Do-it-Yourself Hand Sanitizer Helps Control Your Child's Chemical Exposure

Health & Wellness on 03.14.11
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Photo credit: Matt Biddulph/Creative Commons

When Julie asked about the best hand sanitizer for children, it got us to thinking about how to achieve the health benefits touted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), without the cocktail of chemicals found in the typical off-the-shelf hand sanitizer. 

If you want to be completely in control of what your child uses on their hands, make your own hand sanitizer. Use two-thirds alcohol to one-third Aloe Vera gel. If you wish, you can add a drop or two of essential oil to give the sanitizer a nice perfume. Choose a scent that will not make your child think "yum." More details on this simple recipe are given below.

Ethyl alcohol, 67% by weight:

Some recipes recommend isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which may be easier to find. But I recommend using food-grade ethanol. Yes, this is the same alcohol that adults like to use to relax at a party. "What if my kids drink it," I hear you thinking now. Well, look at it this way: the other alcohols are used in these products specifically so customers do not abuse them by drinking them. If your child does get their hands on the hand sanitizer when you are not looking, ethanol is the least-bad of the alcohol options. That being said, you should be aware that drinking only a tablespoon of hand sanitizer may be enough to make a small toddler woozy, so be sure that your child uses hand sanitizer only with supervision. See our discussion of the <a href="">best hand sanitizer for kids</a> for the facts on hand sanitizer and alcohol poisoning.

Aloe Vera Gel, 33% by weight:

Be sure to look for aloe vera gel, not leaf extract. Aloe vera is a natural product, with a complex chemical composition. Gel is made within the leaf of the aloe vera plant, and has been taken internally, especially for treatment of ulcers. Ingestion of aloe vera gel has no immediate side effects and no known long term effects. The leaf extract has laxative effects, which can cause intestinal cramping, and has been shown to increase embryonic death in rats, after it was identified as a plant used for achieving abortions in Indian folk medicine.

Aloe vera is known to promote the growth of new skin cells, and to encourage immune effectiveness, which can help wounds heal. The dark side of this wonderful property is the possibility that aloe vera could induce cancers to grow faster. This should not be a concern for children, who are too young to be suffering skin cancer. Investigative studies to determine if people with cancer need to avoid aloe vera products are ongoing.

Read more about kids health:
What Causes Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs?
Chemist Mom Reads the Label: Hand Sanitizer
Why I Killed Baby Ava