How To Choose A Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer (& 3 Of Our Faves!)

how to choose a non-toxic hand sanitizer

Parents and teachers know that kids touch everything including, maybe especially, things we wish they wouldn’t. Handwashing, when done correctly, is incredibly effective at reducing our exposure to sickness-causing germs, but it’s not always easy to get kids to do it right. And every parent has those horrifying moments where there’s a level 11 germ incident and not a sink or soap anywhere within sight! Enter hand sanitizer – a simple, convenient way to kill germs and friend to all, right? Unfortunately, hand sanitizers can contain some extremely harmful chemicals. Given that studies have shown that hand sanitizers can play an important role in reducing flu-causing germs in areas like pre-schools, and that it can be super helpful when you’re at the playground and your Little picks up a rotting squirrel carcass, having one in your arsenal may come in handy. Here’s what you need to know to find a non-toxic hand sanitizer and a few of our current favorites.

Top Ingredients To Avoid For A Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer

1. Triclosan

Triclosan is a synthetic pesticide that’s often added to detergents and soaps and personal care products like deodorants and toothpastes because it has antibacterial properties, but it is important to note that it does not have the power to kill the viruses that cause colds and flus. In 2016, the FDA banned its use from antibacterial soaps, but the new regulation still permits its use in products outside of antibacterial hand soaps.

Triclosan has been associated with hormone disruption, cancer, liver damage and the development of super-germs. Avoid anything with triclosan or triclocarban on the label.

2. Fragrance and Phthalates 

These two bad guys often go hand-in-hand, as phthalates help fragrances stick around longer. Find out a ton more about why we recommend you avoid fragrances (even natural ones!) in this post. The bottom line is that across multiple research studies, fragrance ingredients are classified as allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins and carcinogens. The fragrance industry regulates itself and manufacturers are not required to list their fragrance ingredients on product labels.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate

SLS and SLES are surfactants, which dissolve surface tension in water to help products like soaps and detergents foam. Sodium lauryl sulfate can cause irritation to the eyes, lungs, and skin if it comes into direct contact with them, so be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions to see if rinsing or other mitigation measures are required. Aerosolized products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or that are applied around the eyes and skin have been classified as human irritants by Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments. Direct contact with the skin or eyes can cause redness or pain.

4. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives and anti-microbial that are commonly used in cosmetics, personal care products and, sadly, some foods. They stop fungus and bacteria from growing in liquids, lotions and creams and help extend shelf life. They are linked to a multitude of health risks including cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. To avoid them, avoid ingredients ending in -paraben.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol-based antibacterial products are very popular, especially in schools and daycare centers.  A common ingredient is ethyl alcohol (or ethanol), as in drinking or grain alcohol.  It may sound crazy, but there are incidents every year of poisoning from young children accidentally imbibing hand sanitizers and even scary cases of teenagers purposefully drinking it. Yikes! These products are typically 60% or more alcohol, which is frightening when you think about small children putting their hands in their mouths and the risk of alcohol poisoning.  Another common alcohol-based ingredient is isopropyl alcohol, which is comes with several serious health risks.

3 Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizers To Check Out

Our Top Pick: 

Attitude Hand Sanitizers are made without triclosan and parabens. This brand does utilize ethyl alcohol in their formulas, like many brands, but their EWG-verified status with the Environmental Working Group means that we feel good about using them when we’re in a pinch without soap and water nearby. The concern with alcohol-containing formulas of hand sanitizer is more that they should never, ever be ingested and that parents should be vigilant to keep out of reach of children.

Nobody’s perfect: We wish this brand had a non fragranced option due to the health risks we mentioned above related to phthalates.

Next Best:

Babyganics Alcohol-free hand sanitizer, received a solid safety rating from the Environmental Working Group. This alcohol-free formula is also fragrance-free which is one of the most important safety features for us. It’s formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances or dyes.

Nobody’s perfect: 
Since this formula doesn’t have alcohol, it utilizes a sanitizing agent called benzalkonium chloride, which may not be safer. With any hand sanitizer formula, alcohol-free or otherwise, it’s important to ensure children do not have access to it.

Everyone hand sanitizer is EWG Verified, meaning it has received the Environmental Working Group’s top rating for safety. While we usually choose fragrance-free options whenever possible, we like that this company has been through EWG-verification and that the fragrances are derived from essential oils. That said, if you’re sensitive or have allergies or asthma, we’d still recommend avoiding fragrance.

Nobody’s perfect: 

This formula does contain organic ethanol, alcohol derived from non-GMO sugar cane. The issue with alcohol’s toxicity is much more dangerous when it comes from ingesting the substance, versus on your skin. Because this formula has been vetted by the Environmental Working Group, we’re comfortable using and recommending it.

Learn More

At Force of Nature, we believe that when it comes to non-toxic hand sanitizer, and every other product we use around our families, it’s important to learn as much as possible about ingredient safety. Check out resources like the EWG’s Product Ratings for hand sanitizers, and start learning about brands that are non-toxic and environmentally responsible. You can also learn more about Force of Nature, our revolutionary cleaning system that uses electricity to convert salt, water and vinegar into a cleaner, sanitizer and disinfectant with no toxic chemicals. It’s the only carbon neutral certified, EPA registered sanitizer and disinfectant. It kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria and costs up to 80% less per oz than the leading brands like Windex, Lysol, Formula 409 and Clorox Clean-Up. With no harmful chemicals, it’s great for any germy situation that comes your way. We’ve got lots of info about how Force of Nature kills viruses and bacteria, how Force of Nature is safe to use on just about any surface, and about how Force of Nature actually works.

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