natural disinfectant cleaner

You Already Own These Game-Changing Natural Disinfectants

By Eileen Dempsey

natural disinfectant cleaner

Looking for a natural disinfectant spray? No need to go shopping. Chances are, you already have these natural disinfectant ingredients and cleaners at home. Unlike their chemical-ridden counterparts, a natural or DIY disinfectant cleaner is a safer choice for your living spaces and most-touched devices. Natural disinfectant cleaners are also better for the environment.

However, keep in mind that cleaning products — whether natural or not — are not all equally potent. Some may be too abrasive for delicate technology, and others may only clean surfaces instead of fully disinfecting them. No matter what you're cleaning, check manufacturer instructions before you get started.

With that in mind, here are some great household natural disinfectant cleaners that you can use in a pinch.

Disclaimer: The following is informational only and does not serve as medical advice. For information on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), please see the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website.

12 Household Natural Disinfectants Sprays & Cleaners

  1. Lemons
  2. Hydrogen peroxide
  3. Boiling water
  4. Lavender oil
  5. Tea tree oil
  6. Thyme oil
  7. Vinegar
  8. Borax
  9. Rubbing alcohol
  10. Vodka
  11. Castile soap
  12. Dr. Bronner’s soap

Here’s what you need to know about DIY natural disinfectants and how well each of the above household items works when it comes to cleaning your home.

natural disinfectant lemon

1. Lemons Have Antimicrobial Properties

Ever wondered why lemon is a common ingredient in solvents and DIY cleaning agents? The fruit is famous for its antimicrobial properties. Antimicrobial means that something possesses the ability to kill microorganisms or slow their growth. Antimicrobial substances work on bacteria, viruses, and fungi, not just bacteria.

Research has shown that lemons may work to combat bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. Both of these bacteria can produce severe food-borne illnesses.

Are you interested in making a DIY disinfectant spray? Not only may lemon slow bacteria's growth, but it also smells great.

4 Ways to Use Lemon as a DIY Natural Disinfectant

  1. Make a natural cleaning spray: All you need is white vinegar and a lot of lemon peels.
  2. Clean your microwave: Combine half a cup of water and an entire lemon’s juice into it. Microwave the mixture, then leave it in the microwave for 5 minutes so the steam can loosen debris. Dunk a dishtowel in the mix, then use it to scrub grime off the sides of the microwave.
  3. Clean your cutting board: Put coarse salt on your wooden cutting board, then use half a lemon (juicy side down) to scrub the surface. After letting it sit, scrape the cutting board with a metal spatula, then rinse.
  4. Get rid of food storage container smells: Rub half of a lemon on the inside of your smelly plastic food storage containers or reusable sandwich bags, then rinse. 

Keep in mind that though lemon has antimicrobial properties, this does not mean that it will kill all germs, including COVID-19. Please see the CDC website for up-to-date information on the pandemic.

natural disinfectant hydrogen peroxide

2. Hydrogen Peroxide Is a Natural Disinfectant

Hydrogen peroxide is well-known for its ability to combat viruses, bacteria, yeast, spores, and fungi. According to the CDC, hydrogen peroxide (7.5%) may function as a high-level disinfectant when left for 30 minutes at 20°C; Hydrogen peroxide with peracetic acid (7.35% and 0.23%, respectively) may function as a disinfectant within 15 minutes at 20°C.

What Is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is essentially water with an oxygen molecule that occurs naturally in plants and animals. Hydrogen peroxide an environmentally-friendly natural cleaning agent because it will break down into water and oxygen.

4 Ways to Use Hydrogen Peroxide as a Natural Cleaner

  1. Let hydrogen peroxide sit on a counter for 10 minutes. According to research conducted by Ohio State University Extension, this may kill E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.
  2. Let 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide sit in your toilet bowl for 20 minutes to kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more.
  3. Rinsing toothbrushes in hydrogen peroxide may reduce the bacteria count by 85%, according to research
  4. Scrub the sink with baking soda on a sponge, then pour hydrogen peroxide on it, leave it for several minutes, then rinse.

Remember that solutions may contain different amounts of hydrogen peroxide. The above natural disinfectant methods are for 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is the household kind. Solutions with higher hydrogen peroxide content (6–10%) are for hair bleaching; Mixes with over 35% hydrogen peroxide are used for food-related cleaning; Anything with over 90% hydrogen peroxide is considered industrial.

Warning: Do not use hydrogen peroxide for hair or skin bleaching at home. People should only use solutions with more than 3% of hydrogen peroxide in a professional setting.

natural disinfectant boiling water

3. Boiling Water: An Age-Old Natural Disinfectant

Boiling water has long been an environmentally-friendly way to make safe drinking water in emergency situations. In a five-week study found that over 70% of boiled water that had tested positive for fecal matter met World Health Organization standards for safe drinking water.

Boiling water — a minimum of 1 minute at sea level and 3 minutes at 5,000 ft+ — may be used as a natural disinfectant for:

  • Dirty cutting boards
  • Clogged drains
  • Scorched or dirty pans (may require some scrubbing)
  • Disinfecting metal and silicone cleaning utensils and personal care items

Wondering how to clean a menstrual cup? Put your Casco Cup in a pot of boiling water for five minutes, making sure that it is completely submerged. After that, carefully remove your menstrual cup and allow it to air dry before storing or reinserting it.

Essential Oils Are Great for DIY Disinfectant Spray

A dozen essential oils — concentrated plant extracts used as alternative medicine and aromatherapy throughout human history — have antimicrobial properties according to a study published in medical journal Molecules. Of course, not all essential oils possess the same disinfectant properties; quality and strain matter.

lavender is a natural cleaner

4. Lavender Oil As Natural Disinfectant

Lavender oil has a variety of antibacterial and antiviral properties. Research has shown that lavender oil may work against:

Wondering how to use lavender as a natural cleaner? Add a few drops of lavender (3–6 drops) and bergamot to two cups of white vinegar, shake, and spray on surfaces. You can also spray lavender on cotton balls to keep insects — moths, ants, cockroaches — out of commonly-infested areas like closets and pantries.

tea tree oil disinfectant spray

5. Tea Tree Oil Disinfectant Spray

Combine 10 drops of tea tree oil with half a cup of vinegar and two cups of hot water to create a natural cleaner (avoid granite and stone, however, which do not respond well to vinegar). To create a tea tree oil disinfectant spray, combine one teaspoon with one cup of water. Spray on moldy or mildewy surfaces; leave it for a few minutes before wiping it away.

What does tea tree oil do? Studies have shown that it has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. More specifically, research on mouthwash containing tea tree oil found it was effective as a treatment for gingivitis.

thyme

6. Thyme Oil Benefits and Uses

Thyme oil is another essential oil with antiviral properties — as shown against Herpes Simplex. Thyme oil — more specifically, the active compound Thymol — is perhaps better known for its ability to combat bacteria, thanks to its acidic nature.

In fact, many natural disinfectants (and insect repellents too) contain Thymol. In the former’s case, the natural ingredient is used in formulas designed to kill bacteria, germs, and viruses. In fact, the EPA has included a couple of thymol-containing natural cleaners on its list of coronavirus disinfectants. Keep in mind that some thymol brands only contain between 20–50% of the active ingredient.

7. Vinegar Is a Natural Disinfectant Cleaner

Affordable and natural, vinegar is an easy way to keep your home clean without the chemicals. But not all vinegar is appropriate for giving your kitchen a good scrubbing. Cleaning vinegar is a unique kind of vinegar--not something you'd put on a salad like balsamic vinegar or red vinegar.

What's the difference between cleaning vinegar, which you can use as a natural disinfectant, and white vinegar? For starters, the former is much more acidic--6% compared to 5%. Though this doesn't sound like a lot, it means cleaning vinegar a lot stronger. However, if you are looking to use vinegar as a natural disinfectant, you're best off using white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you don't have any other options).

Note: Industrial vinegar can have as much as 20% acid and should not be used indoors.

Does Vinegar Disinfect?

  • One study found that a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice reduced Salmonella pathogens to undetectable levels on a salad mixture.
  • Other research found that vinegar may have an antibacterial effect against E. coli.
  • Another study published in Scientific Reports uncovered that apple cider vinegar may have antimicrobial capabilities against the bacteria that cause staph infections, e. coli, and certain fungus. 

Disclaimer: There is no scientific evidence that vinegar would kill COVID-19.

3 Ways to Use Vinegar as a Natural Disinfectant Cleaner

  1. Use a mixture of vinegar, dish soap and water to scrub grease and dirt off of counters, bathtubs, and toilets. Note that you should wear gloves as it can irritate nails and skin.
  2. Some floors may be cleaned using half a cup of cleaning vinegar and a gallon of water.
  3. Add a half a cup of vinegar to laundry to get rid of strong gym clothes and towel stenches.

Do NOT clean marble or granite with vinegar as it can damage the surface. Additionally, do not clean try to use vinegar as a natural disinfectant on knives. Avoid coming into contact with wood furniture as well. Additionally, cleaning vinegar is NOT for cooking. It has not been tested to the same quality standards as white vinegar, for instance.