10 Ingredients to Avoid When Choosing Hand Sanitizer & Hand Soap for Back to School

The kids are going back to school soon and along with homework, art projects, and new friends, they’re likely to be bringing home loads of germs. That’s why hand sanitizer and hand soap are at the top of many teachers’ wish lists.

When you go out to purchase school supplies, be sure to read the labels on the hand sanitizers and hand soaps you choose. Many – even the ones marked “natural” or “organic” – are made with toxic chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, causing serious damage.

10 Toxic Ingredients to Watch Out For

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate is linked to skin and eye irritation, as well as organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicological and biochemical or cellular changes, possible mutations, and cancer. It can also damage cell membranes and possibly cause hair loss.
  2. Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, etc.) preserve other ingredients and extend shelf life, but can have hormone-disrupting effects. Parabens can cause diminished muscle mass and extra fat storing, and topical parabens have been detected in human breast tumors.
  3. Ureas are a primary cause of contact dermatitis. They can release formaldehyde and cause joint pain, heart irregularities, and a weakened immune system.
  4. Synthetic colors (shown on labels as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number) are made from coal tar and contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin. This causes skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all synthetic colors to be carcinogenic.
  5. Diethanolamine (DEA) is linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity.
  6. Propylene Glycol (also Propylene Oxide and Polyethylene Glycol) is on the FDA’s website as a known carcinogen. It weakens skin cells and is linked to developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity.
  7. Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones and may alter genital development.
  8. 1,4-Dioxane may not be listed on ingredient labels, as it’s considered a “contaminant” or “by-product” of the ethoxylation process rather than an ingredient. However, this chemical is known to cause cancer, so avoid ethoxylation ingredients, including those ending in “eth” (myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth, etc.), and those with PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol in their names.
  9. Ethyl Alcohol (ethanol) is linked to cancer, birth defects, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and organ system toxicity.
  10. Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) belongs to a group of germicides known as “quats” and is linked to cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity.

Do Your Kids, Their Classmates and Their Teachers a Favor

Non-toxic ingredients known to effectively clean hands are best for school and home. When buying hand sanitizer and hand soap this fall, look for safe ingredients like leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, organic essential oils, aloe vera juice, and yucca extract to cleanse naturally and leave hands soft.


(27 Apr 2010). 11 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Hand Soap and Sanitizer and Safer Options for Your Family. Awakening Willow.