DIY: Back-to-School Hand Sanitizer

I’m not a fan of drugstore varieties of hand sanitizers with their slimy feelings, awful smells, and long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. But with my eldest son starting preschool this fall, I’m getting nervous about the imminent invasion of germs. My two little guys always have been at home with me, as healthy as can be (knock wood). Sure, they’ve picked up various colds and fevers after a day at the children’s museum or music class, but until now we’ve managed to escape exposure to the germs that school-age kids bring home.

I decided to experiment and make my own all-natural version of a germ-busting hand cream.  I have used essential oils with my kids since they were born—eucalyptus in a warm bath for runny noses, lavender on a pillow for relaxation and better sleep—so I combined some of my favorites (all with anti-infectious, antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties) with coconut oil for a simple, effective lotion.  

For materials and step-by-step instructions, read on:

Photography by Christine Chitnis for Gardenista.

DIY hand sanitizer Christine Chitnis ; Gardenista

Above: For the hand sanitizer, I used clove oil (which is antiviral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal); lemon oil (a powerful antioxidant and a natural cleanser); eucalyptus oil (highly antiviral and a powerful decongestant), and lavender oil (relaxing, soothing, and adds a gentle scent).

N.B.: Please test this recipe on a small patch of skin before using liberally—some people are sensitive to essential oils.

DIY hand sanitizer Christine Chitnis ; Gardenista


  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon eucalyptus oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon lavender oil
  • Saucepan
  • Clean glass jar

DIY hand sanitizer Christine Chitnis ; Gardenista

Above: Add coconut oil to a clean glass jar. On the stove, heat a pan of water and submerge the bottom of the jar in the water until the coconut oil just melts (don’t follow my example here—use tongs for safety). The coconut oil will turn to liquid in a matter of seconds, so do not overheat.


Above: Remove from the heat and add the essential oils.  Stir the mixture well, and allow it to thoroughly cool, returning to its solid form.  Put a lid on the jar, and use a dime size amount to moisturize hands throughout the school day when washing is not an option. This is also a great balm to use on your chest when a cold is coming on.

DIY hand sanitizer Christine Chitnis ; Gardenista

Above: For more of our favorite natural home remedies, see DIY Remedy: Garlic Honey for Fending Off Germs and 10 Chinese Herbs to Cure What Ails You.

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