Germ-Free Hands: Ask Annie

Dear Annie,
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

Dear Laurie,
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 parts vodka, 4-5 drops to 1 ounce of vodka of an antimicrobrial essential oil such as tea tree oil, and part witch hazel.


Chris R.
Chris R7 years ago


Chris R.
Chris R7 years ago


Beverly B.
Beverly B.8 years ago

I found a great cleaner for bacteria and viruses. It is made from the yucca plant with the addition of microbes to eat the bacteria, stain, dirt, etc. My Natural Cleaner has cleaned anything I have needed. I keep a bottle in by the laundry, a small bottle in my car, and one in my kitchen. I have used it to clean a long ink line out of a dry clean pink jacket. It took a couple of days but it was removed without leaving any kind of residue. My husband had a food stain on his shirt and we were in town. We had been camping and he remembered that we had a bottle still in the car - took care of it. So now I always have one in the car. I found the product online at
They have also started carrying a hand sanitizer that keeps your hands clean without bacterial soaps and all that kind of stuff. Some of those sanitizers feel so yuccy. Anyway, I carry these two products with me all the time, I don't need wipes to wash down carts, because my hands are protected for more than the moment I just put it on my hands, anyway, these two products just work for me where ever I might be.

K s Goh
KS Goh8 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Melissa K.
Melissa K8 years ago

Thanks! Never knew about "natural" hand sanitizer!

Corey N.
Corey N.9 years ago


Alison Buhagiar
Alison Buhagiar9 years ago


I use a chemical free hand santizer very often during the day. Am I weakening my immune system?

Sabrina N.
Sabrina N.10 years ago

I like the diy hand sanitizer recipe, except that Vodka is an expensive ingredient. what would be a good substitute , Annie

Phil Lawless
gee s10 years ago

Hi Katrina,
Is it a 50/50mix of hydrogen per oxide & white vinegar?
I presume you soak the cloth that you carry around, does the "HPO" evaporate easily. Will a damp cloth well wrapped in plastic be effective at the end of the day. When you spray the counters etc. do you leave it to dry in situ. or do you wipr it off. Does hydrogen per oxide bleach the colour if left in contact for any length of time? Thank you.

Katrina Schumann
Katrina Schumann10 years ago

for a flushable wipe; you can carry kleenex & hydrogen peroxide & put on kleenex; put why not simply use old rags? I use microfiber cloths which still keep going after 700,000 paper towels would have been used; easy to wash, hang dry; save the trees & landfills folks! and your pocket books!