Hand Sanitizer: The good, the bad, the recipe
I’m not a fan of hand sanitizers because I much prefer old fashioned hand washing with soap and water. I feel it is cleaner, I can’t explain it, but I do. However, at times, I can’t access ‘old reliable’ and hope to goodness I don’t accidentally touch my face or eat with my fingers (me? never!). That’s when hand sanitizer comes in handy. However,
I have a three-fold issue with traditional, store-bought hand sanitizers.
First, I detest (thumbs down, dislike, unfollow, unsubscribe, you get the idea) the smell. It’s antiseptic mixed with pseudo-sweet, scienc-y fruity floral, uch! I have yet to find one that I can handle, plus, the scent lingers forever and that affects my palate if I am eating. On the other hand (no pun intended), my husband loves it. Oh, the things I put up with!
Second, they are really drying, especially in cold weathers (take it from a Canuck).
And finally, they contain Triclosan – a hotly debated topic (more about this later).
Not a news flash: creating a resistance to bugs by using strong sanitizers constantly will only harm us in the long run. Consistent use of a product like this will lower your immune system and that’s something you want to want to protect and cultivate, not weaken. Remember, your body (the fascinating mechanism that it is) has a built-in function to do this for you.
So why the hype?
Of the research I have done (sorting through both facts and many ‘blog posts’), the recipe that spoke to me (and that I share here) was the one created by a chemist on About.com who has an inherent, intimate understanding of the workings of chemicals and their interactions with humans. Her and I share the same vision for hygiene: it is regular hand washing with soap and water that is the true ‘best practice’ when it comes to preventing the spread of germs.
Use hand-sanitizer as a pinch hitter
Whether you use store-bought or make your own, keep in mind its purpose and use: use to clean your hands when soap and water are not accessible. Hand sanitizers are not to be used over and over again a million times during the day. Some terrific examples of appropriate use include; eating your breakfast on the subway, having peanuts on an airplane (and you can’t go to the lavatory), après-pee on a coach bus, taking out the garbage then running out the door for work, using a port-o-potty with no tap, etc.
So now you have a better feel for the stuff. If you are like me and don’t like the store bought kind, here’s an effective and easy gel recipe that you can pack in your purse, travel bag, car, etc.
Hand Sanitizer Gel Recipe
- 2/3 cup 99% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or ethanol
- 1/3 cup plain aloe vera gel (the less additives, the better, however I couldn’t find anything close at my drug store or health food store). Some people may choose to use vegetable glycerine instead (I did – see above).
- 8-10 drops essential oil, optional (consider ones that have additional anti-sceptic properties i.e. lavender, thyme, clove, cinnamon leaf, peppermint etc.)
- plastic bottle with pump or squirt top (cleaned)
Life brand rubbing alcohol (70%), Now Organics Vegetable Glycerine, Now Organics Lavender Essential Oil
Pour in ingredients
Funnel into clean bottle
Combine all ingredients together, stir well, and pour into the bottle with a funnel. Done. You need to use a minimum of 60% rubbing alcohol for this to be an effective germ-fighter. Be forewarned: essential oils that are known to have anti-microbial properties can be a skin irritant. Use less drops, or combine with soothing oils for a more balanced recipe (i.e. camomile). This keeps for about 6 months.
It works! It smelled strong but the smell dissipated really fast and my hands weren’t shrivelled old witch hands after using some. I used vegetable glycerine because I couldn’t find pure aloe vera. Next time I would use any old store bought aloe vera gel, since it is but a carrier for the alcohol and moisturizer to counter the skin-drying. I wonder if this would work using a plain shea butter but I don’t know enough about chemistry to determine if that would be a stable mix (see, I don’t just make things up nor tell you about things I think will work). In my experience, the vegetable glycerine was sticky and greasy but hey, it made for a good experiment and I lived to tell you about it. Some people add in a tablespoon of vegetable glycerine to the aloe vera for additional moisture. I may try this with the next batch.
OK, you’ve got my attention. I’m the biggest recovering hypochondriac you’ll ever meet and this is a buzz word for me. But I’ve learned through my worldly studies to research credible sources before concluding anything (and to not check Web MD constantly either). So that’s what I did when I saw this hot little word. According to the FDA website (I hear these guys know what they are talking about, just sayin’):
- Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
- FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.
- At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water
So on one hand, Triclosan could be a known contributor to creating resistance to antibiotics but on the other hand, there is no solid proof that it works any better than soap or water. I have allergies to a couple antibiotics already, so for me, I feel it makes sense to keep away from Triclosan. That doesn’t mean everyone has to, you just have to make an informed decision.
That concludes my research, rant and recipe for home made hand sanitizer. Enjoy!