Protect Yourself With This Toxin-Free DIY Hand Sanitizer

April 6, 2020

diy hand sanitizer

With hand sanitizers in short supply in stores and online, along with rubbing alcohol becoming more and more difficult to track down these days, it’s important that we have some other germ-fighting solutions on our hands (literally). This DIY hand sanitizer recipe is inexpensive, has only recognizable ingredients in it, is low-waste, and will come in handy whenever you need to wipe down your electronics or a questionable grocery cart handle. Note that nothing is more effective at killing viruses and bacteria than thoroughly washing your hands, so this disinfectant (or any other) isn’t meant to replace consistent washes.

If you don’t feel comfortable making your own hand sanitizer given the current health climate, don’t. Prioritizing your needs and safety is the best thing you can do for you right now. The World Health Organization has a recipe available, if you don’t have access to commercial options and would benefit from a recommendation from an official source.

Now let’s get to our recipe. Alcohol is going to serve as our star disinfecting ingredient for this. You can’t just use whatever type of alcohol you have lying around, mind you. Per the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization guidelines, alcohol-based hand sanitizers have to include at least 60% ethanol to be considered an effective stand in for good old-fashioned soap and water.

Curious about how alcohol takes down its germ enemies? Let’s take a detour for a super simple explanation. Viruses and bacteria are coated in protein, and proteins require water to function. When proteins are put in ethanol, water is absent, so they become denatured and lose their immunity-depleting powers. Viruses and bacteria also have a lipid membrane, which is essentially just made of fatty acids. Ethanol dissolves these fatty acids, and basically destroys the membrane surrounding the genetic material (DNA/RNA). Translation: microbe is destroyed.

Now that we’re all (somewhat) caught up on how alcohol kills bacteria, let’s talk about the alcohol I’m going to use. My boyfriend ended up picking up a free bottle of 68.5% ethanol made by a local gin distillery— so I’m excited to utilize that. If you don’t have a gin distillery nearby offering this generous and relevant service, pick up a bottle of 120 proof Everclear vodka, or an even higher proof version if you so desire. Some say 70% ethanol is the sweet spot for disinfecting, some say the higher the percentage the better, some say formulas become less effective at 90%+, but without a doubt the higher the proof, the more drying the solution will be for your hands. Do some research to decide what makes the most sense for your needs.

If your alcohol of choice ends up being 60% ethanol, don’t dilute it with liquid, or it will no longer follow CDC recommendations. If you go for an 80%-90% option, you can add a small amount of water or hydrosols to make it less harsh.

You might want to additionally incorporate some aloe gel or vitamin E oil, as alcohol is fairly hard on the hands. Though from my experience, aloe doesn’t blend well with the alcohol, and I’m too lazy brave the outside world for a vitamin E bottle. If you do decide you want to add something, organic vegetable glycerin would probably be your best bet for a softening agent that fully blends. My current plan is to moisturize my hands after each use and call it a day. Again, this is a supplement, not a substitute—so I’m not too worried about it.

Boasting antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, we are going to turn to essential oils to amp our spray up. I would suggest picking out 2-4 different varieties, and roughly 20-40 drops essential oil in total per 2-ounce solution.

Below are some potent healing oils to choose from!

Eucalyptus essential oil is commonly used for respiratory wellness, and is also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and a disinfectant.

Thyme essential oil is an antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, and antibacterial detoxifier that even repels insects. It also boosts immune function.

Rosemary essential oil is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, opens the sinuses and is great for respiratory illness.

Tea tree essential oil is a powerful antiseptic, and is additionally potently antiviral and antibacterial.

Oregano essential oil is like a natural antibiotic, is anti-inflammatory, and is often turned to during cold and flu season. It is believed to even be able to kill cancer cells due to its high levels of carvacrol.

Lavender essential oil, first of all, smells amazing. It’s anti-anxiety (which we could all benefit from right now), fights respiratory illness, and amps up immunity.

Lemon essential oil is a disinfectant, it’s antiseptic, antifungal, and uplifting. Be aware that lemon oil is photosensitive, so you want to avoid direct sunlight exposure if you use this in your blend.

The Germ Fighter essential oil blend from Plant Therapy is a blend that I already have at my house, so I’ll be using it. It’s a blend of lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove, and rosemary— all oils that purportedly kick major germ ass.

Once you’ve made your selection, it’s time to throw everything together. Make sure that all of the materials and ingredients you’re using are completely clean to protect your blend from any contamination.


  • 2-ounce spray bottle (I’m putting an amber 2-ounce version to work)
  • 60%+ grain alcohol
  • Rosewater, aloe hydrosol or filtered water (optional)
  • 20-40 drops essential oils


  1. Remove the spray nozzle from the bottle, and with a funnel or wonderful aim, add in your alcohol. Aim to fill the bottle almost all of the way.
  2. Start dropping in the essential oils as desired.
  3. If you’d like to, fill the remainder of the bottle with filtered water, or a hydrating hydrosol like rosewater, neroli or aloe.
  4. Return and secure the spray nozzle, and shake well.

I went with the germ fighter oil blend, lavender and tea tree oil, and a splash of aloe hydrosol—and I have to say, I love it! It smells medicinal in a strangely addicting way, my hands feel nice and clean, and it dries quickly. I’m counting this as a success.

Use it in good health, and stay well everyone!

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Photo: Kelly Sikema via Unsplash

Jenna Scott is a musician, longtime vegan, certified yoga teacher, wellness enthusiast and environmental advocate based out of Nashville, Tennessee. She’s committed to and passionate about educating others on low waste living, slow fashion, natural healing, a good DIY, and keeping it simple in a complicated world.


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