Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DIY Natural Hand Sanitizer

I've always been one to chuckle to myself at "those people" who carry hand sanitizer around. I don't keep my house clean by any means, but I have always assuaged my guilt with the rationale that it's good for my kids' immune systems (and it is). The only reason I have any antibacterial hand soap in my house is because I got a bunch for free with coupons last year. I'm not a germaphobe because I know that there are germs, bacteria, and viruses lurking everywhere. Everywhere. And I think our attempts to avoid them are somewhat delusional, and sometimes only succeed in turning the bugs into supers.

So my approach has always been... rather than trying to kill/avoid the bugs, make it possible for us to live in peace with them by strengthening our immune systems so they're no longer a threat. So far my approach has worked well. We rarely get sick, but when we do it's usually because we've let our immune systems get weak by staying up too late (repeatedly) or eating too much sugar.

The problem is... your immune system can't protect you from everything. Sometimes a healthy immune system malfunctions. Sometimes those malfunctions manifest themselves in frightening ways. As some of you are aware, my baby was admitted to the hospital last week with what they eventually diagnosed as Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP). HSP usually occurs when the body is exposed to a bug and sort of overreacts to it and causes the capillaries in the skin to become inflamed and bleed creating a rash, aches, and swelling. It's not fun. Here's a pic of my Bubby from Sunday...So although he never got "sick" with the bug, the bug did make him "sick" by provoking his immune system to overreact.

The good news is that he's doing much, much better. The swelling has disappeared and the rash is slowly fading. He is almost back to his happy self again. The bad news is that a good portion of those who experience HSP will have another bout of it, usually within a month through exposure to another virus. One bout of HSP was more than enough for us! And I no longer have the illusion that I can live in complete peace with the germs around us. Any one of those bugs could bring another HSP nightmare upon us. (This experience only fueled my distaste for hospitals and the "bad eggs" of the medical establishment... ugh!)

So I've turned into a germaphobe. At least temporarily. I will not be taking my baby to the store, to the school, to the church, or any public place for at least a few weeks (or months?). I will be slathering my daughters' hands in sanitizer before they get into the car after kindergarten and preschool. And we will be washing our hands thoroughly first thing when we walk in the door.

As I was talking to my brother about my new-found-inner-germaphobe, he mentioned that there are natural hand sanitizers out there if I want to avoid the harsh commercial ones. Did you know that the alcohol-based versions say they're not suitable for infants? So that got me thinking... maybe I could make my own natural sanitizer? I turned to google and found quite a few recipes. They all had roughly the same ingredients, but with quite an array of proportions. So I took a couple of them and sort of morphed them to make my own version using the ingredients I had.

Disclaimer: I'm no chemist. I have no idea if this will actually kill germs. It's my understanding that a sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol to do the job, but I don't know what proportions are necessary when you're using other antibacterial agents. Here's what I do know: vinegar and lavender essential oil can be used as antibacterials. So I figure that whether or not my natural hand sanitizer kills everything, it's bound to be better than nothing. I chose lavender because I had a bottle in the cupboard and it's safer for children than the more potent tea tree oil most of the sanitizer recipes called-for.

So here's what we used... Natural Hand Sanitizer

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup distilled water
approximately 1 3/4 cup 100% aloe vera gel (12 oz bottle)
14 drops lavender essential oil

We mixed the ingredients in a glass bowl with a whisk and then poured the mixture into an empty soap dispenser. The remainder we poured back into the aloe vera bottle to use for refills. My husband and I tested it out last night. I was initially worried that it would either smell too strongly of vinegar or too strongly of lavender. Neither of those smells is really noticeable. In fact, mostly it smells like the aloe gel with just a hint of vinegar and lavender. Not bad at all. A bonus to using these ingredients--alcohol-based versions will dry out the skin, but aloe vera and lavender will benefit the skin.

Will it work? I don't know. But here's my plan... I will use our "natural" sanitizer when I know we will soon be able to wash our hands (after-school, etc.). But I will also keep commercial sanitizer in the car for times when we are in exceptionally germy situations or not likely to have access to a sink or soap within a short period of time. So it'll be good enough for our purposes.

Anybody else make their own sanitizer? Does it seem to work for you?


Sherry said...

Hi there, just found you blog on Facebook! Really like it!

Just wondering if you have considered fortifying your little one's immune system (not boosting it, that would increase the inflammation). Basically this refers to nourishing the immune system through mineral rich food, beneficial saturated and essential fatty acids, plus probiotic supplementation. All essential for a balanced immune system.

My apologies, if you have already taken this approach and for the unsolicited health advice! Just thought I would offer another approach in conjunction with reducing exposure to bacteria.


Buscando la Luz said...

Thanks for your comment, Sherry! Yes, we do all those great things to strengthen our immune systems on a regular basis (which is why I've never worried about hand sanitizers before).

Mostly by baby breastfeeds all day and night, but I have been boosting my own intake of omega-3s and turmeric for their anti-inflammatory benefits and probiotics as well--hoping/assuming they make their way into my milk supply. I think they're helping a lot!

Linda said...

I haven't tried homemade sanitizer, but I know my students always hated the alcohol stuff because it made their food/hands taste bad. Kinda scary...

kamille said...

great idea! i will have to give yours a try. i'm also not a fan of hand sanitizer at all, so this would be great to replace that when washing our hands isn't an option. glad your little one is doing better...that does not look like any fun!

ps...do you have any thoughts/opinions on the newborn screen? i had an incredibly irritating experience today with it. maybe i'll write you an email or through facebook. just wondering what you went through since you've also done a home birth.

Buscando la Luz said...


I didn't have any trouble with the newborn screen. My midwife took care of it a few days after the birth... no problem.

I'm interested to hear more about what you went through though!

Martha said...

Poor little Bubby. That looks awful, but I'm glad he'd doing better. I'll keep this natural hand sanitizer in mind. It is scary to have the alcohol stuff around little ones. There were so many news stories awhile back about it killing kids, so that's a risk that is just stupid to take.

Love the blog as usual. I just recommended it to a friend who is preparing for natural birth. You continue to be a great resource!

kamille said...


with the newborn screen, we chose to have it done by sonora quest labs since it would be covered by our insurance and we're so tight on money that we needed to do it that way. i did one 7 days after she was born so as to avoid having to do two tests but my pediatrician was not too happy with just having one test. in my gut i knew i shouldn't get a second one done (i felt good about just doing one test) but i did it to appease the pediatrician who said the state "mandates" two tests (yeah...they can't make me do anything though) - i just didn't feel like fighting the system any more than i already have, i guess. she also ordered a bilirubin test just to check my daughter's levels - now i am thinking she put the bili test on there to ensure i'd get the second newborn screen done...errr. anyways it was HORRIBLE. it took probably 20 minutes of my baby screaming and two heel sticks in order to get the blood for the newborn screen and the bilirubin. let's just say with our next baby, i will be trusting my instinct on that one and not letting my pediatrician talk me into getting two tests done when i know in my heart one is fine. (her screen came back perfect by the way). i am considering finding a different pediatrician who will respect my wishes better.

also, i started a childbirth blog, if you'd like to take a look! it is birthwithconfidence.blogspot.com.

OrganicMama said...

So sorry to hear about your little guy's illness! No, we don't usually do hand sanitizers. We just wash with soap and water after we go to the playground. Your plan seems good though. Another option might be something with a little tea tree oil in it. It has very strong antibacterial properties and doesn't smell like vinegar. It's very complimentary to the lavendar you used. :)
Health blessings to you!!

SisterFin said...

I'm actually a fan of alcohol based santizers. I'm not ignoring their risks, but at the same time the true purpose of alcohol is "the washing of the body" (D&C 89:7). Alcohol is an incredibly effective tool for killing germs. I think your approach of using both the alcohol based and your vinegar based version depending on the circumstance is a good strategy.

michel said...

Your topic was great! Thanks for taking a moment to draft such an interesting piece…

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I've been looking everywhere for a hand Sanitizer recipe that uses vinegar! I use a lot of it for work and I was looking for a Better option.

Thanks again
Nombie_craftz at yahoo dot com