How To Make Germ-Killing Hand Sanitizer

Can’t find a single bottle of Purell to purchase anymore? There IS something you can do that will kill germs when you can’t wash your hands. Make your own disinfecting hand sanitizer, using CDC guidelines for alcohol content!

This is 100% natural, moisturizing, made with ingredients you may already have, and ready in 5 minutes.

Best of all, this recipe is effective, with at least 60% alcohol content by volume per CDC recommendations.

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Yes, we are currently in a global pandemic, but my experience recently still surprised me.

I went to my local CVS to buy Purell, stupidly thinking there might be a bottle or two left with my name on it.

Of course, anything remotely Purell-like was long gone.

I continued on to Walmart and then Walgreen’s. The drugstore clerk there actually laughed when I asked if there was any hand sanitizer left.

After that, I sat in the Walgreen’s parking lot and decided to call around to grocery stores and Target instead. Absolutely no luck.

Ok, I thought, I’m a former nurse with a master’s in public health, I can figure something out.

So I went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and read their recommendations for hand sanitizer. This is what I found regarding the strength of the hand sanitizer:

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (source)

The recipe I developed below has at least 60% alcohol content for these four strengths of alcohol: 70% rubbing alcohol, 91%, 95% grain alcohol, and 99%.  In addition to alcohol, you’ll need just 2 -4 more ingredients: distilled water, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide (optional), and essential oil for fragrance (optional).


Alcohol is very drying, but the glycerin here is really protective and moisturizing. I have perpetually dry skin, but this hand sanitizer recipe leaves my hands smooth and happy. It’s so moisturizing that if I don’t have hand cream around after I wash my hands, I’ll actually use this hand sanitizer instead.

Glycerin is an amazing natural humectant, drawing water into the skin, and keeping your skin supple despite all the alcohol.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has backup duties in this recipe, helping to kill bacterial spores that may be present in the distilled water or alcohol. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is a nice addition for that reason.

Essential Oils

Some essential oils to include in this recipe for their natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties are:

Plant Therapy makes a lovely-smelling blend called Germ Fighter, which would be a good choice in this hand sanitizer. Other essential oil blend ideas would be:

  • Lavender and vanilla
  • Sweet citrus: steam-distilled lemon, sweet orange, and vanilla
  • Rose geranium




Why Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer?

Well, besides the whole hand sanitizer-shortage thing, there are a few more good reasons:


  • You control the ingredients. If you don’t want to rub things like dimethicone, triethanolamine, and artificial fragrance on your skin to kill germs, you don’t have to! You can make an effective hand sanitizer that is 100% natural.
  • It’s cost-effective. Whipping up a batch of hand sanitizer is much cheaper than buying ready-made. This makes it easier to use it liberally and often.
  • It’s quick and easy to make. Just weigh your ingredients, pour them into a pretty spray bottle, and give a little shake. Done in under 5 minutes.

Ingredients You Will Need

    • 70%*, 91%, 95%, or 99% alcohol
    • Distilled water
    • Glycerin
    • Hydrogen Peroxide (optional but helpful)
    • Essential oils (optional 

    * A note about 70% rubbing alcohol: I’ve seen some recipes that say you can’t use 70% alcohol if you want at least 60% alcohol content in the final product. You actually can use 70% alcohol; it’s just that to keep your hand sanitizer at 60% alcohol content, you can only add very small amounts of glycerin, essential oils, etc. The exact recipe you can use for 70% alcohol, as well as 91%, 95% and 99%, is below. 

    Tools You Will Need


        • Glycerin can be a little bit sticky, so you can lower the amount if you prefer. Just be sure to substitute the amount you lowered for more water. Or you can use another moisturizer, like:
        • Instead of distilled water, you can switch out all or part for aloe vera gel.
        • If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide or don’t want to use it, just substitute more distilled water for the amount of hydrogen peroxide.
        • Feel free to use whatever essentials oil you prefer, and if you want a few suggestions, I’ve listed those above.

        Helpful Tips

          • Because the alcohol content is key to the effectiveness of this hand sanitizer, it’s important that the weight of each ingredient is correct. After making this recipe 10+ times, I’ve found that I am most accurate when I weigh each ingredient separately.
          • Speaking of accuracy, weighing ingredients in grams on a scale gives the most precise and consistent results. Measuring using teaspoons, ounces or cups is actually less reliable. The Joy of Baking website explains this really well here. I’ve listed the recipe and variations both ways–in ounces and grams. But if you want to scale a recipe up or down, or just want to be super-accurate and consistent, measuring in grams on a scale is the way to go.

          Does This Hand Sanitizer Recipe Actually Kill Germs?

          Based on research from the CDC, 60% alcohol content is enough to kill many germs. There are caveats, though. Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content do not kill all germs, and the CDC has not put out a statement at this time about its effectiveness against COVID-19.

          The CDC states:

          Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60-95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers without 60-95% alcohol 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and 2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright. (source)

          Also, if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitizers will not be as effective.

          Finally, hand sanitizers must be applied liberally and then rubbed in until the skin is dry for the alcohol to be as effective as possible.

          The recipe below and all of the variations have been formulated to contain at least 60% alcohol in the end product.


          Can I Use Witch Hazel or Hydrogen Peroxide Instead of Alcohol?

          Unfortunately, no. For a hand sanitizer that is as effective as possible at killing germs, alcohol (ethanol/isopropyl/grain) must be used.

          How Do I Use Hand Sanitizer Correctly?

          According to the CDC: ” When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand…and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.” (source)

          Be sure to apply the hand sanitizer liberally. Cover the backs of your hands, your thumbs and the base of your hands, as well.

          Is This Hand Sanitizer Recipe Safe for Children to Use?

          With supervision, this recipe can be used on children’s hands. Of course, children should never swallow this or any hand sanitizer. If you choose to use essential oils in this recipe and want to use it with children under age 15, you’ll want to make sure that the essential oils are child-safe. Plant Therapy, which is available on Amazon, has a wonderful line of kid-safe, affordable essential oils.

          How To Make Germ-Killing Hand Sanitizer

          Make your own 100% natural, disinfecting hand sanitizer that follows CDC guidelines for effectiveness! Don’t forget your free printable label :). This recipe makes 1.75 ounces.
          Total Time5 mins


          • 42.5 grams 70% alcohol or 1.5 ounces
          • 3.1 grams distilled water or 0.11 ounces
          • 1.98 grams glycerin or 0.07 ounces
          • 1.49 grams hydrogen peroxide or 0.05 ounces
          • 0.5 grams essential oils of your choice or 0.02 ounces


          • In a separate cup, small bowl or beaker, weigh the alcohol.
          • Remove the container of alcohol from the scale, then place your clean 2-oz spray bottle on the scale, tare the scale, and using a funnel, carefully pour the alcohol into the spray bottle, rechecking the weight.
          • Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
          • Once all ingredients are added, shake the bottle. It’s ready to use!
          • To use this hand sanitizer: spray liberally over both hands, then rub hands together, covering the backs of hands, the base of hands, and thumbs, until dry. If you are not able to wash your hands, be sure to use this hand sanitizer before touching your face; and after touching public/contaminated surfaces; after sneezing or coughing into your hands; and after shaking hands (a no-no right now!).

          For 91%, 95% and 99% alcohol:

          • 91% alcohol:
            91% alcohol: 1.16oz, 32.7g
            Distilled water: 0.46 oz, 12.9g
            Glycerin: 0.07 oz, 1.98g
            Hydrogen peroxide: 0.05 oz, 1.49g
            Essential oils of your choice: 0.02 oz, 0.5g
          • 95% alcohol:
            95% alcohol: 1.11oz, 31.4g
            Distilled water: 0.5 oz, 14.1g
            Glycerin: 0.07 oz, 1.98g
            Hydrogen peroxide: 0.05 oz, 1.49g
            Essential oils of your choice: 0.02 oz, 0.5g
          • 99% alcohol:
            99% alcohol: 1.06 oz, 30g
            Distilled water: 0.55 oz, 15.5g
            Glycerin: 0.07 oz, 1.98g
            Hydrogen peroxide: 0.05 oz, 1.49g
            Essential oils of your choice: 0.02 oz, 0.5g

          WHERE TO BUY


          Hey, natural beauty!

          If you’re like me, you’ve long ago switched from plastic to reusable, you’ve tossed out those toxic air freshener things, and you support your local farmer’s market. And maybe you’d like to “green up” your beauty routine and swap some DIY beauty recipes. If so, you’re definitely in the right place!

          Hi, I’m Soraya, a wife, former nurse, Zumba sub instructor, East Coast transplant, and autism mom. I love to talk about all things natural beauty, DIY and essential oils.

          So if you’re into that, too, grab a cup of tea or glass of wine and stick around. Learn more about me.



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