Eco-Tip: Triclosan-Free Alternatives

Do you use antibacterial soaps or sprays to keep your hands clean?

Many of us do. And news coverage about bacteria, like germ-infested public transportation seats, can send many of us searching for something we can quickly spray on our hands.

One common antibacterial chemical is triclosan. If you’ve been following our blog and advocacy work lately, you know that triclosan causes health and environmental problems. Here’s a sample of what recent research has shown about triclosan:

•     It disrupts hormones.

•     It lowers sperm production

It’s also a problem for streams, rivers, and the living things in them. For example, after triclosan soap goes down your drain and through your local water treatment plant, some of the chemical remains in the treated water and is converted by sunlight into dioxins — a class of chemicals some consider the most toxic known to science. EPA says even small amounts of dioxins, the amounts that we’re all exposed to every day, cause cancer.

Fortunately, there are lots of triclosan-free body care products. It’s not too hard to find them in the store, because if the label doesn’t say “triclosan” (sometimes in tiny letters!), the product is triclosan-free. If you like to make your own body care products, here are a couple of recipes with natural ingredients that you can try:

Liquid Hand Cleaning Spray:

  • Mix 2 parts organic aloe gel (not juice)
  • 1 part distilled water
  • 1 part grain alcohol-vodka (avoid isopropyl to eliminate the clinical alcohol smell)
  • 4-5 drops tea tree oil, or essential oil of choice (so it’s not too drying)

Mix together in a bowl and pour into a small vile or empty, reused spray container of your choice (you can find small, travel sized containers in the travel section at a local drugstore).  You can carry it with you in your bag or purse for on-the-go use, or keep it by your desk or kitchen sink for after working/cleaning spritzes.


Hand Cleaning Gel:

Try this recipe for a gel that uses vegetable glycerin to make a texture similar to the consistency of commercial antibacterial gels you can buy at a drugstore.

Combine the following ingredients in a container or bowl:

  • 1/4 cup witch hazel
  • 1/4 cup pure organic aloe vera gel
  • 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin (found at natural health food stores, or you can order it easily online)
  • 1 tsp. grain alcohol
  • Add 8-10 drops of organic tea tree oil, or an essential oil of your choice.
  • Then add to a travel-sized tube or squeeze bottle, and go!

One last reminder, a 2007 study showed that triclosan soaps “were no more effective than plain soap and water at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands.”  So just using soap and water is a great way to go.