I’d like to go over an important topic with you today, and that is the issue of toxin-free sanitizing. Every now and then, we may need to decontaminate an area of your kitchen or bathroom. When sickness strikes or a baby is born, many people use bleach or other harmful ingredients to kill germs in their homes. Whether it be bacteria, virus germs, mold or mildew, we all need to know how to remove microbes before they multiply. There are several ways to do this safely and cheaply, without toxic chemical cleaners. The most popular solutions that people use for this purpose are vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Let’s take a peek at the chemistry behind these ingredients to find out how effective they are at removing germs.
Vinegar is a popular cleaning solution because it is acidic (as is lemon juice). That means it has extra H+ ions that help it to remove soil and kill germs. Baking soda, on the other hand, is alkaline, which means it has extra OH- ions for cleaning superpower. Unlike these ingredients, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) does not use the power of pH (acid and alkaline) to get surfaces clean. Instead it uses a process called oxidation, which involves oxygen molecules that break down germs.
Because vinegar and hydrogen peroxide use different scientific processes to get rid of microbes, they are ten times more effective when used together to kill germs than they are by themselves (and more effective together at killing bacteria than bleach- see source). For the full effect of this double-strength combo, spray them separately, one right after the other, and let them sit on the surface for at least 10 minutes.
Sanitizing Non-Smooth Surfaces
Surfaces that are not smooth are hard to decontaminate by wiping, due to microbes hidden in the crevices. Therefore, they must be sprayed. For textured surfaces like cutting boards or grapes, spritz the surface with peroxide and vinegar, wait a few minutes if desired, and then rinse under running water.
Facts about disinfecting with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide:
- The two fluids should never be mixed in the same container.
- Hydrogen peroxide should always be kept in a dark container.
- Either white or apple cider vinegar can be used.
- Normal (3%) hydrogen peroxide should be used.
- It doesn’t matter which one you spray first.
- Neither fluid leaves a lingering taste when washing food.
- Neither fluid is toxic, so a quick rinse is sufficient.
- The sprays should be allowed to sit on surfaces for 10 minutes when convenient.
- When warmed on the stove, these two sprays become even more active.
- This combination works on all surfaces, smooth or non-smooth.
Sanitizing Smooth Surfaces
If you think spraying is an easy way to decontaminate textured surfaces, you will be surprised by the latest technology for smooth surfaces. Special microfiber cloths have been developed with fibers 1/200th the size of a human hair. Each fiber is split into 16 filaments, which attract microbes with a natural charge (similar to static) and hold these particles inside the fibers. When the cloth is rinsed in hot water, the filaments swell and push the microbes out, and they flow away with the water down the drain. Because of this, the cloth can be used and rinsed, over and over again, without reintroducing bacteria onto the surfaces being cleaned. After cleaning, it is machine-washed and dried with the rest of the laundry.
Why is this so thrilling?Split microfiber is a breakthrough discovery because it means we no longer have to use vinegar, peroxide, or any cleaning fluid at all to remove germs from smooth surfaces. With an eight-dollar reusable cloth, we can now remove germs using just water! Split microfiber even removes grease and grime with ease. Consider the results of a test done by the Silliker Group on e-cloth, a brand of split microfiber:
I would be remiss not to mention the germ-killing power of essential oils in this post. Erin, who has graciously allowed me to share with you on this blog, happens to dislike the scent of vinegar. She is an essential oils queen and so, of course, adds essential oils mask the vinegar scent in her all-purpose cleaner recipes. Contact me or Erin if you would like to know more about how to purchase therapeutic-grade essential oils.Here is a list of the essential oils that are most commonly used for cleaning:
Melaleuca/Tea Tree Oil: Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antifungal, Antiseptic
Lemon Oil: Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antifungal, Antiseptic
Lavender Oil: Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antifungal, Antiseptic
Oregano Oil: Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antiseptic, Anti-infectious
Thyme Oil: Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antifungal, Antiseptic
Eucalyptus Oil: Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antifungal
Sandalwood Oil: Antifungal, Antiviral, Antibacterial
Rosemary Oil: Antibacterial, Antiseptic
Orange Oil: Antibacterial
Simply add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to your laundry or your spray bottle to for microbe-killing power in your everyday cleaning! If using split microfiber, it is okay to add essential oils to your water spray, but nothing else should be added. Baking soda can be used for scrubbing with split microfiber as well. (Another word of warning: never use fabric softener or bleach when laundering split microfiber.)
One last note about sanitizing surfaces naturally: baking soda does not decontaminate surfaces. Vinegar kills many types of microbes, and has a moderate decontaminating effect by itself. Hydrogen peroxide has a decontaminating effect by itself as well. Baking soda makes a fabulous scouring powder, and is often mixed with salt and/or hydrogen peroxide for scrubbing purposes.
I hope you found this post intriguing! Feel free to stop by my site, Cleaning With Ions, to learn about some other amazing cleaning technology. Did you know that there are now air purifiers on the market that will kill germs and clean the air without air filters? Using activated oxygen, with no other supplies besides the air, these purifiers even kill germs on the surfaces touching the air.
I have written a welcome page on my site especially for readers of this post, with links to the various items referenced above. Thank you for reading, and happy cleaning!
Sara Tucker and her husband, Joe Tucker, run a green carpet cleaning business in Nashville, Tennessee. They teach the quickest, cheapest, healthiest method for housecleaning at their website, CleaningWithIons.com. Their mission is to show every Christian homemaker how to live a simple life, focused completely on the kingdom of God. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.