Natural ways to combat germs in your home
[caption id="attachment_1150" align="alignnone" width="300"] A study by Michigan State University researchers found that only 5 percent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections.
By Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Cancer Fighters Thrive
It’s that time of year again … that time for sniffles, sneezing and coughs … body aches, chills and
relentless fatigue … it’s the start of flu season, not to mention also the season for just about every other flu-like illness around. In short, there are a lot of germs floating around out there and, yes, this even includes in your very own home sweet home.If you’re like most Americans, however, you could be missing the boat entirely when it comes to cleaning the filthiest surfaces, according to a new NSF International survey. (1)
While most thought objects like their flatware, storage tray, pizza cutter and microwave keypad were the dirtiest (and therefore, presumably, most likely to be cleaned), the actual filthiest surfaces were:(2)
1. Refrigerator water dispenser
2. Rubber spatula
4. Refrigerator vegetable compartment
5. Refrigerator ice dispenser
6. Refrigerator meat compartment
7. Knife block
8. Food storage container with rubber seal
9. Can opener
10. Refrigerator insulating seal
Reading this may make you want to stock-up on antibacterial cleaners and hand sanitizers, but let’s talk about that for a minute.
Overuse of Antibacterial Products May Backfire
There is concern that the overuse of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products may be an emerging risk
factor for antibiotic-resistant disease in the community.(3) Plus, they are no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on hands.(4) So opting for ‘regular’ cleaners in lieu of antibacterial options should combat germs just as well as their antibacterial counterparts, without posing risks of antibiotic resistance or containing hazardous chemicals, like
triclosan,which is a known hormone disruptor that may stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Not to mention,conventional cleaners often contain numerous toxins, like formaldehyde, parabens and phenols, the latter ofwhich are linked to respiratory problems, heart disease and more.
Even if you think your favorite cleaning brands are safe, they may not be. If your home smells of pine, orange or lemon when you’re done cleaning, this alone is indicative of a toxic element, as the scent comes from terpenes, which can react with ozone to produce toxic compounds, including formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is not only linked to developmental effects and organ system toxicity, but it is also classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
There is a better way, as natural non-toxic methods work to combat and kill illness-causing germs in your
home, knocking out the bad guys without exposing your family to unnecessary risks.
Tips for a Naturally Clean Home: No Rubber Gloves Required
Each of these ‘green cleaners’ can be useful to keep your home clean and combat germs. Please note that
they do not necessarily kill all bacteria and viruses, the way a broad-spectrum cleaner like bleach might, but even many commercial disinfectants can leave illness-causing germs, like noroviruses, behind.(5)
When it comes to natural cleaners, each has its own unique antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial or other germ-fighting properties, packaged in a non-toxic form that won’t harm your family (or pets). When you need to be sure you’re disinfecting, diluted bleach and water can be used (such as to clean a cutting board after preparing raw chicken).
1. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is active against bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and spores, and, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has good germicidal activity and bactericidal, virucidal,
sporicidal and fungicidal properties.(6) They note that “commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.” Use peroxide to clean hard surfaces like countertops, cutting boards, bathrooms, floors and kids’ toys. Be sure to store it in an opaque spray bottle, as exposure to light may hurt its effectiveness.
Due to its high acidity, vinegar helps kill bacteria, mold and other germs. Try diluting vinegar 50/50 with water to clean out your refrigerator, oven and garbage disposal. Use it full-strength on countertops or mix it with baking soda to clean drains and bathrooms. You may be able to clean carpet stains using a combination of white vinegar (about 2 tablespoons) and salt or baking soda (about ¼ cup).
3. Lemon and Lime Juice
These can help to kill illness-causing bacteria, although they are generally less potent than hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.(7) Try citrus juice undiluted to clean and polish metal fixtures and door handles, or combine them with baking soda to clean bathrooms and kitchen counters.
4. Pure Castile Soap
Castile soap is pure, vegetable-oil-based soap that does not contain synthetic detergents. Use it diluted (one part soap to 40 parts water) to clean just about anything in your home, including your refrigerator, stovetop,counters, floors and bathrooms. You can also use castile soap as hand soap, body wash, shaving soap and even as shampoo.
5. Essential Oils
With natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, essential oils can be some of the most powerful
‘weapons’ in your cleaning arsenal. You can add them to just about any natural cleaning solution you make and they’ll not only boost its cleaning power but also add a wonderful aroma. Three ‘staples’ to start with include: (8)
Lemon essential oil: If you like the scent of commercial lemon cleaners, lemon essential oil will do the trick,naturally. Try it when mopping floors or wiping counters, or use it when you need extra stain-removing or brightening power.
Peppermint essential oil: Make your home smell fresh and minty by adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your homemade spray and floor cleaners. Peppermint, in particular, has strong antibacterial
properties, so use it for kitchens and bathrooms. It also helps to repel pests.
Tea tree essential oil: Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal, so use it in showers and
bathrooms, or anywhere with mold or mildew.
Other popular essential oils for cleaning include lavender, eucalyptus and rosemary. You can even mix two
or more oils together for added cleaning power and aroma.
Want to get started building your supply of homemade green cleaners? Here’s one recipe to try. (9)
All-Natural Essential Oil Disinfecting Spray
• 1 cup distilled water
• 20 drops lavender essential oil
• 20 drops thyme or eucalyptus essential oil
• 10 drops tea tree oil
Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on hard surfaces and allow them to air dry.
1. NSF International 2013 Household Germ Study
2. HellaWella August 23, 2013
3. Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Aug;3(8):501-6.
4. Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Sep 1;45 Suppl 2:S137-47.
5. Journal of Food Protection February 2010;73(2):400-4
6. CDC Disinfection & Sterilization Guidelines
7. J Food Prot. 2009 Jun;72(6):1201-8.
8. HuffingtonPost.com August 31, 2012
9. FrugallySustainable.com October 2011