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Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Germs and How to Make your Own All-Natural Version

These days, tiny bottles of hand sanitizer have practically become a fashion statement. You’ll see them hanging off purses and backpacks with colorful and trendy cases and being whipped out periodically throughout the day.

But what exactly is in hand sanitizer, does it really work to kill germs, and is it possible to make your own natural version at home?

Photo credit: Valerie Everett via Flickr

Hand Sanitizer Ingredients

Hand sanitizer typically contains about 70 percent rubbing alcohol, which is also known as isopropyl alcohol. Concentrations in commercial products range from 60 to 95 percent. It also has a little water in it that helps the mixture penetrate the skin.

Some hand sanitizers contain a chemical known as humectants, including glycerin or propylene glycol. The purpose of these chemicals is to hold the water and keep your skin from drying out with frequent sanitizer use. Other products may contain moisturizers or emollients for this purpose. Many manufacturers use chemical fragrances and colorants to distinguish their products from others on the market.

How Hand Sanitizer Works

This product works by killing microbial cells and disrupting a virus’s outer surface. It also has the ability to disrupt the cell membranes of harmful bacteria. Overall, hand sanitizer is considered to be a good “front line of defense” against a wide range of viruses and bacteria, which can cause everything from upper respiratory infections to gastrointestinal distress.

Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers are definitely more effective on some bacteria and viruses than others. However, the most common germs that make us sick tend to be affected by modern hand sanitizer products. During times where washing your hands is not possible or inconvenient, hand sanitizer is a great way to reduce germs until you are able to use soap and water.

Like natural cleaning products that wash away germs without the use of chemicals, hand sanitizer is one piece of the puzzle to staying healthy.

Risks of Hand Sanitizer

In recent years, hand sanitizer has come under its fair share of skepticism and criticism. For example, there have been concerns about hand sanitizer preventing us from building up our own natural resistance to viruses and bacteria.

But the biggest risk involved with hand sanitizer is believing that it is an equal substitute for washing your hands. Warm water and soap are the always best ways to reduce microbes on your skin.

While hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol can quickly reduce microbes on the hands, they do not eliminate all types of germs. If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, the effectiveness tends to decrease as well. Finally, some products contain chemical ingredients that may do more harm than good.

Natural Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipes

As a natural approach to keeping germs off your hands, why not get a little creative and whip up your own recipe from scratch?

Here are a couple homemade hand sanitizer recipes to try so that you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin to kill germs.  Try one of these as a natural way to stay healthy and avoid plastic container waste.

Photo credit: sunny mama via Flickr

Hand Sanitizer Recipe #1


  • 25 drops tea tree oil
  • 9 drops lavender oil
  • 9 drops clove oil
  • 8 oz. aloe vera gel


  1. Mix the first 3 ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Stir in aloe vera
  3. Mix together and store in a cool place for up to a month

Hand Sanitizer Recipe #2


  • 10 drops lavender oil
  • 30 drops tea tree oil
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 1 tbsp. high proof vodka
  • 8 oz. aloe vera


  1. Mix first 3 ingredients in a small bowl
  2. Add vodka to the oils and mix
  3. Add aloe vera and mix again
  4. The vitamin E and vodka should help to preserve the mixture for a couple months

For practical use, you can transfer either of these mixtures to a small squirt bottle for ease and portability. Choose a colored, not clear, bottle to reduce the exposure to light and preserve the hand sanitizer for longer.

One other alternative that is completely natural and alcohol-free is Seagate’s Olive Leaf Surface Cleaner which is a very effective way to wash away germs on all surfaces including your hands. Product Image

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