Are natural disinfectants really effective?

Who doesn't want a sparkling clean home? Shiny countertops? Looking clean, but is it really disinfected?

The surfaces that we are frequently touching should be disinfected regularly. Its like a never ending job. I try to use "natural" products like vinegar. To be honest my floors look beautiful but my husband says the house smells like salt and vinegar chips for a little bit... Not sure if good or bad, but after a while the smell disappears and the floor and countertops are sparkling clean!!

I have been looking for ways to disinfect my home without adding so much chemicals. Trying to be environmentally friendly and careful with the impact we make at home. On my never ending research I found an article by Amanda Garrity and Carolyn Forte in the Good housekeeping website, where they share some interesting information.


Products like lemon juice and vinegar may effectively clean, but since they are not packed with enough ingredients to disinfect, you are doing half the job. This doesn't mean that we have to use the "traditional" full of chemicals products to get the job done. There are alternatives to these, but one must look at the labels.


Here is what they say:


Plant-based disinfectants can be used effectively as we use the chemical cleaners. Just make sure to look for the approved by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with ingredients like thymol, including Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes and Cleaners. "No matter if it's a spray or wipe, these natural disinfectants kill bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces, but they work more slowly than chemical disinfectants. To disinfect properly, clean the surface with soap and water before using your disinfectant of choice, and let sit, depending on the product instructions, to kill 99.999% of germs. Here are a few pointers about how to disinfect, whether you opt for natural or chemical products:

  • Sanitizing is not the same as disinfecting. Sanitizing (reduces the risk of illness by killing 99.9% of germs) usually takes less time — sometimes just 30 or 60 seconds — while disinfecting (killing 99.999% of germs) can take anywhere up to 10 minutes, depending on the product.

  • Check the label for how long hard, non-porous surfaces must stay wet for the most effective germ killing. Because liquids evaporate, you may have to apply the product several times.

  • No product can adequately sanitize or disinfect a dirty surface, so make sure you clean — even with plain soap and water — before you disinfect.

  • Regular soap and water cleans germs away, but sanitizing and disinfecting products are required to kill germs.

  • Soft surfaces are porous and will never reach the level of germ kill required to be fully disinfected.

  • Never combine disinfecting or any cleaning products (bleach and vinegar, for example) and open the window or ventilate a room if fumes become bothersome.

  • Test surfaces in a hidden spot before using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any disinfectant on a surface, especially a delicate one. On food contact surfaces, rinse with clear water and dry after disinfecting, unless the product label specifically says otherwise.


Are vinegar or lemon juice effective disinfectants? In short, no. While the citric acid in lemons or acetic acid in vinegar kills some bacteria and are EPA-registered active ingredients, the concentration and PH levels aren't powerful enough to disinfect in the same way as other EPA-registered cleaners. But if you're simply looking to spruce up your countertop, refrigerator, or other hard-hit surface, then they'll at least make it look cleaner than before. Is rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide a smart option? It's up for debate whether or not rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are considered natural cleaners, but one thing's for sure: They're both solid alternatives to chemical disinfectants. Higher percentages of alcohol evaporate too quickly to be effective, so it's best to stick with a rubbing alcohol containing 70% isopropyl alcohol or a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Let the rubbing alcohol sit for at least 30 seconds and hydrogen peroxide sit for at least one minute before wiping clean. What about steam cleaners? Yes, steam is an effective way to kill bacteria and other germs without chemicals. Don't reach for your trusty garment steamer, though: Household steam cleaners, like the Bissell SteamShot Deluxe, reach temperatures high enough to kill germs on hard household services. The catch: Steam must have direct contact with the surface for a long period of time to be effective. Follow the procedure in your steamer's owner's manual for the best results."


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