The Complete Guide to Sanitizing Your House

Walking down the cleaning aisle in a supermarket can be overwhelming. Different products make an array of promises and try to catch your attention. It can be difficult to decide what matters most.

Cleaning your house is a big job. We put it off until it’s absolutely necessary and it’s even a much harder job with kids or pets.

When we do clean, are we thinking about the kinds of products we’re using? Most buy what’s on sale or based on other factors such as scent, pet and kid-friendliness, etc.

This article will serve as a complete guide to sanitizing your house. We’ll break down the different types of cleaning products, their uses, benefits and how to get your house germ-free. We are going to answer all of your questions, including:

  • What Is the Best Disinfectant To Use?
  • How Can I Naturally Disinfect My Home?
  • How Do You Disinfect Your House from The Flu?
  • Do Green Cleaning Products Kill Bacteria?

We will explain what environmentally-friendly “green” really means so you can make informed decisions about choosing cleaning products.

Cleaning Products to Use Around the House

What Is the Best Disinfectant to Use?

germ fix

Walking down the cleaning aisle in a supermarket can be overwhelming. Different products make an array of promises and try to catch your attention. It can be difficult to decide what matters most.

The average American household spends $42 per month on cleaning products. But what’s best to use? Here are the most popular types of products and what they work best on, as well as potential hazards.

  • Bleach is one of the most common disinfectants on the market. It is inexpensive and  highly-effective. It can be used to get stains out of white clothing and to clean up dirt and mold. It also kills viruses like the flu and dangerous bacteria, including staphylococcus, streptococcus, E. coli and salmonella. However, bleach is also one of the most harmful disinfectants to humans (if proper care is not taken when using it). It should never be used on skin. Too much exposure may lead to health issues or birth defects. It’s also hazardous to wildlife and the environment.
  • Household Ammonia is another common cleaner and is a slightly more eco-friendly cleaning solution than chemical-based products. Ammonia is not actually registered as a disinfectant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), although it may still kill bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. It is not effective against other bacteria like staphylococcus. Ammonia is often used to clean the kitchen and bathroom areas because it is effective in breaking down grime and grease. It is good for cleaning glass because it evaporates quickly, which minimizes streaking.
  • Alcohol-based antibacterial products are very popular in the form of hand sanitizers and soaps. However, claims that they kill 99.9 percent of germs have been refuted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These organizations advised consumers to wash their hands instead of using these products because they are ineffective against the norovirus and unproven against other bacteria. Some products may also contain a hazardous ingredient called triclosan. Overusing these products has led to antibiotic resistance and the rise of “superbugs.”
  • UV-C light recently gained popularity as an effective defense against killing bacteria. It emits a high frequency UV light, where germicidal wavelengths of 185-254 nanometers (nm) kill bacteria, viruses and mold. UV-A and UV-B lights cannot do this. It has been used for a long time by hospitals, but more industries are using this as a safe and affordable solution since it eliminates the production and hazards associated with corrosive materials, disinfection by-products (DBPs), and harmful chemicals. Portable UV-C wands have been found to kill several types of bacteria on surfaces after even just five seconds of exposure. However, these are not as effective on surfaces with lots of cracks or areas that the light cannot reach. 

We’ve now covered some of the most popular cleaning products on the market. While they are some of the most common and most-effective, there are still many other more natural products we have not yet covered. Keep reading below to see what products are best for naturally disinfecting your home.

How Can I Naturally Disinfect My Home?

Naturally Disinfect My Home

While we have gone through some of the most popular chemical cleaners and a new option of UV-C light wands, there are still a number of natural cleaners that are often just as effective when it comes to sanitizing your house. Here are the uses and benefits of the five most popular options.

  • Vinegar. This is often used as a safer alternative to bleach because it is biodegradable. It is the most effective all-natural disinfectant alternative because it contains acetic acid, which gives it antimicrobial properties. It is effective for cleaning glass and stainless steel without leaving film or streaks, and kills mold in toilets and sinks. It does not kill dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. While this is often used for cleaning cuts, it’s also great for household cleaning. It works well as a stain remover for carpets and clothes and gets rid of grime when used in conjunction with vinegar. It has no noticeable smell, but does need to be stored in a dark, opaque bottle, as light will destroy its disinfecting qualities. It is also environmentally-friendly because it breaks down into oxygen and water. It should  only be used at concentrations lower than 3 percent.
  • Tea tree oil. Most commonly known for its use in skincare products, it is an essential oil that’s extracted from the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca tree. It’s naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic and it can also work well as a household cleaner when mixed with water. It is great for everyday uses like cleaning countertops and tile. Although it is all-natural and biodegradable, it isn’t strong enough to kill viruses and more powerful bacteria.
  • Baking soda. While not a disinfectant, it can make an effective cleanser when combined with other natural disinfectants like vinegar. Baking soda mixed with water makes an effective paste for cleaning caked-on food, grease and grime in your kitchen. Mixing it with lemon juice can make an effective polish for brass and copper or combining it with vinegar is a great natural way to unclog your drain. It is also well known for its ability to remove odors from carpets. However, like other natural cleaners it is ineffective against more dangerous bacteria like salmonella, E. coli. and staphylococcus.
  • Soap and water.  It’s the oldest and simplest cleaning tool – the original eco-friendly cleaner. If you just want to give things a good clean, then hot, soapy water is your best bet for cleaning floors and other hard surfaces. It won’t kill bacteria or flu viruses but it  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. 

While most of these natural cleaners and disinfectants won’t kill flu viruses or more dangerous bacteria, they work just as well and without the hazards or negative environmental effects that come with the chemical cleaners.

How Do You Disinfect Your House From the Flu?

Let’s dive into how to apply these cleaners and what to do if you need to disinfect your house from the flu or other illnesses.

If someone in your home is sick, it can be a lot of work to disinfect and minimize the risk of others getting sick as well. While the best way to prevent this is restricting the amount of things that the sick person touches, this isn’t always easy to do especially if kids are sick.

What should be disinfected around the house to best kill the flu virus?

  • Bedding, pajamas and clothes. When you are sick you sweat, sneeze and cough on what you are wearing and the bed you are in. Making sure that these are clean not only will help prevent others from getting sick but will also help the sick person feel better.  Run everything on the hottest temperature that the material will allow in order to kill any bacteria or germs.
  • Electronic devices. We use electronic devices every day. Phones and remotes are  touched by so many people but they are often the things we don’t wipe down and disinfect. Using a wet cloth with hydrogen peroxide can easily clean these devices and anything handled by a sick person. Portable UV-C lights also work well here to kill bacteria in smaller areas.
  • Frequently touched surfaces. It is important to wipe down things like light switches, door knobs and railings because germs survive the longest on hard, non-porous surfaces. Wipe these down frequently with a disinfectant and microfibre cloth or a disinfectant wipe to help stop the spread of illness. Remember, the disinfectant needs to stay on the surface long enough to kill the bacteria, so sprays only work best for flat surfaces.
  • The bathroom. We already know that this where most germs in the house are. If you have multiple bathrooms it is best to try to restrict the sick person to the use of one. This helps  make cleaning much easier. Depending on the illness, chemical cleaners can be the most effective, but there are many other options such as spraying hydrogen peroxide and then using a steamer. This will help to target every area especially the sink, toilet, counter and handles. 
  • Your car. This is often forgotten but if a sick person has been in your car, it’s important to disinfect it, as well. Pay attention to the door handles, seat belts, steering wheel and controls on the dash. 

Do Green Cleaning Products Kill Bacteria?

What about products labeled as “green?” Do they kill bacteria?

“Green” is a label put on products by companies to show these products as having less of an effect on human health and the environment than traditional products. However, there is nothing regulating the labeling of these products; “green” can mean many things. It can be better for the environment or use less water, but it doesn’t generally mean “non-toxic.” In fact, fragranced green cleaning products contain the same levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as traditional products, which have been linked to a variety of health problems.

Some “green” cleaners are instead made from a component found in coconuts, which don’t disinfect or kill bacteria and instead only help remove dirt.

Natural cleaners are a better option than “green” products. They can disinfect and clean without exposing you or the environment to harsh chemicals. These DIY home cleaning products are also much cheaper.

You don’t need harsh chemicals to clean. Our germophobia is largely fueled by advertising targeted at families and designed to create a sense of need for protection for yourself and loved ones against bacteria. The issue here is that not all bacteria is bad. Building up a natural immunity to germs is a good thing. The only exception is the outbreak of a serious illness, in which a chemical cleaner such as bleach remains effective. Common cold and flu germs can usually be taken care of by natural cleaners. They may take a little more work, but still protect you.

There are three main categories of householding cleaning products: traditional/chemical products, “green” products and natural products. We have discussed the many uses and effectiveness of each, including in unique situations. We know that traditional products are the worst for the environment and our health. On the other hand, “green” products are not much better due to the unregulated labelling of the product. Therefore it can be hard to tell if these are as effective or less harmful for us and the environment.

The best option if you want to stay safe and be “green” is to stick with natural products. Consumers need to get past the bias that they are not as effective as chemicals. While they may require a bit more work, they can be the best disinfectants for home use because you know exactly what you are using and they have no lasting impact on the environment.

Important Rules to Stay Safe:

  • Stay at home except for essential trips to get groceries, etc.
  • Wear a cloth face mask in public. (Here’s how to make a mask and the rules surrounding them.)
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people in public.
  • Again, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer if you’re unable to wash).
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Avoid touching your face.

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