Ah, the joys of Cold and Flu Season! Just when you feel like you’ve fully recovered from one bout of sickness… BAM… another one hits!
And if you’ve got kids running around the house? Forget about it! Someone is always sniffling or coughing!
I’ve got three kids and work full-time as a teacher (basically working inside a Petri dish all day!), so I’ve had to learn a few ways to keep the bugs at bay.
After a cold or flu, you might not have the energy to clean, but that really is one of the most important things you need to do. Check out my Cleaning Motivation Hacks, so you can get your home clean and healthy again in no time.
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Natural Disinfectants For The Win!
It doesn’t have to take hours every day or involve nasty chemicals to get your home germ free. You can disinfect your home quickly and easily with natural disinfectants that wouldn’t have you reaching for the gas mask!
Natural distinfectants make it quick and easy to kill those nasty snot-inducing bugs from around your home. So you and your brood can get better sooner!
No more spreading the germs from one family member to the next!
I’m all about QUICK and EASY cleaning. I believe that we should be able to have a clean and tidy home without spending hours everyday cleaning!
Check out my Quick Cleaning Tips for Busy People.
Difference Between Bacteria and Viruses
Before we get started I want to say a few quick words about the difference between bacteria and viruses. Not all sickness bugs are created equally!
I’m not going to get too technical, but even though some bacteria and viruses can cause the same symptoms (coughing, sneezing, running nose) they are very very different.
Bacteria are single cell organisms that can survive without a host (your body!). Most bacteria do not make a human sick, in fact, a lot of types of bacteria are very beneficial to us and help our bodies remain healthy.
If you take antibiotics to kill bad bacteria, you will also be killing off the good bacteria! So anyways think twice before taking antibiotics for mild illnesses!
Viruses on the other hand are much smaller than bacteria and require a host to survive. They can not survive for long outside the body.
It is harder for modern medicine to treat viruses and most importantly ANTIBIOTICS DON’T KILL VIRUSES!
The non-medical term “germ” is often used to describe both viruses and bacteria, as well as fungus, parasites, amoeba and other nasty things!
OK, so now we know the difference, how do we go about fighting them?
Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting
I bet you didn’t realize that there is a difference between cleaning something, sanitizing it and disinfecting it?
Again, I don’t want to go into a lot of mega detail, but the basics are as follows:
- Cleaning – removes dirt, debris, grease, and germs. Cleaning can physically remove germs from a surface, but doesn’t kill them.
- Sanitize – reduces the number of germs on a surface to an acceptable level, this reduces the risk of spreading infections.
- Disinfect – kills the germs on surfaces so there is no risk of spreading the infection.
A clean surface might not be sanitized, and a sanitized surface might not be clean!
When deciding how to clean your home after an illness, it is important to work smarter, not harder. So you want to pick the right product to sanitize or disinfect your home.
Why Use Natural Disinfectants?
Picking a natural disinfectant to kill the germs in your home will help keep you and your family healthy without the nasty harsh chemicals (or expense).
So I now don’t use bleach at all, and instead I’ve found the following 5 natural disinfectants to be just as effective without all the nasty side-effects.
The natural disinfectants listed below are safe to use in our homes and are much better for the environment. They help disinfect your home (especially after sickness) without causing any additional health problems.
Want to get your home a bit more organized? Check out my Free Weekly Cleaning Schedule.
Just 10-15 minutes a day and you will have the clean and tidy home you deserve!
How to Use Natural Disinfectants
When you are using natural disinfectants to clean your home after illness there are a few things you want to keep in mind:
- Clean before you disinfect
- Pay attention to “dwell time”
First, before you disinfect a surface, you want to clean it. Sometimes you can buy a “Disinfecting Cleaner”, so that will do both jobs at once. But generally you need to clean first and then disinfect.
The reason for this, is that the germs that cause the sickness, could be living underneath the dirt. So you need to remove the dirt, grim or dust first, so then your natural disinfectant can actually get to those nasty germs and kill them!
The other thing you need to be aware of is the “dwell time” of the product. Or how long it needs to stay in contact with the surface.
Disinfectants don’t always act instantly on germs, they need time to kill them! The “dwell time” is the recommended about of time that the disinfectant needs to be on the surface to ensure it kills all the germs.
The dwell times for the following disinfectants does vary, but between 2 and 5 minutes is normal.
So my cleaning/disinfecting process is:
- Use a cleaner and cloth to remove dirt and residue from the surface.
- Spray surface with the disinfectant of my choice.
- Allow the spray to stay on the surface for at least 2 minutes (while I clean something else).
- Wipe off the excess.
You also want to be aware of the most important PLACES to clean too. These are generally high contact areas that we touch regularly throughout the day. Such as:
- Light switches
- Door handles
- Stair hand rails
- Toilet handles
- Toilet seats
- Cabinet handles
- Remote controls
- Steering wheel in car
- Car door handles (inside and out)
And anywhere else that you regularly touch.
5 Best Natural Disinfectants
The first disinfectant I’m going to talk about is a
Rubbing alcohol comes under lots of different names – ethanol, isopropyl, surgical spirits… but I’m just going to call it rubbing alcohol. They all do the same thing!
You do need to use some caution when using rubbing alcohol to clean. It is very flammable, so make sure you keep it away from heat or flames. It is also dangerous if swallowed, so keep it locked away from any kiddos in the house!
You can make a very effective disinfecting solution by just mixing one part water with one part alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray it on the surface, wait for it to dry (or 2-3 minutes) and wipe off any excess.
I even use this mixture (with some essential oils added) to refresh my sofa, curtains,
Rubbing Alcohol Disinfectant:
1 Part Water
1 Part Alcohol
Mix in a spray bottle.
Spray on the infected area and allow to dry.
Borax is a very powerful disinfectant and pesticide. It is a natural white powder that is mined from the earth. However, it can be very strong and cause reactions in some people – so just be careful when and how you use it.
The best part about borax is that it also kills mold. So if you are suffering from black mold, then you definitely want to consider using borax.
If you have moldy fabric (or just musky smelling fabric), then you can add 1/2 cup of borax to your laundry too. In fact, I always wash my bedding with a small amount of borax to help kill any bugs in my sheets! It’s also great for underwear (stinky teenage boys anyone?)!
In my house though, the number one use for borax is cleaning up after my pets! The borax cleaning recipe below is PERFECT for spraying into pet beds (or anywhere your pet likes to lounge) to get rid of the stinky pet funk!
Borax Disinfecting Spray
1/3 Cup of Borax
8 oz of Warm Water
Fully dissolve the borax in the warm water and pour into a spray bottle.
Spray onto the surface and let it sit for at least 2 minutes, then wipe off excess.
3: Citric Acid (Lemon)
Citric acid is in a surprising number of household cleaners. In fact, my FAVORITE store-bought cleaner, Method, uses Citric acid in their antibacterial cleaner.
Citric acid is one of the main components of lemon juice, so if you don’t have a jar of citric acid hanging around (yeah, I don’t either!), then lemon juice works just as well! It smells good too!
You can add lemon juice to your white vinegar cleaner (1 part white vinegar, one part water and 1/4 part lemon juice) or even use it full strength if you need to.
However, I like to use lemon juice with borax to make a pretty powerful disinfectant, that smells good too!
Lemon Juice & Borax Disinfectant
Two tablespoons of Borax
1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice
2 Cups of Warm Water (not too hot)
Fully dissolve the borax in the water and then add the lemon juice. Pour into a spray bottle.
Optional: Add 20 drops of essential oil such as tea tree oil or thyme oil.\
surfaceand let sit for at least 2 minutes. Wipe off any excess.
4: Steam Cleaner
Steam cleaners don’t seem to be as popular as they used to be and I’m not really sure why.
Cleaning with steam is an EXCELLENT way to disinfect pretty much any surface in your home. And all you need is water!
Steam cleaning is a great choice for anyone that finds regular cleaning products irritate their skin or lungs. It’s also good to use around children and animals (although make sure they stay away from the hot steam).
I love the Bissell PowerFresh steamer as it has lots of tools and accessories to help me disinfect difficult to clean items such as tooth brushes, hair brushes, food prep areas etc.
5: Hydrogen Peroxide
The last natural disinfectant on my list is also my favorite! Hydrogen peroxide!
This little wonder chemical helps disinfect and clean sooooo many different ways!
I use hydrogen peroxide in my laundry (it gets my pet bedding and rugs super fresh smelling!), to clean up pet messes, to disinfect kitchen surfaces, to zap the germs in the bathroom and so much more!
A note of warning – you might see “recipes” for cleaners online that combine vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together. Please don’t do that!
Separately they are great but mixed together they make
peracetic acid which is not a safe disinfectant for home use.
However, you can use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide separately – spray the surface first with
viengarand then with hyrdogenperoxide for a one-two punch to the germs!
3% hydrogen peroxide can be used neat on hard surfaces, or you can dilute it with water.
I prefer to use it full strength when cleaning up pet messes. Just use paper towels to absorb as much pee as possible, and then liberally spray with hydrogen peroxide. Allow to sit for as long as possible and then soak up the excess.
Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfectant
1 part Hydrogen Peroxide
1 part Water
Mix together in a spray bottle.
Spray onto a hard surface (or carpet after testing for color-fastness), allow to sit for at least 2 minutes and wipe off excess.
Honorable Mention: Thymol (Thyme Oil)
So I have one more natural disinfectant that I wanted to mention. I didn’t include it in my main list as it can cause irritation to some people, so please use it with caution.
Thymol is obtained from thyme oil and is an excellent disinfectant. It has been used for centuries to treat parasites, viruses and bacteria. It even makes a great antiseptic toothpaste!
Thymol can be difficult to get hold of, but thyme oil is much easier to find and still possesses the same properties (just not as strong).
Thyme Oil Disinfectant
1 oz Rubbing Alcohol
8 oz Water
10-30 drops of Thyme Essential Oil
Mix together in a spray bottle and shake well.
Spray on a hard surface and allow to sit for at least 2 minutes before wiping off excess. Can also be used to refresh fabric (test for color-fastness first).
So which is my favorite natural disinfectant? Well, it depends on what I’m cleaning. But my “go to”
My Everyday Disinfecting Cleaner
1 part White Vinegar
1 part Water
1/2 part Rubbing Alcohol
A few drops of Dawn Dish Soap
10-30 drops of Thyme Oil (or other essential oil of choice)
Mix together in a spray bottle and use as you would any other multi-surface cleaner.
Works great on mirrors and glass too!
I hope you find these natural disinfectant ideas useful when you are trying to battle the bugs this winter (or summer!).
The other way to tackle germs is, of course, to WASH YOUR HANDS REGULARLY!
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