Our Guide to the Best All-Natural Disinfectants for Your Home
These days, demand for disinfectants and sanitizers has increased dramatically. You’ve probably noticed that there are hardly any products left on store shelves, and even though manufacturers are ramping up their production, supply is expected to remain short. The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, has many people scared and searching for products to keep them safe from what the World Health Organization has now officially classified as a pandemic.We have been asked a lot whether our cleaners can kill this virus. So we want to take this opportunity to clean up a couple of facts. A cleaner is not a disinfectant. Any cleaner, including ours, is not able to disinfect surfaces, but they are a vital part of the disinfection process.
- How to Protect Yourself
- How to Protect Your Home
- Cleaner vs. Disinfectant
- How to Use a Disinfectant Correctly
- Health Risks of Conventional Disinfectants
- How Can I Disinfect My House Naturally?
First Things First: How to Protect Yourself
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is still washing your hands regularly with running water and soap. Soap breaks down grease, so it is able to dissolve the coronavirus’ fat membrane and thereby render it inactive.
Palli Thordarson, a chemistry professor at the University of New South Wales, says that soap works better to deactivate viruses than disinfectants. Disinfectants are typically designed to work against bacteria and fungi, not viruses, and therefore usually contain a mix of soap, alcohol and antibacterial agents - and of those, only soap and alcohol really affect the virus.
Wash your hands regularly with running water and soap. Make sure to soak them completely and rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds to ensure the soap reaches all wrinkles and crevices and has time to break down the grease. Alcohol wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great addition to washing your hands.
In general, maintain a distance of at least 1m, or 3 feet, between yourself and anyone else, especially if they are sneezing or coughing. Avoid shaking hands. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth so that if you have touched and picked up the virus, it won’t be able to infect you. And once again: often wash your hands to remove any pathogens.
How to Protect Your Home
If you haven’t been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then it is very likely that neither has your home. The easiest way to keep your home safe is by making sure you don’t carry the virus into the house.
So after coming home, wash your hands immediately and thoroughly with running water and soap. Clean and disinfect any surfaces you might touch in between entering your home and washing your hands. This includes your door knobs, light switches, tap handle and soap dispenser.
Don’t forget the small, often overlooked things we touch everyday; mobile phone, keys and wallet.. Be sure to wear gloves while cleaning and disinfecting, and throw away the gloves after use. Wash your hands immediately after the gloves are removed.
Daily cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces has been recommended by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for households where persons under investigation or confirmed COVID-19 patients reside. This recommendation is aimed at limiting the survival of the virus in the environment.
You can protect yourself and your family by keeping pathogens away from your home by simply washing your hands regularly and cleaning and disinfecting only a few areas regularly.
Cleaner vs. Disinfectant
Many people seem to confuse cleaners with disinfectants. So here is what you need to know:
A cleaner doesn’t disinfect, and a disinfectant doesn’t clean.
A cleaner is a solution with surfactants, which are ingredients that lift dirt off a surface. Using a cleaner will remove a large part of bacteria, viruses and germs, but it doesn’t disinfect, as in kill 99.9% of all germs. Just the same, a disinfectant doesn’t remove stains and soils from your surfaces.
This means that if you want to clean and disinfect surfaces in your home, typically you will need to clean the surface with a cleaner first, then use a disinfectant after to kill the germs. But the disinfectant will only work if used correctly.
How to Use a Disinfectant Correctly
Unfortunately, the idea that a surface that is sprayed with disinfectant and wiped is disinfected is very common, but just plain wrong. Soiled surfaces are a breeding ground for germs, and disinfectants don’t clean, as in remove soils from the surfaces. They only work on clean surfaces, so you need to use a cleaner to remove soils and stains before being able to disinfect.
This two-step method is supposedly cut short by the use of disinfecting cleaners. The ads suggest that you just need to spray and wipe, and voila - the surface is clean and disinfected!
But disinfectants do not work as immediately as the ads suggest. Depending on which product you look at, the disinfectant has to sit on the surface for between 1 and 10 minutes in order to effectively kill germs. Only then should it be wiped, or left to air-dry. So even with disinfecting cleaners, you should clean first, then disinfect.
You should also know that most disinfectants only work on hard, non-porous surfaces. Carefully read the manufacturer’s directions for use to find the right disinfectant for your purpose.
The EPA has published a list of disinfectants that have qualified under EPA's emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, so consult this list in order to find disinfectants approved by the EPA against the novel coronavirus.
Health Risks of Conventional Disinfectants
However, please exercise caution with and when choosing your disinfectants. Some disinfectants are hazardous to humans and domestic animals, many state that they need to be rinsed if used on food surfaces - always read the product label with ingredients list, warning statements and directions of use carefully before purchasing a product!
Health Concerns of the Ingredients
Many disinfecting agents and common ingredients in conventional disinfectants are connected with health concerns. They can be absorbed into the body through skin or mucous membrane, inhalation or ingestion.
Our skin absorbs many chemicals at contact, where they can lead to health concerns. When using disinfectants, we breathe in particles of sprays, as well as any fumes that might gas off. Ingestion can either happen by accident (think of your kids getting into your cleaning cabinet) or by eating your food off a surface which has been disinfected but not rinsed.
Formaldehyde for example causes severe skin burns and eye damage, is toxic if inhaled and in contact with skin, and is suspected to cause cancer in humans. Quaternary ammonium compounds irritate mucous membranes, eyes and skin. They are a known asthmagen and are suspected inducers of occupational asthma. They have also been linked to decreased fertility and birth defects.
Find more potentially dangerous ingredients in cleaning products in our blog.
Health Concerns if Handled Improperly
Many ingredients might not be dangerous by themselves and if used according to instructions, but might pose a threat in certain circumstances.
For example, alcohols are highly flammable, so using an alcohol-based disinfectant on hot surfaces or near sparks can cause fire and burns. Sodium hypochlorite (also known as chlorine bleach) is not only a strong irritant, but also dangerous if mixed with ammonia - it releases chlorine gas, which is toxic to humans.
Excessive use of disinfectants has been linked to higher levels of asthma and childhood wheeze in children, and to childhood obesity. Therefore, it is advised to use conventional disinfectants only when the situation calls for them. Right now, the important thing is to use the disinfectants correctly to ensure their effectiveness against the novel coronavirus.
But there are good news! There are natural options which do the job just as well as their toxic counterparts.
How Can I Disinfect My House Naturally?
Resistance to using natural products as disinfectants stem from the belief that they are not as powerful as their toxic chemical counterparts. However, with a little research and creativity, there are all-natural options which safely disinfect without any harmful residue for you or your family.
This clean, natural and biodegradable liquid is more than a cooking product. It’s made up of 95% water and 5% acetic acid, which kills about 80% of germs. As such, it’s a powerful, natural disinfectant that can be used to clean your sweat-stained clothes, wash your dishes, clean rusty tools, and remove hard water deposits. It also acts as a deodorizer and easily cuts through grease. Look for vinegar with higher acetic acid concentration to up its germ-killing power.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
While it lacks a green sounding name, it’s an incredible natural, biodegradable compound. Also known as oxygen bleach, hydrogen peroxide is basically water with an extra oxygen molecule, and it breaks back down into oxygen and water. That means that unlike chlorine bleach, it is kind to the environment.
It’s best to use at a 3% concentration, which is how it is usually sold in stores. It can be used for your laundry, bathroom and kitchen cleaning, greasy pots and pans, and kids toys. Use it as a spray, create a paste with baking soda, or use it for soaking.
Word of advice: don’t mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. They cancel each other out if mixed. It’s better to use them one after another. The order doesn’t matter!
Alcohol is a great natural disinfectant, and a common ingredient in many hand sanitizers and disinfectants. It can be used as a disinfectant for surfaces, as an ingredient in DYI cleaners (especially window cleaners!) and to remove bad odour from your laundry.
But before you turn a bottle of vodka into a DIY disinfectant in regards to the SARS-CoV-2 virus: CDC recommends that your alcohol should have at least 70% alcohol content, so at least 140 proof, for surface disinfection. If you have strong spirits with at least 70% alcohol, you can mix your own surface disinfectant from this. Rubbing alcohol of at least 70% also works!
- Essential oils
These concentrated liquids are distilled from plants. Studies have shown that essential oils such as lavender oil, clove oil and many others have natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
Mixing them with other natural disinfectants will not only enhance the disinfecting properties, but also leave a refreshing, natural scent. Make sure to use only pure organic essential oils to avoid impurities, artificial preservatives and pesticides.
- Tea Tree Oil: Not just for pimples! This beautiful smelling organic essential oil is a powerful natural disinfectant, which is why it’s a key ingredient in the heavy duty AspenClean SuperScrub Powder. For a DIY spray, add about 30 drops to a vinegar/water mix in a 650 ml spray bottle, mix it up and work away.
- Lavender Oil: More than just a delightful summer scent, this organic essential oil has distinct disinfectant properties. Another key ingredient in AspenClean SuperScrub Powder, as well as AspenClean All Purpose Cleaner. A handy DIY is to mix a few drops with water-diluted white vinegar for a great floor cleaner. This essential oil is also an antispasmodic, meaning it helps your muscles relax.
- Thyme Oil: The EPA has thyme oil listed as the same effectiveness as bleach as a disinfectant, with none of the adverse health effects. Because it’s so effective against food-borne pathogens like salmonella, you can add thyme oil to your washing water when you clean cutting boards and kitchen utensils that have encountered raw eggs and meat.
There are many options to look at for disinfectants that don’t put yourself or your family at risk. Natural ingredients have no harmful fumes, the surfaces are cleaned and germ-free, and you can breathe freely while working.