I have to admit I am scared of germs because I work in NYC but don’t live in NYC, so I use a lot of public restrooms, both on the commuter trains and elsewhere. I don’t want to use the disinfectant soaps or wipes and sanitizers because of what you have said about them. What do you recommend instead? –Laurie, NJ
Good question. Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have to admit that “hand sanitizers” crept up on me. Until my daughter Lily wrote about them in her Adventures of Green Girl blog I didn’t really know that they were widely used, but I am becoming a convert to the natural version for when I travel (only), like you.
The “soaps” in almost all restrooms are in fact detergents, contain a disinfectant, usually triclosan, and are scented with synthetic fragrances. Here is what is wrong with that: The EPA recommends killing germs with real soap and water, and you need to soap for 30 seconds; disinfectants can cause drug resistance, just like antibiotics, and; there is no reason to believe that mild detergents kill germs.
You can take homemade hand soap in a container with you and wash your hands with that, making sure to soap your hands for 30 seconds.
Another idea is to buy the type of hand sanitizer that Lily does. I was taking a look at her bottle, that she bought at the health food store, and it claims to kill 99 percent of germs, and it contains witch hazel, alcohol, and an antibacterial essential oil. It comes in a nice little spritzer bottle. I tried it over the weekend on a trip to NYC and it left my hands feeling fine and actually refreshed.
The DIY in me suggests making your own in that spritzer bottle once the original has been finished. Use ¾ parts vodka, 4-5 drops to 1 ounce of vodka of an antimicrobrial essential oil such as tea tree oil, and ¼ part witch hazel.