It's cold and flu season and you're elbow deep in rubber gloves, wielding a can of disinfectant in one hand and a bottle of bleach in the other. Sure, you want to disinfect your home, but who wants all of those chemicals floating around in the air that you breathe? The good news is you don't need to employ harsh chemicals to keep your house clean and germ-free. And the best part about using these natural products is that they tend to be cheaper than a bottle of household cleaner. Here are five safe methods of disinfecting your home that won't clean out your wallet.
Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of an introduction to vinegar as a cleaning solution and you're bound to get rave reviews. This is because despite its stinky nature, vinegar is an all-natural disinfectant. It contains acetic acid, which gives it antimicrobial properties and it's great at killing mold. Its household uses are endless -- it cleans glass and stainless steel without leaving a film or streaks, it cleans mold out of toilets and sinks and it's great for washing produce. When choosing a vinegar to use, just go for plain old white distilled vinegar.
You've surely used hydrogen peroxide to clean out a cut before applying a bandage, but did you know it's also great for household cleaning? This natural product is a great stain remover for carpets and clothes and in conjunction with vinegar, it's an excellent scum buster for your tub and tile. And unlike vinegar, it doesn't have a noticeable smell nor does it need to be diluted with water. If you get a sprayer the same size as the cap, you can just use it right of the bottle. It's also handy for washing your produce and cleaning your teeth. Also note, if you go the sprayer route, it needs to be dark and opaque. Light will destroy any disinfecting qualities hydrogen peroxide has.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an all-natural essential oil that's extracted from the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca tree. Because tea tree oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic, it's commonly used in cosmetics and skincare, but it's also a great household cleaner when mixed with water. It's so concentrated that all you need is a few drops to create an effective cleaner. Use it in everyday applications like cleaning countertops and tile. It's also great for disinfecting areas where pets have had accidents or kids have gotten sick.
Baking soda itself is not a disinfectant, but it's an effective cleanser when combined with other natural disinfectants like vinegar. Baking soda has some grit so you can mix it with water and make a paste with effective scour power, making it an ideal cleaner for caked-on food in microwaves and refrigerators. Mix it with lemon juice to polish brass and copper and combine it with vinegar to unclog a drain. And just like it works for deodorizing your fridge, baking soda also works great at pulling odors out of carpets.
Soap and Water
If you're not dealing with a heavy-duty germ situation and just generally want to get your house clean, then soap and water is the original eco-friendly cleaner. Soap provides a lather that's able to mix oil and water together in a way that attracts and suspends dirt so that it can be rinsed away. So a bucket full of hot, soapy water is always you best bet for cleaning floors, countertops and other household surfaces.
HowStuffWorks finds out how often you should wash your coffee cup or mug to avoid germs.
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