Is it me or did people just recently warm-up to the idea of washing their hands? As a mom of two tiny humans, I’ve got a homemade low-toxin hand sanitizer in every vehicle and bag I own because well, let’s be honest – you can’t always find somewhere to wash your hands, am I right? But this past fall, what I thought was the normal panic surrounding cold-and-flu season – quickly took a back seat to SARS CoVid-19 and before you could say the word “pandemic” we were all sheltering at home to help flatten the curve. And then you couldn’t buy toilet paper, paper towels, yeast (by the way – who’s hoarding all the yeast?!) or hand-sanitizer. Which got me thinking – maybe its time I play around with a dozen or more recipes out there and develop my own hand-sanitizer gel recipe using ingredients with the least amount of toxins as possible.
Following the Guidelines
Washing your hands with soap and water is still the most effective way to keep your hands bacteria and virus free. According to the CDC, you should wash your hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
When hand washing isn’t possible, the CDC recommends using a hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (1). We now know that human coronaviruses can live on surfaces made of metal, glass and plastic for hours up to days but NOT in the presence of around 70% ethanol alcohol. NOTE: hydrogen peroxide and bleach have both also been proven to “detach” coronaviruses from their surface, however I think these would destroy your hands. So in order of most to least toxic, my recipe uses 91% rubbing alcohol (any drug store or big box store brand will do) organic, aloe vera gel and therapeutic-grade essential oils.
Please use some caution here: it is critical to get the ratio of alcohol to aloe correct, so that your hand-sanitizer will be effective at protecting you or your loved ones against coronavirus. This is such a critical component, so much so that in a recent study out of Wuhan, China, researchers are confident that solutions based with 70% alcohol are effective at inactivating the novel coronavirus (2).
What About Anti-bacterial Soap?
Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING beats good ‘ole soap and water (and I’m not talking about the anti-bacterial soaps which do nothing more than disrupt our delicate micro-biome (3) and have proven time and time again that they are not more effective than regular hand soap. In fact, a study in the Journal of Environmental Public Health found that hand washing with non-antibacterial soap and water is more effective for the removal of bacteria than hand washing with water alone (4), so when it’s available to you, go ahead and wash your hands for at least 30 seconds. But when hand washing is not available, using a lower-toxin hand sanitizer is a viable option.
Low-toxin Homemade Hand Sanitizer Gel Recipe
1 – reusable 8 oz. BPA-free Dispenser Bottle (like this one here)
3/4 c. 91% Isopropyl/Rubbing Alcohol
1/4 c. Organic Aloe Vera Gel (like this one here)
2 drops Therapeutic-grade Lavender Essential Oil
2 drops Therapeutic-grade Basil Essential Oil
METHOD: Funnel all ingredients into a dispenser bottle and shake to combine. NOTE: when using your homemade hand-sanitizer to replace hand washing, please follow the same method of rubbing your hands together for at least 30 seconds, as if you were washing your hands, not ignoring the backs of your hands, fingernails, etc.
Can Essential Oils Inactivate Coronaviruses?
The jury is still out on this one, so I can’t report to you with any evidence based research. What I do know is that since biblical times, essential oils have been documented in their usage for every ailment you could possibly think of. My choice in the combining lavender and basil is intentional. Not only do they smell amazing together, but lavender and basil are well-documented for their anti-microbial benefits (5), so I use them together a lot in homemade cleaning products and in the diffuser to disinfect the air.
You can certainly choose whichever therapeutic-grade essential oils you prefer, but use extreme caution. Always test an area on yourself first, prior to applying to small children as all essential oils have different properties which don’t agree with everyone.