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Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Homemade Hand Sanitizer
Recipe At-A-Glance
Home Remedy5 minutes
Sometimes you don’t have easy access to a sink with soap and hot water. Those times call for this anti-viral and anti-bacterial Homemade Hand Sanitizer made with all-natural ingredients.

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There are a lot of things in this world that scare me. I’m terrified of tornadoes (I think I have a right to be after going through two in one year). I’m petrified of small spaces. The older I get, the more afraid of heights I get. But here’s one thing I am absolutely not afraid of: germs.

In fact, I think our society’s obsession with antibacterial this and sanitizing that is actually way more detrimental to us than we can even understand right now. I’m not going to go lick a vial of smallpox, obvi, but I am a big believer that a bit of dirt and some bacteria on our hands is actually pretty good for us. That being said, when a particularly dangerous strain of the flu is making its rounds (and I’m immune-compromised), you better bet I am hand sanitizing my and my kid’s hands every 30 seconds when we’re out in public.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Of course, I’m a bigger fan of just washing with regular ole soap and hot water, but sinks aren’t always around. Like after you’ve chucked five leaking bags of rotting garbage into the pit at the dump. Or after you have to go in a porta-potty at a sporting event. Or after your kid touched every. single. part. of the shopping cart and now wants to eat some crackers. So I make homemade hand sanitizer in spray form that I just keep in my bag.

This homemade hand sanitizer is awesome because it’s made with all-natural ingredients, and it is naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial because of the cocktail of essential oils. Which means you get similar bug-killing and sanitizing properties as a regular bottle of hand sanitizer, but you aren’t spreading possibly toxic chemicals on your biggest organ—your skin.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

When it comes to the essential oils, I like to use a combo of three: lemon, orange, and tea tree. Lemon and orange are both natural disinfectants (plus they smell nice and clean). And tea tree oil has been proven time and time again to kill viruses, bacteria, mold, and fungi. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory!

I would recommend caution with this hand sanitizer if your skin is light sensitive. Both lemon and orange oils can cause photosensitivity—meaning they make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. This sanitizer uses highly diluted oils, and I’ve never personally had any issues with this, but I’d hate to not mention this and have someone get a sunburn on their hands! There are countless essential oils out there with antiseptic properties, so you can experiment if you’re concerned about the photosensitivity issue.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

If you prefer, instead of using individual oils, you can also use a germ-busting pre-blended essential oil that’s on the market. We really like the KidSafe line from Plant Therapy, including their Germ Destroyer oil. They are pre-blended to be safe for kids, which makes this Mama happy. (Related: I’m not connected with any essential oil company and have no interest in pushing essential oils to people. If you have another brand you love and use, go for it, friend).

When you’re making this hand sanitizer, you can either use vodka or alcohol-free witch hazel to help dilute the essential oils into the mixture. Both vodka and witch hazel have natural anti-microbial properties (I do believe the alcohol is slightly better at killing germies), so either will work. It honestly just depends on your personal preference. I used to buy witch hazel, but I never got around to buying another bottle when I finished my last one. I’ve been using vodka ever since (which we always have—wink, wink).

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

I put most of my essential-oil based recipes into these blue bottles or these amber ones. Why? Well, the dark glass helps protect the essential oils from UV light (which can break them down), and the sprayer is a very fine mist that is perfect for things like homemade hand sanitizer.

Plus, the small two-ounce size is perfect for hand sanitizer and tossing in your bag. If you want to use a bottle you already have kicking around, I recommend using a darker bottle, or if you only have clear ones, making sure to store the sanitizer in a dark spot. Glass or plastic would work (I just prefer glass).

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

The labels I used here are Avery #22846 2” x 2” Kraft Paper Square Labels. You can download the labels I used here, and they are already formatted to work with those labels. Easy, peasy! Now go make yourself some hand sanitizer!

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Yield: Makes 2 ounces (if you have a larger spray bottle, just adjust the recipe accordingly)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Sometimes you don’t have easy access to a sink with soap and hot water. Those times call for this anti-viral and anti-bacterial Homemade Hand Sanitizer made with all-natural ingredients.


  • 2 ounce spray bottle
  • 5 drops vitamin E oil (optional, this makes for soft hands!)
  • 2 tablespoons witch hazel with aloe vera or vodka
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops orange essential oil
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil
  • Distilled (or at least filtered, boiled, and cooled) water
  • Printable label PDF
  • Label sheet, printer and scissors


  1. In the spray bottle, combine the vitamin E oil, witch hazel or vodka, and essential oils. Place the sprayer on tightly and shake well for 15-20 seconds to combine.
  2. Open the bottle, and fill to the top with water. Replace sprayer, and shake again for 15-20 seconds. Done!
  3. Print and stick the label to the bottle. If you don’t have label sheets kicking around, you can also print the label onto regular paper, and then use clear packing tape to adhere the label to the bottle by using the tape like lamination over the entire label.
  4. Spray liberally on your hands whenever you feel like they need a bit of a deep clean. Rub hands together until dry.


Essential oil disclaimer: This recipe uses what are generally considered safe essential oils, but please keep in mind that while completely natural, all essential oils are powerful plant compounds that you and your family (including your pets) might have a reaction to. Never use essential oils undiluted or take essential oils internally (diluted or undiluted) without the guidance of a professional, and always read up about the possible side effects of each type of oil before you use it. Avoid the use of essential oils (diluted or undiluted) during the first trimester of pregnancy, on small babies, and on anyone with severe allergies to the plants the oils are derived from. And if you see any reactions in yourself, your family, or your pets, stop use of your essential oil products immediately and contact a medical professional.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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24 Responses
  1. Not at all worried about germs but this is a great idea for when you need to clean your hands and don’t have soap and hot water around and the citrus essential oils are great for making you feel refreshed too! I’m really enjoying seeing all the stuff that you make and do at home, it’s so creative!

    1. scoobie

      I would be careful with adding any Citrus Essential Oils. Citrus EOs are photo-sensitive; which mean they can cause burns when exposed to direct sun light.
      Some EOs like Lime can be safe to use depending on how they are produced.

  2. Yes! So much overuse of antibacterial products here in the U.S. (not to mention antibiotics). I only use it after porta potties and after, uhm, “big” bathroom breaks/before eating while backpacking.

  3. What is the shelf life if made with tap water? And would the shelf life change if using distilled water instead? Do you think adding, say, 10 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract would help prolong the shelf life?


    1. Cassie

      You can, but I’ve heard that a lot of fragrance oils are made with not-so-good-for-you ingredients, so if you’re looking to make this to keep it clean, you might want to check the bottle.

  4. Lisa

    What do you use for your label sheets? I’m intrigue, especially for a hand product so the ink doesn’t smear or the paper eventually get soft and flake off.

  5. sharon anne

    What is your source for knowing that this concentration of essential oils is antibacterial? The following article states what concentration of tea tree oil is antibacterial. It also uses lavendar, which I want to replace with citrus,, so I’m needing to know that reducing the tea tree oil is ok because the citrus makes up for it in antibacterial concentration.

    1. Sara Kasch

      I see on the label it says for personal use only. I want to respect your creativeness and these are so cute so I wanted to ask permission if I could use this recipe and use the labels on bottles that I sell at a farmers market? I understand either way. Thank you!

  6. Karen Tannehill

    What do you use as a dropper for the oil? Would almond or coconut oil work, or is there something more special or healing about vitamin e oil?

  7. Michelle

    Can you use witch hazel with out the aloe Vera? But then do 1 tablespoon of witch hazel and 1 tablespoon of aloe Vera. I have witch hazel without the aloe and aloe and didn’t want to buy the witch hazel again just yet..

  8. Mary Anne Villamor

    Hi! can we use just one of the essential oils given here, like can we use orange e oil only? Thanks for the answer. God bless! i’ll wait for the reply 🙂

    1. Karen

      I love this stuff! I take it camping, and I have it at school of me. I’m not a total germophobe but do clean my hands quite a bit at school. This is such a soothing combo – the vitamin e oil makes it NOT greasy, but moisturizing. I love it!

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