How to Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

hand sanitizerI 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.

How to Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

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.

lavender oil

tea tree oil

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.

clove oil

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.

witch hazel

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
-A bowl

diy hand sanitizer ingredients

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.

hand sanitizer

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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  1. Andrew W. says:

    I have to agree with you 100% about that i tell my mom we need germs all the time she uses it too much and i keep telling her your just weakening your immunity system little by little now i will use it but only when i have to like if i use a nasty ass public restroom and even the soap dispenser looks dirty i’ll use it but that’s it just so glad to see i’m not the only one remember we need germs….

  2. Mar Regina de Lima says:

    Hi Claire, What you think to add some coconut oil, it is Ant bacteria also sanitizers, and Smell amazing, so help about the bad smeel of tea tree oil. or help to smell too strng. I`ll add to my own Hand Sanitizer.
    Thank you to share, Sweetheart you have amazing reciepes.
    All The Best.

  3. Kim Whorton says:

    I just want to let you know I enjoy reading every one of your articles. It just amazes me at how easy it is to make things the natural way and I am learning so much about the foods I eat and how to get all the right vitamins. I love this website. Your awesome.

  4. Karina says:

    I was wondering if it is ok to use these natural flea remedies on little puppies as well. Ours is 12 weeks and is only 2 pounds (Maltipoo). It is wonderful to find natural things to use on our pets, especially when our little ones hug them and play with them all day long. 🙂

  5. Paul H says:

    Hello Claire,
    I’m Paul from the UK. I’m really interested in making a natural non-alcohol hand sanitizer. Do you know roughly how much sanitizer your recipe above will make?
    I like the tea tree but do you find that it dominates the aroma. For example, do you think that it would be possible to balance it against a strawberry or coconut oil – or would that harm the recipe?
    I think your website is great by the way.
    Best wishes,
    Paul Harrison.

  6. katrina says:

    I don’t have the ingredients to make it

  7. Jae says:

    Just wanted to add a note… That’s a cup of aloe vera. Just saying 16 tablespoons is a tad inefficient, and it’s still an english measure.

  8. Ohhhdear says:

    I am going to mix up a test batch of this! However, for travel, I DO carry a small 3oz bottle of commercial hand sanitizer. A little on a paper towel sanitizes bathroom fixtures. A dab on a food stain or ballpoint ink smear, and it’s gone. Because hand sanitizer is gelled alcohol, there’s lots of uses besides cleaning hands.

  9. Kat P. says:

    I wonder if a different carrier, like coconut oil or glycerine, would work? I’m allergic to aloe vera. Your recipe looks great, and I appreciate the detailed rationale for each ingredient.

    • Iana da Lima says:

      If you’re avoiding alcohol, which in and of itself sanitizes by way of dehydrating cells, you could just use water with essential oils and shake it up before using every time. Glycerine helps to more evenly disperse the oils.

    • Tim says:

      I wouldn’t use coconut oil unless it’s always going to be somewhere that’s always above 76°

  10. Jane says:

    Hi! I just wanted to say that I think hand sanitizer is greatly overrated. It has been proven that washing your hands with soap for as long as it takes to sing “Happy birthday to you” in your head, is a more efficient way of controlling germs than anything else. Hand sanitizer makes me think of Jody Foster’s character in Nim’s Island – just a wee bit neurotic! I will try this recipe, out of interest. Thanks Jae for converting the tablespoons to a cup!
    Cheers, Jane (Australia)

  11. liz says:

    Such an easy recipe, why wouldn’t i make my own. One thing that caught my eye though. In your pic, i noticed that you are not using pure aloe vera gel. Fruit of the earth aloe has many other non natural ,harmful ingredients. Lily of the desert aloe vera gel is pure, has a total of 4 ingredients all of which are natural. Just thought I’d share.

  12. Iana da Lima says:

    I am an RN and hate nasty chem hand sanitizers also! Thankfully, the hospital where i work uses alcohol- based sanitizers, which destroy microbes by quickly dehydrating them. Scientifically speaking, there needs to be a balance of the good and the “bad” microbes on/ in any given surface/ body part at all times to keep the resistant and/ or “bad” microbes at bay. Without this balance, which is what we wipe out when we use stuff like triclosan and other toxic petrol by- products, we give a “blank slate” up for whatever wants to take over. Soap and water is still the best method to clean hands and the best prevention of spreading unwanted organisms.

    • Iana da Lima says:

      Thanks for your post! I use something like this for travel and keep in my car for gas station stops, etc. clean hands are important, and so much of what’s on the market is more toxic than what’s on our hands in the first place!

  13. Sonya says:

    Great recipe! The only thing I would say could make it better is your choice in oils. It is not likely that your oils are killing as many germs as you think because that is a low quality essential oil, diluted with various chemicals to keep it cheap. I’d recommend looking into therapeutic grade oils that own their own farms, one in which you can trace the oils from the time it is a seed until it is bottled, one that would let you visit a farm and distillation facility so as to see the process for yourself and know for sure what you are getting.

  14. Sheloya says:

    I make my own hand sanitizer, and encourage others to do the same as well. Aside of being more toxic, the prices are ridiculous. They’re cashing in on people’s paranoia.

    The essential oils and clean aloe vera gel are important because they don’t leave a “blank slate” as Iana mentioned. They make a welcoming environment for good bacteria and ward off specific bad bacteria that the off-the-shelf ones do little or nothing against for longer than the alcohol is wet.

  15. Nicki says:

    I’m allergic to aloe. How do I make sanitizer without it?

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