With all the health advice headlines awash on the front pages of the press concerning viruses- you could easily be excused for panic buying masks and hand sanitiser products.
Many antibacterial hand sanitising products, can actually more harmful to you and the environment, than the germs you are hoping to control.
Products that contain triclosan or triclocarban, which is an ingredient that can also be found in soaps and even toothpaste, eg products labeled antibacterial, antimicrobial, or antiseptic soaps were deemed to pose ‘unnecessary risks to health ‘ by the American FDA . These and 27 other chemicals were banned for in use in these products, though some could be used in products licensed by drug companies as medication.
Using the wrong chemicals can actually cause the hands to quickly re-populate with bacteria after use, causing greater amounts of bacteria than before use, and have been shown to be ineffective in many cases.
List of banned hand sanitizer chemicals:
The FDA has barred 28 ingredients from use on over-the-counter antiseptic rubs ,
- chlorhexidine gluconate;
- iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate);
- iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol);
- methylbenzethonium chloride;
- nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine;
- phenol (equal to or less than 1.5 percent or greater than 1.5 percent);
- poloxamer iodine complex;
- povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent;
- secondary amyltricresols;
- sodium oxychlorosene;
- triple dye;
- undecoylium chloride iodine complex;
- polyhexamethylene biguanide;
- benzalkonium cetyl phosphate;
- cetylpyridinium chloride;
- salicylic acid;
- sodium hypochlorite;
- tea tree oil;
- a combination of potassium vegetable oil solution, phosphate sequestering agent,
Tea tree oil is probably here because it’s so effective it’s been re classed as a medicine, and also because essential oils need to be used with care and properly diluted before use on skin.
Workers exposed to sanitisers containing ‘biocides’ have been found to be more at risk of thyroid cancer in addition. ( Reuters)
Sanitisers may also contain ingredients such as : methylparaben, propylparaben, fragrance ( synthetic sensitising chemicals etc ) diazolidinyl urea or other chemical anti-microbe agents. None of which would be considered natural, and are things you should avoid exposure too, unless absolutely needed eg In a strict work hygiene protocol.
Simply replacing all the above with simple hand washing- soap and water is better for you, and is less likely to damage the skins own protective layer of sebum.
Rub hands together, under clean running water with soap, and continue to wash whilst counting to twenty, washing all the way up to your wrists and lower forearm.
According to research, washing hands for longer periods is not more effective, and can start to dry out skin.
‘For those times in-between’ here’s a simple Hand Sanitiser Recipe:
Alcohol Hand Sanitiser
An easy in between sanitiser using alcohol and essential oils for home use ( not commercial )
This can be made with 99 % of a (70 % ) solution of commonly available rubbing alcohol ( Isopropyl) or grain alcohol ( denatured) and 1% of essential oils.
98.5 % 70% Solution ( Grain or Rubbing) Alcohol
0.5 % Tea Tree Oil
0.5 % Lavender Oil
0.5 Vegetable Glycerin
With Witch Hazel
88.5 % 70% solution of ( Denatured or Isopropyl) Alcohol
10 % Witch hazel
1% Essential oils
97.5 (70 % alcohol) %
0.5 % Glycerin
1% Essentials Oils
Rubbing alcohol can be found in most chemists (Isopropyl Alcohol) and levels between 60 -90 % act as a disinfectant agent, it has a strong smell and is slightly less drying than denatured ethanol. It’s thought to be less effective than ethanol ( denatured alcohol) which is why the licensed ethanol is used in commercial formulas.
Properly formulated, these should work against most bacteria, some virus ( including flu) however it’s not particularly effective against fungi or Nora virus or E. coli. ( Soap and water is better!)
A home made mixture is not guaranteed to be effective though..
Alcohol is drying to skin, but in medical settings the type of mixture used in commercially produced sanitisers, is thought to be slightly less drying to skin, than the equivalent amount of hand washes needed !
Denatured alcohol usually needs a license for purchase on the Uk.
Why not use the 90 % alcohol?
Evaporates too quickly, and does not allow the alcohol to penetrate the protein wall of bacteria, so may not work as well.
Safety wise; bear in mind an alcohol based hand sanitizer should be kept away from all children in case they drink it, plus it could also be flammable ( As is perfume ) so be mindful where you spray it.
This kind of mixture can also be used to wipe down door handles, chair arms, nail files, and limited small work surface areas.
Not suitable for larger scale cleaning though !
Essential oils like Lavender Tea Tree Peppermint Geranium Neroli Etc can be used at around 1% depending on the oil. ( See charts below of some commonly used oils)
If blending oils make sure the blend still adds up to 1%.