It’s summer and we just had another bout of illness run through our house. Sicknesses in the summer should be banned!! Because my daughter was a premie, she seems to pick up everything and stay sicker longer than other kiddos. We do tons of hand washing to prevent illness, but inevitably she brings stuff home. Frequently. You can’t really live in a protected bubble. Well, actually, you can. We did that with her for the first 9 months of her life. You can read more about that story in my Hi! I’m Emily article if you want to. Now we are at the point where we play with other “healthy” kids (you can’t really know when a kiddo is contagious but still feels good!). And do all the normal things that a 3 year old does. The reality is that she ends up sick a lot. This has got me hunting for a way to disinfect our house so that we don’t all fall victim to her illnesses.
WHAT IS A DISINFECTANT?
Since I have a clinical research background, I’m very interested in what research ACTUALLY says about killing germs not just people’s opinions. Lets start with the definitions. According to CDC guidelines
Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
So basically, disinfecting and sanitizing KILL germs and cleaning removes them. What I’m after in this spray is killing bugs that make us sick, not removing grease and grime!
DON’T EXPECT YOUR NATURAL CLEANER TO DISINFECT
Can’t you buy cleaner disinfectants? Yes. And no. Commercially, you can buy many products that disinfect and also clean. The problem is that they are only required to report on the label the chemicals that actually disinfect so there are many other toxic ingredients in the formulas that you don’t want to expose yourself and your family to! In my experience, I have not been able to make a cleaner that also disinfects. For instance, if you add castile soap to vinegar (which is only a mild disinfectant) it forms a clumpy, gloppy mess. Vinegar and castile soap are actually an acid and a base that cancel each other out so you don’t have good cleaning OR disinfecting!
CAN NATURAL INGREDIENTS ACTUALLY DISINFECT?
There is a lot of controversy about borax as a natural cleaner. Wellnessmama.com wrote a really well-researched article where Katie responds to the question: Is Borax Safe?. Although borax is a mild disinfectant, is ineffective against many things including S. aureus, salmonella and E. coli according to CDC. This is not an ingredient that I want to rely on to keep my family healthy. Also, I’m not comfortable with it on surfaces that could contact food which may be ingested. For instance if a toddler drops food on a table and then eats it. That’s why I use this citrus all-purpose cleaner in my kitchen.
Historically, chlorine bleach has been a go-to for disinfecting surfaces. I can distinctly remember the smell of bleach coming from my cafeteria at my school. I’m glad that they tried to stop the spread of germs in my school, but I wish we had used another method! Bleach works great to disinfect. Honestly, it does. However, I’m not an advocate of it because bleach can cause asthma, trigger asthma attacks, irritate skin and eyes and caused 35,000 poisonings in 2011! Children are at greater risk of these breathing difficulties, so using bleach to clean your house with a sick kiddo is not a good idea. Also, when combined with ammonia or vinegar, bleach creates a toxic gas.
Getting warmer…Undiluted vinegar can be an effective disinfectant, however, it is still not effective against S. aureus according to CDC. It is super effective at killing molds and that’s why I use it in my tub and tile cleaning. It is also effective at killing salmonella, so I use it in my Citrus Window and Kitchen Cleaner.
Bingo! This stuff works!! Research backs that up and CDC says:
Commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.
Hydrogen peroxide is active against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and spores.
It’s right up there with Formaldehyde (yikes!) for its disinfecting.
ALL NATURAL HYDROGEN PEROXIDE DISINFECTANT
16 oz. 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (the same stuff that’s probably in your medicine cabinet)
Essential Oils (optional)
Pour hydrogen peroxide into an opaque (glass if using essential oils) spray bottle. Be sure to use and opaque bottle as light breaks down hydrogen peroxide. That’s why its always sold in a dark brown container. Add essential oils if you are using them. I like to add lemon so that this has some cleaning power, but again, don’t expect this to be your CLEANER! It’s your DISINFECTANT!
Ideally, clean your surface first since viruses, bacteria and mold can hide in grime. A disinfectant is only as useful as the dirt that it can penetrate! Spray on your hard surface that you want to disinfect. As with any disinfectant, time is your friend. Leave this on for at least 5 minutes before wiping off. Or just let it evaporate!
Hydrogen Peroxide is a bleach. Be sure to test this on a small inconspicuous part of your surfaces before you spray. It may cause permanent bleaching of some surfaces.
IDEAS FOR DISINFECTING
Think about all the things that you touch on a daily basis in your home. If you are trying to stop an illness outbreak in your home or prevent one, disinfecting those surfaces will help prevent the spread of the disease. Here are a few ideas for uses for hydrogen peroxide disinfecting:
- Spray on counter tops and tables
- Spray on fridge, oven and microwave handles
- Spray on door knobs and light switches
- Use it to clean out the fridge
- Spray on Cutting boards
- Dish brushes–leave an opaque container (light breaks down hydrogen peroxide) of hydrogen peroxide next to the sink. Leave the brushes in them when they are not in use.
- Spray on a cloth and wipe off cell phones (don’t submerge those though!)
- Spray on toilet surfaces
- Spray on sinks and faucet handles
What ways have you found to disinfect and stop the spread of germs around your house? Share your comments below!