If you’re keen on following natural trends, you’ve probably swapped out plastic straws for reusable ones, try to shop organic, carry around a reusable water bottle and have replaced all of those plastic grocery and food storage bags with canvas, mesh or silicon versions. But when it comes to cleaning supplies, it may be a bit harder to trust that something so gentle on the environment can be tough enough to clean up life’s many messes, especially in the midst of cold and flu season.
We dug up some dirt on eco-friendly and healthy cleaning supplies that get the job done so you don’t have to!
Natural and Nontoxic Cleaning Products Do Disinfect
While it’s true that some “green” cleaners do little more than help remove dirt, there are many natural cleaners that will do the job of cleaning and disinfecting. Not only are natural cleaners better for your health, but they are safer for children, animals and the environment. The best part is, the majority of naturally antibacterial disinfectants can be found right in your kitchen, and at a fraction of the cost of harsh store-bought cleaners.
Your go-to natural clean team consists of:
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Castile soap
You may already know that a vinegar solution is great a getting rid of those pesky hard water stains and soap scum, but it can also kill mold and sanitize hard surfaces. A study published by the American Society for Microbiology shows acetic acid, the active component of vinegar, effectively kills two strains of tuberculosis-causing bacteria. Researchers in the study suggest evidence shows it can also be effective against most other bacteria. A similar study found that malt vinegar was effective at killing off the flu virus. To create an effective cleaning solution, mix equal parts vinegar to water. To disinfect, leave surface wet for up to 30 minutes before drying. But if you have marble or gold-plated surfaces, it’s best to stay away from vinegar, which will damage these surfaces.
Yep, you read that right. Because most vodka is around 40 percent alcohol by volume, this popular spirit can be an effective disinfectant and even nip mold and mildew in the bud. Vodka is an olfactory-friendly alternative to vinegar since it holds most of the same disinfecting merits as vinegar, but without the lingering sour smell. For the most antibacterial power, look for 100-proof (50 percent ABV) vodka and let it sit for a few minutes so the alcohol can do its job, no dilution necessary!
Baking soda is a multipurpose cleaning agent. From deodorizing to killing mold and mildew, baking soda packs a punch, but it will not effectively kill most bacteria. Instead, use baking soda for lighter cleaning tasks such as removing scuff marks and stains. Slightly dampen baking soda into a paste and buffing across the surface with a microfiber (also eco-friendly!) cloth. Sit a small bowl of baking soda in your fridge to absorb pesky odors and you can even shake some over your carpets before vacuuming to freshen them up.
You may already know the familiar sting of hydrogen peroxide if you ever received a cut as a kid. Hydrogen peroxide is a popular antiseptic on cuts and small wounds due to its ability to kill bacteria by breaking down cell walls and the same will hold true for any bacteria lingering on your surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide can also kill mold and mildew and remove stains from counters.
Steam is the ultimate economical and chemical-free disinfectant! When heated to at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit, steam not only eliminates tough stuck-on stains and grease, but it can also sanitize hard and soft surfaces, i.e. your child’s favorite stuffed animal that couldn’t possibly be parted with long enough to get a good run through the washer and dryer. When using steam as a disinfectant, go slow. Sometimes it takes up to 20 seconds to fully sanitize one area. Going over spots in small, thorough sweeping passes can effectively kill bacteria, germs and dust mites.
Chances are you’ve seen an uptick in the popularity of Castile soap over the years. Made from a blend of vegetable oils, Castile soap is 100 percent natural and has numerous cleaning claims, from body to home, and everything in between. Although a bit on the pricey side, a drop of Castile soap is all you need to get most cleaning jobs done. Lisa Bronner, granddaughter of Dr. Bronner’s founder Dr. Emannuel Bronner, even claims Castile soap is tough enough to cut through even your dirtiest makeup brushes without any bristles falling out. While most scented Castile soaps have essential oils added, but to make your own bacteria-fighting cleanser, add ¼ teaspoon tea tree essential oil, ¼ cup Castile soap and 1 quart water in a spray bottle.
When it’s cold and flu season, we know you want to be able to have peace of mind that the time and effort you take into cleaning is going to keep you and your family protected from illness. If buying a perfectly proportioned product specifically designed for cleaning and disinfecting puts your mind more at ease than a DIY concoction, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered with natural alternatives.
Look for products that boldly advertise that they are biodegradable, phosphate, chlorine triclosan, triclocarban, lye and ammonia free, and derive their ingredients from plant sources. Many plant-based disinfecting products contain Thymol, an antimicrobial derivative of multiple types of herbs. With Thymol listed as an active ingredient, plant-based products can claim their disinfectants kill 99.99 percent of household germs, such as the flu, Rhinovirus, Staphylococcus, Salmonella and MRSA, to name a few.
You don’t have to opt for harsh, chemical-laden cleaners to get the job done this cold and flu season, but no matter what cleaners you choose, simple cleanliness rules still apply. Good old-fashioned hot soapy water and elbow grease can sometimes be enough to clean your surfaces. The act of rubbing and scrubbing breaks down the matrix around certain types of bacteria, allowing disinfectants, such as vinegar, to get to work.
Ask yourself what you want to achieve — do you just want to clean or do you really need to disinfect? If you just want to clean, then hot, soapy water is generally enough. If you’d like to disinfect, clean first, then disinfect with the least toxic, most biodegradable product that does the job.