For better or for worse, many of us may have mixed feelings about hand sanitizers, and may even actively avoid them, requiring us to draw a line between "my hands are so dirty I must find a sink and soap immediately," and "my hands are pretty filthy but I'm just gonna suck it up 'cause a little dirt don't hurt." If you do fall in this camp, good on you for avoiding lots of tiny plastic bottles! But if you aren't someone who's rationalized an arbitrary "good dirt" versus "bad dirt" and you rely on hand sanitizer on the regular, you might be looking for a more creative way to avoid the conventional plastic-y options. Lucky for you, everything you need to make it yourself might already be tucked away in your cabinets!
Here's our extra simple recipe for hand sanitizer spray, along with the reasons each of these ingredients deserves their place in the formulation:
Makes for 4 oz. of hand sanitizer. Modify measurements depending on the size of your spray bottle.
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/4 cup aloe gel (or distilled water or boiled & cooled tap water)
- 40 drops essential oils (lavender, tea tree, or a combination)
- Mix all ingredients and funnel into a 4 oz. spray bottle.
- Shake before using.
Alcohol is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers for good reason.
"Alcohol kills bacteria through a process known as denaturation. Alcohol molecules are amphiphile chemical compounds, which means that they have both water and fat-loving properties. Because bacterial cell membranes have a fat-based side as well as a water-based side, alcohol molecules are able to bond with and break down the protective membrane. When this occurs, the core components of the bacteria are exposed and dissolve, losing their structure and ceasing to function. With its organs essentially melting away, the bacteria dies quickly."1
And if you want, while you're whipping up this concoction, you can pour yourself a celebratory shot for all the plastic bottles you're avoiding!
It's important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. This recipe does not. This recipe relies largely on essential oils to do the heavy lifting, and while their effectiveness is supported by studies cited in this post, they haven't (to our knowledge) been recognized by the CDC as a recommended active ingredient in hand sanitizer. If you want to follow the CDC's advice, try using rubbing alcohol instead, and use 2 parts rubbing alcohol to 1 part aloe vera.
Alcohol can be pretty drying on your skin. For this recipe, diluting with water and avoiding over-use should adequately prevent any harm to your skin, but if you want to take it a step further, use aloe instead of water. Aloe contains antioxidants, vitamins A and C, enzymes, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a perfect additive for keeping your hands moisturized and exfoliated. 2
Why essential oils?
Essential oils are really the rockstars of this recipe. Both tea tree and lavender essential oils have been shown to be effective in killing certain bacteria and viruses responsible for illnesses.
Lavender has been shown to be effective against salmonella and other turtle-borne pathogens3, and when mixed with tea tree oil, is effective against certain fungal and bacterial infections that lead to respiratory pneumonia and skin fungi.4
Tea tree has been shown to be effective in killing several common bacteria and viruses including E. coli, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae.5
Other essential oils shown to be effective against a slew of illness-causing bacteria include black pepper oil, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.6
Looking to make your own hand sanitizer spray, but lacking the necessary supplies? Check out the DIY supplies in our shop!
Given the gravity and relevance of current events, we feel like this post needs a disclaimer. This recipe, obviously, has not undergone any kind of testing.
Sources: 1| How Does Alcohol Kill Bacteria?, Sciencing; 2| Using Aloe Vera Has Multiple Benefits, Baylor College of Medicine; 3| Anti-bacterial Activity of Essential Oil from Lavender, U.S. National Library of Medicine; 4| 10 Lavender Oil Benefits for Major Diseases and Minor Ailments, Dr. Axe; 5| 14 Everyday Uses for Tea Tree Oil, Healthline; 6| Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Essential Oils against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action, U.S. National Library of Medicine