A safe, natural (and cheap!) disinfectant

For those of you who know me, this is going to be old news. I’ve been preaching about the effectiveness of this particular disinfecting combo for years. So if you’ve heard me go on about this one too many times (yes, you, sister dear), feel free to look away. But, for those who are new to the natural life, or are taking the next step in converting your household to safer products, read on.

Let’s start by looking at the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning is simply removing any visible dust, dirt or other gunk that may be on your surfaces. This is what most of us do in our daily (ok, ok…weekly) housekeeping routine. Dusting, wiping down the counters, mopping…this is all cleaning. Sanitizing takes cleaning up a notch. It reduces most of the bacteria on the surface, but does not affect viruses or fungi. It also does not kill all of the bacteria – just most. This is good for most daily applications, but will not be helpful during flu season, or when the stomach bug is going through the house. For the ‘ultimate in clean’ you want to disinfect. Disinfecting kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so it will help prevent the spread of those dreaded winter diseases such as flu, and all those viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

When I’m cleaning, I don’t bother with sanitizing – I go straight for disinfecting. We entertain often, and I want to make sure that we A) aren’t making our guests sick, and B) aren’t getting sick from our guests. My husband also travels frequently for work, and I want to make sure that anything he brings home gets killed before it makes us ill. So I want a disinfectant solution that will kill most of the nasties out there, yet be gentle and safe enough to use around my kids. Bleach works well, but the fumes are nasty and it’s definitely not safe if the kids were to get hold of the container. There are many commercial products out there as well – both claiming to be natural and not, but they don’t have to list their ingredients and I worry about them reacting with other cleansers. Not to mention, many still aren’t safe if the kiddos were to get hold of the container. Fortunately, the web is full of information. A few years ago I came across a study (article about it here) that examined a combo of vinegar and peroxide. It was found that the two, sprayed one after the other on a surface and left to air dry, were extremely effective as a disinfectant. Not only effective, but safe. This combo is so gentle that it can be used on fruits and veggies as well as all your hard surfaces.

To use you will need a few things:

2 spray bottles (one opaque)

white vinegar (the basic bottle found at the grocery)

hydrogen peroxide (3%, found at any pharmacy, grocery, or Walmart/Target type store)

essential oils (optional)

In one bottle, pour straight white vinegar. Don’t dilute it. If you wish, you can add some essential oils. Tea tree, lemon, orange, thyme, or rosemary are all good choices. Add the spray cap and set aside.

In the opaque bottle, pour the hydrogen peroxide, add the spray cap, and set aside. Again, don’t dilute and you may add essential oils if you wish.

And that’s it! After you clean your surfaces just mist them with vinegar and follow immediately with a mist of peroxide. Let air dry and say goodbye to the nasties. I use this on doorknobs, light switches, sink and toilet handles, countertops, and anything else that I think needs something more than soap and water.

Some notes:

The hydrogen peroxide must be in an opaque bottle. Exposure to sunlight causes it to break down. I can often find it sold already in a spray bottle.

If you add the essential oils, I would not use this on food. Many are not safe to ingest.

Your surfaces must be clean (free from dust, dirt, and other organic matter) before you spray. Otherwise, the solution is blocked from reaching the microbes.

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