Fight Flu Season! Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

alcohol free hand sanitizer (Update on a post originally written on December 31, 2011)

Since we are smack dab in the middle of flu season…I think we are all more mindful of how important it is to wash our hands….OFTEN! I personally love my homemade foaming hand soap I keep at the sink, and use it OFTEN. But soap and water hand washing isn’t always possible. In those circumstances, a hand sanitizer is a good alternative.

If you’re like me, you are constantly buying those little bottles at the checkout stand at the grocery store and tucking them in your purse. But since they are so small and don’t last long….you are also constantly throwing the plastic bottle away and buying another one.

This is where the homemade version makes so much sense. You control the ingredients AND the plastic that you throw away.

Most “recipes” you find online will be some combination of alcohol and aloe vera gel…but I recently ran across an online article about a pediatrician in New Jersey who recommends hand sanitizer utilizing essential oils INSTEAD of alcohol because of their antibacterial properties and because bacteria can become immune to alcohol-based sanitizers.

This is his formula:

Alcohol-Free Homemade Hand Sanitizer

  • Start with a recycled hand sanitizer bottle or liquid soap bottle
  • Fill it 2/3 of the way with water
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of aloe vera gel
  • 10 drops each of the following oils: lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and clove bud.
  • Top off the bottle with water and shake it up. Spray onto hands (3-5 sprays) and massage the spray into hands for 5-10 seconds.


alcohol free hand sanitizer


If you don’t have access to these particular oils…don’t despair…you can still make your own hand sanitizer using what you have and it will still be far superior to anything bought in the store.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

  • 1/3 cup of Aloe Vera Gel
  • 2/3 cup of Rubbing Alcohol
  • 8-10 drops of essential oil (such as lavender, lemon, peppermint, etc. Whatever you have/like.)
  • Recycled hand sanitizer or liquid soap bottle

Measure out ingredients into a bowl. Stir. Pour into empty bottle. Screw the pump back on. Shake.


alcohol free hand sanitizer

And finally….when you do need to BUY, rather than MAKE, a hand sanitizer, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should contain at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective in killing germs.
  • Look for natural ingredients, including witch hazel and antibiotic essential oils, such as lavender, tea tree, rosemary and thyme.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers dry out your skin, so it’s important to moisturize, too.
  • Hand sanitizer doesn’t work very well if you have dirt on your hands; the grime keeps it from reaching to your skin. So when your hands are dirty, find a sink and wash them.
  • Many “soaps” in public restrooms are actually detergents. Many commercial soaps also contain triclosan and synthetic fragrances. To combat this, carry a bar of fragrance-free soap, or a little bottle of castile soap with you.

NOW we are all set to fight germs through the nasty flu season!


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  1. PS_Iloveyou says

    Oh that is such a neat idea! I'm going to give it shot here soon.

    On a P.S. note I cringed when I heard you were putting something like our faucet in the trash can! I know yours was pretty beat up but in the future for all you do it yourself-ers out there please check to see if your local Habitat for Humanity has a Re-Store in your area. They take old fixtures, appliances, building materials, etc. to help raise money for their projects. Even the especially beat up stuff they take and get a tax write off for properly recycling the items.

    Just found your site today via Pinterest and I'm totally enamored! Thanks for doing such a wonderful job for all us blog readers out here!

  2. Jill Nystul says

    Awwww….now I feel bad. :-( I had no idea anyone would want our faucet that was leaking like a sieve and shooting out water every which way! Ah well….thanks for the information for next time!
    Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by…hope you keep coming back! :-)

  3. Anonymous says

    We placed a hot water dispenser in place of the soap dispenser. I can't imagine my life without it now. It's perfect for cups of hot chocolate for the kids, tea for me, hot water when a recipe calls for it without having to heat it up. It's wonderful.

  4. Rebeca @ The Average Parent says

    I've always read that thyme is the best essential oil to use for killing germs. That's what CleanWell uses in all of their products. It's pricey though, so I'm not sure how cost effective it would be.

  5. Linda says

    with the ‘superbugs’ we have today like MRSA, VRSA, and others, you have to very careful of what you use on them. This will probably work for the normal bacteria but if you are dealing with a bug that is stronger, please use the proper product.

    • Marci says

      If your dealing with the super bugs you should be using soap and water. It is the best way to cleanse your body. Hand sanitizers of any kind are for when soap and water are not readily available.

      • Jeannie says

        I totally disagree. Essential oils (the truely pure products) are powerful enough to kill MRSA/VRSA bacteria and great for prevention. Because they are made up of hundreds of volitile compounds they can fend off any mutating bateria making them more effective. Antbx and mainly mono compounds because they are synthetic and can’t respond to every changing organic RNA found in bacteria

        • Lauren says

          I agree that essential oils have been shown to have antibiotic properties, but I would like to point out some details (this is not to try to discredit any of the above statements, just to clarify). Essentials oils have been shown to have an antibiotic effect in laboratory environments. In those experiments, the material to which the essential oils were added also played an important role in the effect of the oils on the bacteria. I was unable to find any research showing their antibiotic effects on humans or other organisms, but am happy to read any that anyone else may have! It’s important to remember that bacteria will find a way to adapt to anything that kills them in order to survive, which is why it’s important to treat bacterial infections consistently and thoroughly.

          Additionally, it seems that a few people here are confusing bacteria and viruses. Bacteria mutate very very slowly, but can acquire resistance from other bacteria (genetic transfer from one bacterial cell to another). The genetic material is DNA, not RNA. There are some viruses, on the other hand, which are able to mutate very rapidly. Some of these viruses contain RNA genomes (a commonly-known example is HIV). Overall, alcohol is important in killing/inactivating both bacteria and viruses (some, not all).

      • Susan says

        Apparently the very best method for cleaning hands is sanitizer THEN soap and water. I lean towards the ‘clean enough to not get sick’. I seldom use bleach for cleaning the home (maybe the toilet), etc. I’ve tried to always make my own products. interesting thing is that when I went back to work and hubby was in charge of housecleaning etc., along with the kids (his office was at home), he started using bleach based products and they were all sicker those few years.

  6. Kelsie says

    I think this is a good idea, but I would try to use “real” aloe. There is a big difference between the brand you used and real, from the plant, aloe. Plus, that kind has fillers.

  7. Ryann says

    @Linda—Just to let you know doTERRA’s Melaleuca and Onguard essential oil have been proven to be very effective against MRSA. Antibiotics cannot kill it but these oils have been proven to kill MRSA. I would only use doTERRA essential oils though because they have no synthetics in as opposed to other essential oils out there. They are looking into putting doTERRA’s essential oils into hip and knee surgeries to keep MRSA from forming inside after surgeries. Thanks for sharing this info Jillee!

  8. Megan says

    Love your faucet – here is a tip from Megan . . . Keep your foaming hand wash and use your soap dispenser for DISH SOAP. It comes in really handy to do a quick sink of bottles, sippies or pans. Totally stole the idea from my mom but had to share as we too are loyal foaming soap users.

  9. Amanda says

    First, I want to let you know that I made the no-grate laundry detergent yesterday and I love it! I’m making a basket of homemade items for household use for my mom’s bday coming up, and that laundry detergent will be in it!
    Second, about these hand sanitizers…the one with alcohol is awful! I don’t know if you actually made it or just posted the recipe. I don’t like the smell (you need way more than 8-10 drops of oil to overpower the alcohol). It is very watery, and therefore, doesn’t do well at all in a pump bottle. Lastly, it doesn’t dry on the hands like store-bought sanitizer: it becomes soapy/filmy.

    The alcohol-free hand sanitizer in a spray bottle is great-dries just like the “real deal” from the store. This is the one I will include in my mom’s gift basket. I’m just sorry I wasted my aloe vera gel on the alcohol version. Won’t know if you don’t try though!

  10. Rachel says

    Hello Jill,
    I just wanted to mention to you that with lemon oil, you should put it in a glass container. Not sure if you about how it eats through plastic. Any sort of petrochemical, lemon will eat up. Just and FYI.

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this in your comments, but thought I would share. I have been a doTERRA user for 2 years now and have loved every minute of it.

    Thanks for the tip.

  11. Cind says

    I can’t wait to try this! I’d love to keep a small amount in my bag for emergencies. I’m also a really huge fan of personalizing my stuff with my own essential oils. Also, I’m pretty sure bacteria can’t become denatured to alcohol. Ethanol kills organisms by denaturing their proteins and dissolving their lipids and is effective against most bacteria and fungi, and many viruses, but is ineffective against bacterial spores. The way the alcohol kills them it would be like humans becoming denatured to Hydrofluoric acid.

  12. CTY says

    Looks like another great DIY from Jillee. Just one Q you don’t mention the size of the bottle to use (guessing 8 oz). But confused b/c you mention the travel size bottle–10 drops of oil in the little one or 8 oz pump.

  13. AlohaGrama says

    I’m wondering why witch hazel isn’t in the recipe? And what type of oil can we include IN the sanitizer to moisturize at the same time as killing germs? Would coconut oil hold up against the essential oils?

  14. Katina says

    Lets get back to basics. Washing your hands with soap and water is THE most effective way to rid them of bacteria. Almost everyone who uses alcohol gels & sanitizers do not know how to use them properly so they are really not getting rid of the germs and making a bad problem worse!

  15. Comet says


    If you read back on this thread some of it seems to “link” back to a much earlier version posted in 2011.

    Jillee mentions that HAND WASHING is the best way to clean. And that the hand sanitizers alone will not “cut thru” genuine dirt.

    What they CAN do is help prevent germ transfer from surface to hands or from hands to mouth or other people. This is best for situations where hand washing is simply not possible. I know for us when traveling about the place with two small kids there are times when we NEED sanitizers–we would LIKE to always have access to soap and water but it is just not always feasible. I use a handicapped wheelie cart and I keep a bottle on a carabiner hanging on the basket for these times—when the faucet at the bathroom is broken for instance. Summer outdoor events involving PortaPotties. After we make a visit to the pet store and before we can find a bathroom!

    I kinda think of it as “Sweeping” the floor as opposed to wet “Mopping”—one does one kind of clean than the other. And both have their place!

  16. TamiO says

    I love this idea , as I sit with 2 very sick people in my house!!!
    BUT….. I am HIGHLY allergic to aloe.. I know , I am a weirdo…
    Is there anything other than aloe I can use? I buy it all the time I just have to make sure there is no aloe in it..

    And I love your website!!

  17. Dacia says

    Happy New Year everyone! This morning I made the alcohol version, using Fruit of the Earth branded Aloe Vera Gel and 1/8 tsp peppermint essential oil (no dropper to count drops). So here’s my two cents…I love it! Yes, it is thinner than store bought alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but I have no issues with that. Unlike some other reviewers, I think it works just fine in a pump bottle, just be aware it is thinner and cup your hand to catch it. I used one pump, and I find it rubs in and evaporates every bit as well as the store bought stuff. It left my hands feeling soft, not sticky. And I do love the peppermint. I liked it so much, I made a second batch to refill other bottles. Thanks so much Jillee!! Another winner!

  18. MPMom says

    I had to comment on how you said you kept buying the small bottles, then throwing them away when empty and buying new. We buy the super large bottle and just keep refilling the little bottles that we keep in the car as well as my purse. Perhaps I’ll have to try making some with essential oils. Maybe my hands won’t end up so dry all winter long??

  19. Amy K. says

    I have “made” my own spray hand sanitizer as well, but used ethyl alcohol (ie, Everclear from the liquor store) instead of rubbing alcohol. It does not dry your skin like rubbing alcohol but still kills the germs. I started out mixing scents & oils in with it, but for the sake of efficiency, now I just pour Everclear into my little purell spray bottles. I live in MN, and it’s illegal to sell Everclear here, so I did have to go over the border to Wisconsin to get it! One fifth bottle is about 1/2 gone after 4 years.

  20. Tracy says

    Hi there,
    I’m a new follower and really enjoying your website. There’s so much fantastic info here for a mum of two littlies! I was wondering if the water in the non-alcohol recipe means that it may begin to mold after a while or do the essential oils keep anything from growing?

  21. Sandy says

    So – you say that store bought hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is actually only 70 percent alcohol – and if you use rubbing alcohol in the proportion you suggest (2/3 cup alcohol and 1/3c aloe vera gel) you will end up with a solution of only 46% – which won’t sanitize.

  22. Libby says

    :) I just made some of this, (alcohol version)… I had some Aloe vera gel left over that needed to be used, and a ton of alcohol that has been sitting under the sink for so long I figured I’d put it to good use. I normally don’t use alcohol or aloe vera gel very often, but I sure do love my hand sanitizer. I’m running out of my bath and body works kind from the tiny bottles… I put 10 drops of Tea tree EO in the mixture… I actually liked the consistency… I just have press open top bottles (like lotion), I don’t have a pump bottle (yet)…. But it seems to be working just fine… at first I was worried the alcohol smell would be too strong, but after a few seconds it went away and I could smell the tea tree :). cool. I shall have to transfer it to a fancier bottle one day ;). Thanks for the ‘recipe’, I’m excited to try the non-alcohol version someday!

  23. Libby says

    I’d probably like the alcohol free version better, but right meow I just don’t have all of the Essential oils :( (YET!) haha…. Right now i’m trying a go at making my own rosemary essential oil….. with EVOO and dried storebought rosemary… eh…. I’m hoping it turns out alright…. ha! well if it doesn’t turn out well enough to use as an essential oil, I could still use in on some chicken or something! anyhow, what I was trying to get to is all the EOS I have at the moment are Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Tea Tree. Do you think using them rather than lemon, clove bud, and cinnamon EOs would be just as effective? Could I just use the spices? eh…. well.

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