What You Will Learn in This Article
- Why We Need to Use Hand Sanitizer Right Now
- Where to Use Sanitizer
- Why Sanitizer Needs Alcohol
- Time The Virus Stays on Different Surfaces
- DIY Recipes to Sanitize and Clean
As grocery stores run out of toilet paper, people stock up on hand sanitizers, and we’re all told to “shelter in place” for the foreseeable future, you might start to wonder if all this is an overreaction. Why are such extreme measures being taken? And why now?
In this article, I will do my best to give a few answers to why this is a big deal. I will also give you some practical solutions (and hand sanitizer options) to help you and your family stay safe and healthy in this time of uncertainty.
The Bigger Picture
This is a very critical time for preventing the spread of the coronavirus and we need to be religiously washing our hands or using hand sanitizer right now. As I’m writing this, it’s the end of March, and we are thought to still be in the early phase of the pandemic. As it stands, the spread of the infection is happening very rapidly, and the mode of transmission is through water droplets that we transfer through coughing, sneezing, saliva, mucus, etc.
According to Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, a social scientist and physician at Yale University:
“Work so far suggests that we cannot expect a ‘weather cure’ for COVID-19, where it just disappears. There will likely be waves of SARS-CoV-2. It will come back again as it moves from N to S hemispheres with the seasons. COVID-10 will likely be with us for a long while.”
We will likely have recurrent outbreaks through the winters ahead –either of this strain or a mutated version.
What we’re trying to do right now is to “flatten the curve,” which means we’re trying to spread the number of infection cases out over time to help lessen the impact on healthcare systems. We are trying to slow the infection rate so that the hospitals don’t get overwhelmed and we don’t run out of critical supplies. This also gives scientists and researchers a chance to find new treatments.
Hand Sanitizer Basics
Use on Hands and Surfaces
Hand sanitizer: not just for hands. It’s important to use a sanitizer or disinfectant on both hands and the surfaces around us as we are constantly touching things. Don’t get caught up in the name. A hand sanitizer can also be used to wipe down surfaces if need be.
Why We Use Alcohol, Not Vinegar
In a previous article, I shared a DIY recipe on how to make your own all purpose cleaner with vinegar. Vinegar is a great general household cleaner as it is very effective against bacteria and also shows activity against certain viruses like the flu. However, right now we’re dealing with a very specific virus that calls for some stronger ingredients. You can also use ethanol, a component of rubbing or isopropyl alcohol (and hard liquor, on a smaller scale) that has strong anti-viral properties.
How Long The Virus Stays on Different Surfaces
As far as we know right now, the novel virus stays active on surfaces for different lengths of time. According to a collaborative study between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Princeton University, UCLA, and the CDC, this virus can persist…
- Up to 72 hrs on plastic
- Up to 24 hrs on cardboard
- Up to 72 hrs on stainless steel
- Up to 4 hours even on copper, which is considered to be antimicrobial and antiviral.
HOWEVER, a paper published this month (March, 2020) found that this virus may actually survive on metal, glass, or plastic for up to 9 days. Treatment with a disinfectant (with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite) was able to kill the virus within a minute.
Studies may disagree on the number of hours or days, but the important thing to remember is that while you may have washed your hands after bringing in groceries on day 1, that cardboard almond milk carton is likely still going to harbor any viruses on day 2.
Another thing to watch out for: Packages. Did you just receive a (cardboard or maybe plastic) package in the mail from Amazon or any other online retailer? Do you know who has touched it along the way? It’s impossible to know. It’s another reason we need to constantly either wash our hands or use sanitizers when we don’t have access to water and soap.
DIY Recipes to Sanitize and Clean
Natural Hand Sanitizer
A sanitizer can be made at home with a few simple ingredients including ethanol, which provides strong antiviral effects as is recommended by the CDC.
I have hand sanitizer recipes for both 60% (easier to make, fewer ingredients) and 70% ethanol sanitizer recipes (you’ll need a few more ingredients for this one).
Learn how to make them here.
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
Making your own household cleaner is just as easy as making your own sanitizer. You can check out my recipes for both a vinegar-based and ethanol-based (stronger) household cleaner here.
How to Prevent Your Hands from Drying Out
Since you’re now washing your hands and using hand sanitizer so frequently, you might find that you start to experience dry hands. (Alcohol/ethanol is unfortunately very drying to the skin). Following are a few tips and resources to keep your hands healthy and smooth.
It’s possible aloe vera gel could help –as a part of the sanitizer, and also on its own. However, because it’s so fragile and subject to oxidation, it tends to contain many preservatives –which can add to hand dryness and toxic load.
Soothing Calendula Lotion for Dry, Irritated Skin
In the morning, try the shortened version of our recipe, Soothing Calendula Lotion for Dry, Irritated Skin. This DIY is really simple. You just melt shea butter, stir in the calendula-infused oil, cool in the fridge, and whip smooth with a hand-mixer. You’ll notice making the calendula-infused oil from scratch takes 4-6 weeks. To save time, buy ready made organic calendula-infused oil; I recommend this certified organic one.
Hand Sanitizers – A Comparison of Market Players
Purell and Lysol lead the market for hand sanitizers and disinfectants. While their ability to kill bacteria and viruses is impressive, the ingredients include many harmful toxins (including hormone disruptors) you will want to avoid:
Purell® Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Refreshing Aloe
Purell is a popular hand sanitizer in the market. Unfortunately, it’s full of all kinds of questionable ingredients like glycols (limited data), polymers, benzene (used as a solvent), fragrance, and dyes. EWG gives this product a 3 for being moderately hazardous, plus “fair” for moderate availability of data surrounding the ingredients.
I know that toxicity might not be on top of your concerns right now but it may burden your immune system.
Purell Ingredients (as seen on packaging):
Inactive Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Isopropyl Alcohol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Acrylates/C10- 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Blue 1 (ci 42090), Yellow 5 (ci 19140).
Active Ingredients: Ethyl Alcohol (70% v/v)
Here are a few concerning ingredients and their effects:
Fragrance (Parfum) – these are phthalates; immune toxicant, respiratory irritant/toxicant, likely contains hormone-disrupting compounds.
Tocopheryl Acetate — may be contaminated with pesticides. May contribute to cancer. Strong evidence for allergic dermatitis.
Aminomethyl propanol — may be contaminated with pesticides (Nitrosamines and Oxazolidines). Irritating to eyes, skin, or lungs.
Dyes (FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Yellow 5) — May accumulate in the body and may contribute to organ system toxicity.
Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes, Lemon Lime
Lysol seems to be even worse, although not all the ingredients are disclosed. EWG gives this product a D for “High Concern.” (It gets letter ratings rather than numbers due to this being considered a household cleaning product, rather than a personal care item).
Ingredients from packaging: Who knows? They don’t even tell you on their SDS (Safety Data Sheet).
Check out some of the ingredients we do know about:
Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chlorides (C12-16) — This ingredient gets an “F” rating from EWG for “Highest Concern.” The EPA has concluded that this chemical poses a high risk for human health. Peer-reviewed research indicates this compound could cause reproductive problems in both men and women.
Myristalkonium saccharinate — This ingredient gets an “D” rating from EWG for “High Concern.” Peer-reviewed research indicates this compound could cause reproductive problems in both men and women.
Fragrance — This ingredient gets an “D” rating from EWG for “High Concern.” It’s considered an immune toxicant, respiratory irritant/toxicant, likely contains hormone-disrupting phthalates.
Antiviral (AND Safe) Hand Sanitizer
In this time of the viral pandemic, it’s extremely important to keep our hands and surfaces clean. In fact, it could even make the difference between life and death for some people. I’d absolutely encourage you to bring hand sanitizer with you when you have to go out (groceries, medications, etc) and use it conscientiously. There are some good options out there. However, we wanted to go back to the basics; that is, just the 70% ethanol needed to deactivate the virus, plus a few other non-toxic ingredients to lessen the drying effect and keep everything blended together.
For that reason, I sought out the best, least toxic hand cleaner I could find – one that doesn’t compromise the virus-killing efficacy, yet doesn’t harm you. Since this site is all about restoring your health and hormone balance in a natural way, we needed to find a waterless hand sanitizer that could help you stay safe from dangerous viruses while also avoiding toxic chemicals.
Our hand sanitizer is simply 70% ethanol (10% higher than the CDC minimum requirement), plus glycerine and xanthan gum to prevent separation – and nothing else. These ingredients are so safe that you’ll also see them in food products like stevia glycerite and gluten free baked goods. When you use this sanitizer, you can rest easy, knowing that you are using something that is free of hormone-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals. After all, if you’re using a hand sanitizer or sanitizer as often as recommended, you’re putting large quantities of whatever is in it into your body. The skin, as we know, is wonderfully absorbant, and whatever goes on your skin goes into your bloodstream.
Introducing our Wellena Hand Sanitizer
Here are a few highlights of our sanitizer:
- No irritating fragrances
- A neutral sanitizer that allows you to add your own essential oils
- Vegan and gluten free ingredients
- Less irritating to hands compared to other sanitizers
- Easy to carry in your purse on the go
- Cleanse hands when water and soap aren’t available
- Use on surfaces as well as hands
We are not able to call it a “sanitizer” yet (even though we comply with all the requirements of one) because we need to get an approval first – which is pending.
So many of the sanitizers out there have ingredients that are “immune toxicants” and “endocrine disruptors.” It doesn’t make sense to avoid one illness only to develop another one. It’s important to support all your body’s systems in every way possible during this time. A healthy body is better able to deal with the “bugs” and viruses that come along its way.
Get a couple of hand sanitizers and keep one in your purse, one in your car, and one on your desk or work station. If you wear an apron or scrubs for work, keep one in your pocket. Even a coat pocket works –if you put your hand in your pocket and feel it, you’ll be reminded to apply it.
If you love essential oils, this fragrance-free sanitizer allows you to add your own! Add 7-10 drops of your chosen oil(s) — some have stronger, longer-lasting scents than others. More viscous (thicker) oils will likely do well on the lower end. Also, “hot” oils, which can be irritating to the skin when used straight (such as oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and clove), will likely do better on the lower end. However, always adjust to your own sensitivity level and/or personal preference.
You can get our Wellena Hand Sanitizer here.
Kissler, S. M. et al. Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the post-pandemic period. MedRxIV website. Accessed March 26, 2020.
McMurry, J. et al. Flatten the curve | These guidelines are intended to help Flatten the Curve with the COVID19 outbreak, to help limit spread and reduce the load on hospitals and other healthcare. Flattenthecurve.com website. Accessed March 26, 2020.
World Health Organization. COVID-19. WHO website. Accessed March 26, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself. CDC website. Accessed March 21, 2020.
Rutala, W. A. Antimicrobial activity of home disinfectants and natural products against potential human pathogens. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. January, 2000.
Greatorex, J. et al. Effectiveness of Common Household Cleaning Agents in Reducing the Viability of Human Influenza A/H1N1. PLOS ONE. February 1, 2010.
National Institutes of Health. New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces | National Institutes of Health. NIH News Releases. March 17, 2020.
Minoshima, M. et al. Comparison of the antiviral effect of solid-state copper and silver compounds. Journal of Hazardous Materials. July 15, 2016.
Kampf, G. et al. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. The Journal of Hospital Infection. March, 2020.
World Health Organization. Guide to Local Production: WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations. WHO website. Revised April 2010.
Environmental Working Group. EWG Skin Deep® | Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Refreshing Aloe Rating. EWG website. Accessed March 26, 2020.
Environmental Working Group. EWG Skin Deep® | Lysol Disinfecting Wipes Lemon Lime. EWG website. March 26, 2020.
Wow, what a great article. Almost every question I could ever want answered in one place. I’m sharing with all my friends. One question about copper. Since it is so powerful at killing the covids, would it make sense for me to carry pennies around and rub them in my hands if I can’t find sanitizer? Is there any benefit/danger to eating copper, or maybe if I held pennies in my mouth? This could be a leap forward against his virus. I was thinking of making bottles of your sanitizer recipe above and keeping them in copper dispensers, kind of a two for one solution and if I can’t find copper dispensers, I was going to put pennies in the bottom of the jar. Finally, why don’t we make all of our surfaces out of copper, that would put people to work and it would kill the virus.
Please be careful about adding your own essential oils….. some of them like lavender has been associated with breast development in baby boys. Check the contents of the essential oil you are planning to use and make sure that they don’t contain other substances
Hi Natali. Thank you for sharing this concern with us. Lavender has been recently shown to not actually be estrogenic. There was a study many years ago that was said to conclude that they were, but this information was later rebutted by the essential oil community & Robert Tisserand, who is known to be the father of essential oils.
I am attaching a couple articles that clarify that information.
I hope that helps. Additionally, while children are not our area of expertise, it is always a good idea to discuss essential oils with a pediatrician before use.
– HB Team