I have a confession-I don’t like hand sanitizer. In fact, every time I see those bottles of gel, I rage a little bit inside. I am of the firm belief that we need germs, and killing every last one is a losing battle that lands us with weakened immune systems and possibly resistant strains of bacteria popping up left and right. Now that I’ve ranted, you’re probably wondering why I am doing a post on hand sanitizer if it irks me so. The truth of the matter is that sometimes the best method of getting clean hands-using plain old soap and water-just isn’t an option (think like when you’re on the road, and you just can’t bring yourself to touch the crusty sink at the gas station.) In these times, hand sanitizer is an asset, and in making your own you can avoid the harsher sanitizers that seem to be everywhere these days.
Ingredients: Tea tree oil, lavender oil, clove oil, witch hazel, aloe vera gel.
Why lavender oil: Lavender’s botanical name is Lavandula, which comes from the Latin word lavare, which means “to wash.” This name probably stemmed from the fact that it has been used to cleanse wounds for centuries. It wasn’t until recently that actual studies have begun to show that lavender does indeed wipe out some forms of bacteria, and it is particularly effective against fungus. A UK based study found that lavender oil consistently inhibited the growth of MSSA and MRSA (methicillin-sensistive and resistant Staphyloccous aureus.) Translated that means it stopped the growth of the microbes that cause staph infections that have become resistant to current day medicine.
Why tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is well recognized for its ability to kill several forms of bacteria, viruses, and fungi upon contact, thanks to its main antimicrobial component, Terpinen-4-ol. In vitro testing (in a test-tube or a culture dish) has shown that it can is effective against germs ranging from Staph to E. coli.
Why clove oil: Clove oil is probably most famous for being a natural remedy for toothaches, but the same stuff that gives it its pain killing properties (Eugenol) also happens to kill off bad germs and bacteria as well. While studies so far have shown that it does indeed kill bacteria, the exact mechanism isn’t known yet.
Why witch hazel (optional): Witch hazel can work as an antiseptic, and the reason it does so is because it contains alcohol, which disrupts the cell membrane of the bacteria, denatures its proteins, ultimately kills it. While witch hazel does not contain the 70% concentration of alcohol that would be needed to match store-bought hand sanitizers (60%-70% is usually the baseline suggested for making a true dent in killing germs) the added essential oils are what we rely on to kill a lot of the illness causing germs and bacteria. It does add a boost to the recipe, but isn’t necessary if you want to avoid alcohol all together.
Why Aloe vera gel: This lovely substance has its own special antibacterial and antifungal properties, and it also does double duty as a moisturizer, keeping your hands soft and safe from getting dried out. In this recipe it functions as our carrier substance as well to dilute the essential oils.
You will need…
-25-30 drops of tea tree oil
-9 drops of lavender oil
-9 drops of clove oil
-1 tablespoon of witch hazel (optional)
-16 tablespoons (8 ounces) aloe vera gel
-A small container
In a bowl place 9 drops each of lavender and clove oil, and 25-30 drops of tea tree oil. Stir these together add 16 tablespoons (8 ounces) of aloe vera gel and 1 tablespoon of witch hazel (if you are using it.) Blend everything together and store out of direct sunlight in a cool place for up to 1 month. Note that because it doesn’t have the same level of concentrated alcohol content as store-bought hand sanitizers, its shelf life is not indefinite, and you can make it in smaller batches if you prefer.
Americans spend $175 million a year on hand sanitizers-and use much more of the free stuff- but I maintain that there’s a difference between being clean and being sterile, and the latter is not necessary in the everyday home. Hospitals yes, homes, no. Making your own hand sanitizer isn’t as cheap and easy as grabbing a bottle at the store, nor will it wipe out 99.9999% of germs and bacteria, but in spite of all of that I have to say I am quite fond of this little concoction (and that’s saying something, given my above rant against hand sanitizers.)
Tip for using essential oils: Essential oils are potent plant extracts and people do experience allergic reactions to them. If you are unsure about using any of the above oils, mix a few drops with a tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil and rub right below the crook of your elbow. Cover and let it sit for 24 hours to make sure you’re good to go. Enjoy!
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