Household cleaners often contain chlorine bleach as their main ingredient — and for good reason. Almost nothing is more effective at killing bacteria, viruses, fungus and mold. It’s also inexpensive and a little bit goes a long way.
Unfortunately, chlorine bleach can be as harmful to our health as it is effective at killing germs. The fumes from chlorine can sting our eyes, burn our lungs, give us headaches and cause major health issues with long-term exposure.
Household disinfectants that contain chlorine bleach can also make our homes look clean, while leaving behind dirty chemical residue in the air and on the surfaces that touch our food, our body soap, our toothbrushes and more.
A Safer Alternative to Chlorine BleachWhite vinegar is a highly effective alternative that kills nearly all household germs, bacteria, mold, and mildew without the harmful fumes or residue of chlorine bleach. Vinegar is just as economical and it is completely safe to use around children and pets.
Vinegar is also biodegradable, so you can wash your sinks, drain and toilets without worrying about chemicals being flushed into your local water system.
If you prefer premixed cleaning solutions to vinegar, look for natural alternatives that use hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil or thyme oil to effectively disinfect your home.
There’s also a company, called Force of Nature, that has developed a small appliance that ‘electrifies’ a mix of vinegar + salt + water for an even more powerful disinfectant.
How to use vinegar for everyday cleaning
- For quick cleanups, keep a spray bottle of equal parts white vinegar and water under the sink.
- Use the solution for regular cleaning of shower doors, countertops, stovetops, microwaves and refrigerator shelves.
- This diluted mixture can also be used to wipe down floors and windows, tabletops, chairs, shelves and kitchen utensils that need a little shine.
Using vinegar to disinfect high-germ areas
- Keep a second bottle of undiluted white vinegar under the sink for bigger cleaning days.
- Label this bottle to distinguish it from the diluted vinegar solution above.
- Use the undiluted vinegar to wipe down high-germ areas such as sinks, toilets, diaper bins, doorknobs, waste bins, bathmats, tile or linoleum floors, counters, cutting boards and lunch boxes.
Disinfect sponges with white vinegar
To kill bacteria and freshen musty sponges, soak them overnight in 2 cups of water and a quarter cup of vinegar. Rinse in the morning and let them air dry in a sunny window.
Good To Know
- Vinegar is not a registered disinfectant with the EPA and does not kill some dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus.
- Vinegar can deteriorate exposed window seals, dishwasher gaskets and unsealed grout over time, so these surfaces should be rinsed with water after they are cleaned with vinegar.
- Vinegar is inappropriate for some stone surfaces such as marble, limestone, onyx or travertine.