Beat the Flu and Save Money: Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer


Be careful at work! National Archives

Hand sanitizers are controversial; some say they don't work, and others worry about the brands that have the endocrine disruptor Triclosan in it. But Tara Parker-Pope writes in the New York Times about numerous studies that show significant reductions in illness and flu transmission when people wash their hands with either soap and water or alcohol based sanitizer.

In February, researchers in Australia coated the hands of 20 volunteers with copious amounts of a seasonal H1N1 flu virus. The concentration of virus was equivalent to the amount that would occur when an infected person used a hand to wipe a runny nose. When the subjects did not wash their hands, large amounts of live virus remained even after an hour, said the lead author, Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne. But using soap and water or a sanitizer virtually eliminated the presence of the virus.

But how do you know what is in your hand sanitizer? How do you know if it is effective? Easy- make it yourself.


Lifehacker to the rescue with a recipe they picked up at Ecosalon and tweaked a bit, in response to comments:

In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup each of pure aloe vera gel and grain alcohol with 5 drops of tea tree essential oil. To make it smell less pungent, add 5 drops of your favorite fragrance oil. Using a funnel, pour this blend into a bottle small enough to stash in your purse. (Rinse out an empty tube of makeup or lotion to make use of waste.)

An earlier article in the New York Times quotes some experts who say that there has to be a minimum 60% alcohol for it to be effective, so you might want to modify the formula a bit.

"I used to work in a virology lab," [Epidemiologist] Dr. Aiello said, "and we knew -- it has been known for decades -- that an alcohol concentration under 60 percent won't kill the microbes.

Use it often, especially at work: Dr. Aiello continued:

"Studies show that the computer keyboard, the phone receiver, and the desk are worse than the bathroom in terms of micro-organisms," she said. "Washing with plain old soap and water should be your first choice. But if you're stuck between meetings and about to grab lunch at your desk, or just use somebody else's keyboard, using a hand sanitizer before and after could be a really good idea."

Lots of interesting comments on the recipe in Lifehacker.

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