Is Your Hand Sanitizer Toxic? Try These DIY Recipes Instead

Have you heard the recent warnings from the FDA about harmful ingredients in some brands of hand sanitizers? It’s a pretty big deal since we're in the middle of a viral pandemic and everyone has been using A LOT of hand sanitizer. Methanol (wood alcohol) is the offending ingredient and labels don't always indicate when it's present. It’s toxic when absorbed or ingested and with substantial exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, and even death. Yikes! 

I prefer handwashing with soap and water over using hand sanitizer, but right now having waterless sanitizer available when on-the-go is pretty essential--and at school, the kids will be using lots of hand sanitizer throughout the day. How do we find an option that we can trust is safe?

close-up of hand sanitizer being poured

Get Clean Hands Without Harmful Chemicals

Even if you successfully avoid the FDA-banned sanitizers, most commercial brands are overly strong for kids’ skin. The CDC recommends hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. The high amount of alcohol combined with other harsh ingredients can be drying and irritating, especially for little hands using it multiple times per day.

We have a few rules for any product used in our home: natural, non-toxic, no chemicals that will do harm, and not creating new health or wellness problems. My product safety rules are why I was drawn to essential oils years ago as an answer to non-toxic cleaning, air freshening, odor removal, aromatherapy, minor skin issues/first aid, and much more around the home.  

I have resorted to homemade essential oil versions of many products so that we know ALL the ingredients are safe. Making safe and effective DIY versions of hand sanitizer is definitely on our list. It’s also a fun activity to do with the kids--almost as much fun as the homemade slime craze of a few years ago!

schoolgirl with a mask excited to use hand sanitizer

Homemade Essential Oil Hand Sanitizer Recipes

For the littlest hands, I recommend just using a mixture of aloe vera gel (¼ cup) and Thieves essential oil (20 drops) without the drying alcohol. You can store it in a reusable silicone tube or bottle. It will not meet the FDA’s definition of hand sanitizer but is gentler on baby skin. Since young children are likely to put their hands in their mouths, it’s especially important to make sure no toxic ingredients are used to “clean” their hands.

The following recipe is the one we have been using to make sanitizer for the bigger people in the house. The rule of thumb to get to a 60% sanitizer solution is using a 2:1 ratio of alcohol to aloe vera gel. This version is stronger, with a higher alcohol concentration. We like to put it into a small spray bottle for easy transport and use. Thieves essential oil is the special ingredient in the recipe, but you can substitute or add your favorite oils. Some good options are Lavender, Tea Tree, Lemongrass, Orange, or Peppermint. 

If you do not have time to make your own hand sanitizer I highly recommend the Thieves Hand Sanitizer from Young Living, also available in a handy travel size. It feels and smells good when you use it and takes care of 99.9% of germs. Young Living also has a wonderful Thieves Foaming Hand Soap that we love! 

For cleaning more than just hands you may be interested in Thieves Wipes or check out our blog post about how to make your own DIY version. I love having some of these wipes in my bag when we go out!

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