Seven Natural Disinfectants That Can Kill Viruses and Bacteria

Updated: May 7

The scare of COVID -19 is driving many into the grocery stores to search for the best chemicals to disinfect and sanitize their home.

The truth is many of these disinfectants aren't effective against every type of bacteria and viruses and they are often

made with chemicals that can pollute the air in your home and cause a wide range of health issues such as respiratory problems, skin irritations and headaches. Put simply, the cleaning products and solutions you're buying to sanitize and disinfect your home, may end up putting you and your family's health at risk. If you still choose to buy these products, please follow the guidelines on the labels and use with the utmost caution.

But for those who are looking for safer and effective disinfectants, they do exist. And some may already be in your cupboards or cabinets.

While some "green cleaners" such as the Clorox Green Works line made from a component found in coconuts, do nothing more than remove dirt, there are some natural cleaners that disinfect as well as clean, according

to the 2011 AARP Bulletin. And some have been known to kill various forms of bacteria and they do it without harming you or your family or the environment. Here are seven of these simple and inexpensive cleaners:

Vinegar - Made from acetic acid and water, vinegar is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. It's effective in killing bacteria and viruses by chemically changing their proteins and fats and destroying their cell structures, according to Vinegar, which kills about 80 percent of germs, has been known to kill E. coli, salmonella and shigella bacteria, according to Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University.

"Vinegar is almost 100 percent effective killing germs if you leave it on for at least 60. seconds, and it leaves a nice shine," Duberg told the AARP.

Even science agrees that neat vinegar will kill off the flu virus, according to

UK researchers, looking at ways to curb a flu pandemic, found that malt vinegar, much like bleach, can quickly inactivate the virus.

Essential Oils: Some essential oils have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Basil oils have been shown to kill E. coli, listeria and salmonella bacteria, according to the AARP bulletin. For a stronger disinfectant, combine vinegar with essential oils such as rosemary, thyme or basil. Tea Tree, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange and patchouli are also great choices in fighting bacteria.

Vodka: Made from fermented potato, most vodka is 80 or 40 proof alcohol by volume and can be used as a disinfectant to remove mold and mildew. It degreases, removes stains, shines fixtures and refreshes fabric. But most importantly, with alcohol concentrations more than 60 percent, it can kill various types of bacteria and viruses. Alcohol is effective at killing enveloped viruses (viruses that have an outer wrapping) such as the coronavirus, but os less effective against non-enveloped viruses, according to Since protein denaturation works faster when a small amount of water is mixed with the alcohol, it's best to use a solution with 60 percent alcohol. Pure alcohol would evaporate too quickly to effectively kill bacteria or viruses. For the most power, find 100-proof vodka, pour some into a spray bottle to spray onto surface, let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe. Essential oils can also be added to vodka to enhance its cleaning power.

Lemon: Though less effective than vinegar, the juice of a lemon does help to reduce bacteria on surfaces. It can also be used to sanitize non-porous surfaces, get rid of alkaline stains such as soap scum found in bathrooms and shine oxidized metal.

Hydrogen peroxide- Not only is hydrogen peroxide effective in killing bacteria by breaking down cell walls, like bleach it can also be used to get rid of mold and fungus outbreaks. It can also suppress a wide range of microorganisms, including viruses, fungi, and spores. 

According to the CDC, a concentration of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide can suppress rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, within eight minutes. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide work even better as a duo, but do not combine them in the same bottle as mixing the two will create a harmful chemical.

Grapefruit Seed Extract: The active ingredient of grapefruit seed extract is made from the seed and pulp of certified organically grown grapefruit. The end result is a powerful disinfectant that has antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and anitfungal properties. It is effective against an overwhelming number of pathogens including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, E. Coli, Candida, Herpes, Influenza, parasites and fungi, according to It can be used to sanitize dishes, countertops and cutting boards and inhibit bacterial growth in pools and spas. It is nontoxic to humans and harmless to the environment. Just add 10 drops to a cup of water in a spray bottle and spray on surfaces. You can also add essential oils for fragrance and a power boost.

Isopropyl Alcohol: A chemical substance that is diluted with water to create an effective cleaning solution, isopropyl alcohol in solutions between 60 and 90 percent alcohol with 10 to 40 percent purified water rapidly kills or stops the growth of bacteria, fungi and viruses. A 50 percent isopropyl alcohol solution reportedly kills Staphylococcus aureus in less than 10 seconds.

Hot water and soap: Water heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, not only eliminates tough stains and grease, it also gets rid of bacteria, germs, dust mites and other pathogens. Mix equal parts water and Dr. Bronner's Castile soap in a spray bottle and use this solution for daily sanitizing.

Still, before using any disinfectant it should be made clear that the surface should thoroughly be cleaned before being sanitized.



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