

I’m glad that I started making my own personal care products years ago, especially since the FDA ruled in 2016 that manufacturers should stop using triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps and sanitizers at the time, due to its ability to disrupt hormones and contribution to a rise in resistant strains of bacteria.

Just goes to show it pays to read the research!

That said… certain ingredients can be helpful in combating viruses, and with the current climate of those going around, I am being more proactive than I normally am. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see other measures I’m taking to stay well.

Why Put Down the Hand Sanitizer?

My home isn’t a hospital (thanks to generally strong immune systems) so I take a gentler approach and make this homemade hand sanitizer to use only when we can’t wash our hands or are concerned about exposure to really bad bacteria.

I can see the appeal of killing “99.9% of germs” when you have a family of small children, and illness for one usually means illness for all. Still, it’s helpful to understand some reasons why the antibacterial label popping up on all kinds of soaps, wipes, and cleaners might not be the solution it seems to be.

  • Reason #1: Regular hand washing might be just as effective and should be a first line of defense. Recent reports show that washing with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds is as effective as antibacterial soaps and sanitizers. They still have their place but make sure to wash hands as well!
  • Reason #2: It may be true that antibacterial products kill 99.9% of germs, but that .1% is the most potentially harmful (since it can resist antibacterial agents). This small percentage that survives then breeds and passes on its antibiotic resistance to its offspring, creating lines of “super bugs” that resist antibiotic use. This may be one factor in the dramatic increase in strains like MRSA.
  • Reason #3: Triclosan, the chemical in most antibacterial soaps has been shown to interact with chlorine in the water to form chloroform gas. On top of that, it has been shown to be a hormone disruptor, especially in children. I’m glad it’s been phased out from so many products, but I’m skeptical it solves the issue.
  • Reason #4: Some evidence shows that kids who grow up in an overly sterile environment have higher rates of allergies and asthma than kids who don’t use antibacterial products as much. Exposure to different types of bacteria, especially early in life, helps kids’ immune systems to develop.

Give Bacteria a Little Respect!

My strategy when it comes to keeping the nasty bacteria at bay is to make sure my kids’ immune systems are strong. We focus on eating a real food diet with plenty of fermented veggies and drinks (good bacteria) and restricting sugar. We also prioritize good old fashioned play time outside, where they can get vitamin D from the sun and healthy bacteria from the soil microbiome.

I use handmade bar soaps or homemade foaming hand soap for all of our hand washing needs, and we made it through another flu season with no cases of the flu. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t see the need to use harsh chemicals to sanitize my house daily.

Benefits of Natural Hand Sanitizer (with Essential Oils)

We don’t use even our natural hand sanitizer very often and opt for simple hand washing whenever possible. I do keep a little bottle of homemade hand sanitizer by the sink though to ensure safety after handling meat or changing a diaper, etc.

Besides stinking to high heaven, commercial sanitizers often contain drying alcohol that is too strong for kids to use anyway. The nice thing about making my own is I can make a more gentle version for use around the kids and a stronger one to use in a place like a public restroom.

Instead of triclosan or other antibacterial agents, I use essential oils that inhibit bacteria naturally, being careful to choose ones that are safe for kids. There is also some evidence that these oils can help battle viruses, making them potentially more effective. It is important to note that these first two recipes are more like a waterless soap and not a full hand sanitizer. The CDC explains that a product must be at least 60% alcohol to be a hand sanitizer and only the last recipe can reach that percentage.

No Time to DIY?

If you need a ready-made option, try my hand sanitizer from Wellnesse. While I still don’t advocate using hand sanitizer all the time (usually just soap and water will do), this is a natural, safe option for those times when you need extra protection.

How to Make Your Own Natural Hand Sanitizer

Here are my go-to hand sanitizer recipes. I start out with the most gentle. Increase the strength as needed.

Homemade DIY natural hand sanitizer
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3.62 from 65 votes

Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipe (Safe for Kids)

This homemade hand sanitizer recipe is non-drying with an herbal gel base and nourishes with aloe vera. It’s so simple that your children can help you make it.
Prep Time1 minute
Author: Katie Wells

Instructions

Notes

See below for some stronger versions.

Stronger Hand Sanitizer Recipe

For a stronger hand sanitizer that performs like commercial versions (without the triclosan), try this recipe. If you work in a hospital, this might be a good one for your personal use. I would not use this recipe on kids!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. To make, mix aloe vera gel, optional glycerin, and rubbing alcohol in a small bowl.
  2. Add cinnamon essential oil and tea tree oil along with a drop or two of any other oils you want to add for scent. Lemongrass, orange, lavender, and peppermint are good choices.
  3. Mix well and add about 1 tablespoon of distilled water (or colloidal/ionic silver) to thin to desired consistency.
  4. Use a small funnel or medicine dropper to transfer hand sanitizer into spray or pump type bottles. This can also be stored in small silicone tubes for use on the go.
  5. Use as you would any other type of hand sanitizer.

Strongest Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipe (5 Minute Recipe)

The CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol in hand sanitizer to effectively battle viruses. This formula follows this percentage and adds aloe vera for gentleness and essential oils for extra virus fighting. This is the one I am currently using after being in areas where viruses are more likely to be transmitted.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients and combine in a spray bottle (these are the perfect size) or small bottle of any kind. Use as needed.

Keep in mind that you should adjust the recipe depending on the strength of the alcohol you’re using. For example, if you’re using 99% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, you’ll need a different amount of aloe vera than if you were using 70% alcohol. Here are some quick guidelines?

Option 1 with 99% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol:
2 parts alcohol
1 part aloe vera gel
(For example: 2/3 cup alcohol + 1/3 cup aloe vera gel)

Option 2 with 70% Isopropyl or Rubbing Alcohol:
9 parts alcohol
1 part aloe vera gel
(For example: 90ml or 3 ounces of alcohol + 10ml or 2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel)

Option 3 with 91% Isopropyl or Rubbing Alcohol:
3 parts alcohol
1 part aloe vera gel
(For example: 3/4 cup alcohol + 1/4 cup aloe vera gel)

Notes

  • Always check with a doctor or healthcare provider before using essential oils, especially on children or if you have a medical condition.
  • Using fresh aloe vera gel isn’t as stable for counter storage; a commercial brand is recommended.

If you like this recipe, also try my DIY disinfecting wipes for kitchen counters or bathrooms.

Other Ways We Stay Well

This time of year, we prioritize a few ways to stay well:

  • Diffusing Essential Oils: I’m diffusing Germ Destroyer Kid-Safe essential oil or Germ Fighter Essential Oil (from Plant Therapy) regularly. I’m also keeping many of their blends including Respiraid on hand in case of illness.
  • Hand Washing: Sources agree that regular hand washing with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds is just as effective as harsh sanitizers so we’re making sure to wash our hands even more than we normally would, especially after being in any public places.
  • Nasal Irrigation:  Another step I always take this time of year. We use a mixture of XClear nasal rinse with Xylitol and Nasopure Nasal Irrigation, especially after travel or potential exposure.
  • Propolis Spray: We spray our throats with Propolis spray before and after leaving the house.
  • Vitamin C: Several sources recommend getting enough Vitamin C to help fortify the body against viruses. I keep ascorbic acid powder on hand and increase our dose at the first sign of any sniffles. I also get Vitamin C IVs this time of year, especially before and after travel.
  • Vitamin D: Sources also suggest that having optimal Vitamin D levels might help protect the body from the worst of viruses and from respiratory complications. I test our levels this time of year (EverlyWell has an at-home test) and use drops to get our levels in a good range (above 50).

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a concierge doctor at SteadyMD.

Ever made your own hand sanitizer? How did it turn out?

Ever wanted to make homemade hand sanitizer? This tutorial will show you how to make a safe, herbal, all-natural hand sanitizer at home.

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

224 responses to “How to Make Natural Homemade Hand Sanitizer”

  1. Annette Kennedy Avatar
    Annette Kennedy

    Please is there really such a product as organic canola oil? Read somewhere it was an early sort of canola bred by conventional cross breeding before the GMO variety! Somehow I find this hard to beleve…….

  2. Jessie Avatar

    Just curious if you have done a Petri dish type test to verify the germ killing abilities of this recipe? Although it seems like the individual ingredients would work, sometimes mixtures/dilutions don’t work as well in actual practice. Stopthestomachflu or dranniesexperiments are great websites that show And compare visual tests of how effective various cleaning products or sanitizers actually are for when serious germ killing is needed. Very informative 🙂

  3. Debra Petties Avatar
    Debra Petties

    Hi,
    Can I use fresh aloe Vera plant to make my own hand sanitizer?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I haven’t personally tried that so I don’t know how much you would need to use instead of the store bought liquid…

  4. Kate Avatar

    3 stars
    Katie, I was reading in an article geared for chemists on how to formulate hand sanitizer from the World Health Org., that this 2/3 cup alcohol formula that’s been circulating around on the web does not equate to 60% alcohol in the final product necessary to kill viruses, even if everything is precisely measured out. You didn’t specify percentage of alcohol, and it’s often sold as either 70%, 91% , etc. I bought 91%. According to this article, even 99% alcohol will fall short of the needed 60%, once it is mixed into the final product, to be effective. I am going to use it anyway as it’s probably a little better than nothing. But just to make people aware that if they are looking for a homemade solution to commercial hand sanitizers since there aren’t any left on the planet at this point, it may not suffice. Sooo…quit touching your face and remember the 20 second rule of hand washing. I hate to even say this being so anti- plastic pollution, however, I strongly suggest that older people (meaning 60ish or thereabouts, and up) and those who’ve got underlying health issues wear plastic gloves when doing food shopping and other things while the threat from the coronavirus to these high risks individuals persists.

    After I ordered the Plant Therapy Germ Destroyer on the company’s website, just like commercial sanitizers, it too sold out, and I couldn’t find it anywhere else so this bottle better last.

    I read about this issue of ineffective homemade sanitizers in the link provided below. This goes into some detail about the issue around the amount of alcohol used failing to ad up to 60% in the final product. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a31228344/homemade-hand-sanitizer/ The other article published by the W.H.O. I mentioned specifically address the proper way to formulate hand sanitizer; however, it is directed at chemists, not consumers.

  5. Amanda J Avatar
    Amanda J

    Thanks so much for this helpful post – especially this year with so many bugs going around! I want to make the strong version of the sanitizer to replace what I carry and use that smells so awful. I have the Plant Therapy Germ Fighter but not the Germ Destroyer (for kids). Would the amount of drops change since the one for kids isn’t as strong? Maybe use half as many? Love this idea to make something that works but isn’t harmful.

  6. Dave Avatar

    4 stars
    Katie, thank you for publishing the Strongest Homemade Hand Sanitizer recipe. It is the best one.

    In light of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, I respectfully submit this additional information on hand sanitizers. The bottom line is that solutions containing a minimum of 60% isopropyl alcohol have been proven to kill bacteria and viruses. The other 40% of the mixture can be any inert ingredient like aloe vera gel (which I use) or essential oils or water or whatever.

    Note that I do not claim that the other formulas in this blog post does not work, only that they have not been proven to work.

    https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/esp/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html

  7. Daniele Avatar
    Daniele

    You say: “Reason #1: Using hand sanitizer to keep the flu away? It won’t work! Antibacterial soaps kill bacteria but not viruses. Hand sanitizers and soaps don’t do a thing for the viruses many people use them to prevent.”

    But, “hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 % alcohol or contains a “persistent antiseptic” should be used. Alcohol rubs kill many different kinds of bacteria, including antibiotic resistant bacteria and TB bacteria. 90% alcohol rubs are highly flammable, but kill many kinds of viruses, including enveloped viruses such as the flu virus, the common cold virus, and HIV, though is notably ineffective against the rabies virus.

    90% alcohol rubs are more effective against viruses than most other forms of hand washing. Isopropyl alcohol will kill 99.99 % or more of all non-spore forming bacteria in less than 30 seconds, both in the laboratory and on human skin.

  8. Susan Pierce Ferrara Avatar
    Susan Pierce Ferrara

    I wonder why Germ Fighting Synergy isn’t used in the stronger version? Is it not powerful enough? I had assumed it was comparable to Young LIving’s Thieves oil. Please advise.

  9. Daphne Johnston Avatar
    Daphne Johnston

    4 stars
    The current concern over the coronavirus prompted my search for homemade alternatives. I used your strongest recipe because it is similar to the CDC recommendation, achieving a 60% alcohol content. However, I added a tsp of glycerin, 20 drops of tea tree & 10 drops of orange oils. When I mixed the the result was the formation of a sizable lump that would not dissolve. I believe it was the glycerine. I saw this mentioned in previous feedback but not addressed. I just removed it, assuming it wouldn’t affect the alcohol content. Any suggestions to overcome this previously-mentioned problem?

  10. Ana Avatar

    For the “strongest” recipe- I’m a bit confused on if this really meets the CDC 60% alcohol rule. Rubbing alcohol is 70% alcohol, so if 2/3 of the recipe is 70% alcohol and 1/3 is zero percent, I think that would bring the total below 60%. Anyone really good at this type of math? I can imagine if you used Isopropyl alcohol which is 99%, this would make more sense. Thoughts anyone?

  11. Julie Avatar

    The aloe gel is not available until the 17th. Do you have another brad you would suggest?

  12. Gayle Avatar

    Reason #1: Using hand sanitizer to keep the flu away? It won’t work! Antibacterial soaps kill bacteria but not viruses. Hand sanitizers and soaps don’t do a thing for the viruses many people use them to prevent.
    and then…
    The CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol in hand sanitizer to effectively battle viruses.

    So which is it? You confidently state that hand sanitizers don’t do a thing for viruses and then give the CDC recommendations for hand sanitizer strength that works to effectively battle viruses.
    Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and handwashing DO combat viruses (way more effectively than essential oils) and good handwashing remains our best defense against viruses and bacteria. Alcohol-based sanitizing is an effective way to clean hands and surfaces to prevent the spread of viral illnesses.
    I’ll go with the CDC on this one, instead of the Wellness Mama research team…

  13. Vinnie Avatar

    Thank you! I believe you’re the first person that agrees with me on being too anal on germs! I agree a few germs just makes us stronger! I’m 65 years old and I believe I’ve only had the flu 3 times in my life. The last was 25 years ago after treatment for breast cancer. The killed my germs!!!!

  14. Erica R. Avatar
    Erica R.

    As a healthcare provider, I highly encourage you to update your information based on the fact that the NIH states that ethyl alcohol IS in fact effective against viruses. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK214356/

    This blog post was one of the first google results when searching homemade hand sanitizer, and since we may be facing a shortage due to the possibility of a viral pandemic, please consider at least directing your readers to the option to read the peer reviewed information.

  15. Lara Avatar

    Just to say on points one and two in this article:

    1. Alcohol hand sanitisers ARE effective against the flu virus. Alcohol sanitisers work by disrupting proteins–both bacteria and enveloped viruses are surrounded by a membrane of protein which is destroyed by alcohol. This includes flu, common cold and HIV.

    2. Alcohol sanitisers DO NOT promote drug-resistant bacteria. Alcohol does not have a specific target like drugs do, but attacks many different proteins that make up the bacterial membrane.

    (Hand washing is always best!)

  16. Laks Avatar

    Hi

    Is this cinnamon leaf essential oil or cinnamon bark essential oil? Tried to check the link. It goes to Plant Therapy Home page.

    Thanks and Regards

  17. Kurt Avatar

    Nice info, but it would have been nice to provide the end product amount in ounces for the stronger recipe. Additionally, there’s no amount specified for the amount of distilled water to use for the stronger recipe.

3.62 from 65 votes (56 ratings without comment)

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