Reducing Toxic Exposure: How to Choose a Hand Sanitizer

Over the last few years I’ve started to be more picky about what products we put on our skin. On one hand I’m not going to spend 10x the normal price of something just because it’s “organic” on the other hand I’m not going to buy the cheapest toxic-laden version either. Like most moms I strive to land someplace in the middle. I’ll be writing a series of posts where I compare products. My goal is the find the most budget conscious choice that reduces toxic exposure for your kids (and mine). Today’s review: hand sanitizer

Way back in “normal” life we did not use hand sanitizer on a regular basis in our home. For the most part I believe that a certain level of bacterial & viral exposure is necessary to build good immune response. But then my son got leukemia. The sad fact is that his immune system will not be normal for a very long time. He cannot fight off a cold like a regular boy and something as simple as strep throat could land us in the hospital. So hand sanitizer is one way we protect him as much as possible. This does not exempt us from proper hand washing though!

There are several different active ingredients in hand sanitizers. Here are the ones I try to avoid:

  • Benzalkonium Chloride: it has a toxicity rating of 4 out of 10 from the EWG
  • Triclosan: the most toxic by far, very rarely used in sanitizer now, rated 7
  • Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol): toxicity rating of 3 but with 12,000 documented cases of alcohol poisoning in kids, we try to avoid it

My favorite hand sanitizer brand: CleanWell

They offer three different versions of hand sanitizer: foam, spray or wipes. You can get them in three packs on Amazon.


Why I like it:

  • we are avoiding the more toxic antimicrobials
  • it doesn’t sting if you have a cut on your hands
  • it doesn’t have any artificial fragrances (which are now being identified as highly toxic)
  • it’s biodegradable and non-toxic
  • it doesn’t dry out our skin
  • it has a toxicity rating of 1 from the EWG

Active Ingredient:

Thymus Vulgaris Oil (thyme oil, a natural antimicrobial)

Other Ingredients (from their foaming sanitizer):

  • Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice (aloe vera, a natural emollient and skin conditioner)
  • Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract (a natural antioxidant)
  • Copper PCA (a skin conditioner and naturally occurring mineral found in human skin)
  • Glycolic Acid (an alpha hydroxy skin conditioner)
  • Hydrolized Oats (a skin conditioner)
  • Origanum Vulgare Oil (a natural essential oil)
  • Sodium Citrate (a natural pH balancer)
  • Sodium Decylglucosides Hydroxypropyl Sulfonate (a plant-based emulsifi er derived from corn sugar and coconut oil)
  • Sodium Methyl 2- Sulfolaurate (a natural cleanser derived from coconut oil)
  • Sulfated Castor Oil Methyl Ester (a natural cleanser derived from castor beans)
  • Water

Other Hand Sanitizers to Try

EO Hand Sanitizer, Organic Lavender, 8 fl oz (240 ml): If we are going to use alcohol, let’s at least make it non-gmo, organic ethanol.
Argentus Silver Thyme Hand Sanitizer: made with a proprietary combination of silver, zinc, aloe vera & thyme.
BabyGanics Foaming Hand Sanitizer: This one uses benzalkonium chloride but it still has a toxicity rating of 1 from EWG.

photo credit: Tim Shearer via photopin cc
(Disclosure: Affiliate links present.)

About Emily

Hi, my name is Emily. I’m a wife, mother, christian, momcologist, doula, writer, nerd, entrepreneur and dreamer. I like Apple products, chocolate, books, lists, being pregnant and the color purple. I fancy myself as a quirky combination of dreamy Anne Shirley and feisty Scarlett O’Hara but in a schizophrenic sort of way. Read on...


  1. Hi Emily,

    Thanks for the helpful info on hand sanitizers, and for introducing yourself on Twitter. I couldn’t tell from your post how your son is, but I hope/ pray his leukemia is in remission. Nice to meet you :)

    • Hi Dolly! Thanks for commenting. My son is doing really well. We are struggling with some liver toxicity issues but his leukemia is in remission and we are sailing through a three year maintenance chemotherapy plan.

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