It’s cold and flu season, so naturally the question on everybody’s mind is: How can I sanitize my home against germs? The answer to that is easy.
Bleach is the most effective sanitizer for your home, but it is not the healthiest. I summarized some of the concerns in this video.
The question on minds of Green at Home readers takes it a step further, and is less straight-forward:
How can I sanitize my home against germs, naturally?
The most common answer you’ll find is simply vinegar. David Suzuki’s Queen of Green suggests using vinegar followed by hydrogen peroxide (don’t mix them, just chase one after the other). This “recipe” is widely referenced back to the work of Dr. Susan Sumner, a food science researcher. I haven’t been able to source the original study, but this article gives one of the better summaries of the issue.
While vinegar and hydrogen peroxide do have germ-fighting properties, they require a much longer time of contact than we typically think of when cleaning countertops. However, they will still reduce the amount of germs, which can go a long way to reducing the likelihood of you getting sick. If you want to use a stronger antimicrobial, a company called Benefect makes a Health Canada regulated disinfectant using thyme oil.
Certain essential oils also demonstrate disinfection properties against certain bacteria and viruses. I talk about essential oils in more detail in this post, but I’m leaving them out of the bulk of this discussion because there are many with different capabilities. If you use essential oils, ask the manufacturer for data on the efficacy of their disinfecting blends – peer-reviewed studies preferably.
Also important to note: for most disinfectants to work best, the surface needs to be cleaned first with soap. So as a heads up for those of you who just clean their floors with vinegar: while it can be an effective degreaser, it does not lift dirt. And dirt can inhibit the antibacterial properties of the vinegar.
This is why I use castile soap as an all-purpose cleaner, not vinegar. (I’m loving Green Beaver’s sunflower-based soap in my cleaning recipes.)
But I digress…
So, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can help you fight germs. But they won’t completely sanitize your home.
Is this a bad thing? If you are in good health, taking measures to boost your immune system, and washing hands regularly with soap and water, full sanitization is likely not necessary to help ward off cold and flu infections. It’s when we get run down, aren’t eating properly, are stressed, and not sleeping that our immune systems aren’t able to fight off infection as readily. And for many (if not most) of us, this pretty much sums up “normal”.
The more you can support your body through cold and flu season the better (I recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor, personally).
Conventional cleaners with disinfecting properties often contain hormone disrupting chemicals and respiratory toxics, which put your body under increased stress via toxic load. Plus, as we head into winter the air quality in our homes gets worse. With the windows closed, we are increasing our exposure to chemicals that are shown to disrupt hormones which in turn affect children’s development, energy levels, asthma symptoms and more.
So, instead of reaching for disinfectants containing bleach (or worse, triclosan), you are much better off supporting your health by boosting your immune system through sleep, diet, and stress management. Then, choose less toxic products, wash hands regularly with a natural soap, and use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to reduce bacteria at least during the winter months.