Simple Swap: Hydrogen Peroxide is a Safer Disinfectant
So safe, you can use it as mouthwash
*COVID-19* For a cleaning and disinfecting guide that is specific to the novel coronavirus pandemic, please see our article: A Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning and Disinfecting During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Cleaning is important, you should definitely do it. While it can be a not very fun chore, unless you relate to Monica on a spiritual level, it really is something that should be done regularly. Besides germs, cleaning removes all the yucky (and potentially chemically laden) dust and dirt that can collect in your home over time. While it might seem like you should also disinfect your surfaces when you clean to kill any crazy germs that might be hanging out, it's not as necessary as you might think. And, using a strong, commercial disinfectant is definitely not needed or advised. Do you really want to use something all over your home that comes with a huge caution or warning sign on it?
Woah, so wait, are we actually telling you there is a step you can skip in your cleaning routine? That doesn't sound like us. But, give us a sec to explain where we are coming from. We aren't saying you never need to disinfect surfaces. We have a full list of when it's a good idea to disinfect in our 6 tips for healthier cleaning, but the big one - especially around this time of year - is if you or anyone in your house has been sick. Disinfecting high-touch surfaces with a safe disinfectant can be a good way to prevent everyone else from getting sick. When we say safe, we aren't talking about a weak disinfectant. Instead, we mean one that is tough on bacteria, but kind to your lungs and health overall. What might these be? Well, from the title you've probably already guessed the punchline - hydrogen peroxide. Yep, that brown bottle you probably have hiding in your bathroom from that one time you got a really bad scrape or cut. Use that! Just pour it into a spray bottle, spritz, and wipe clean. (On a side note, medical professionals are saying skip hydrogen peroxide on cuts and stick to just soap and running water, so this is a great way to use it up.) Hydrogen Peroxide is great at killing germs and bacteria, and while you may remember that it stings on a cut, it's pretty safe for humans overall. In fact, the CDC recommends it as a cleaner for healthcare facilities. If it's good enough to clean a hospital, who are we to say it's not good enough to clean your kitchen? In fact, there is even research showing that hydrogen peroxide was better at killing a specific bacteria than bleach (chemically known as sodium hypochlorite) (1).
Another reason we say to disinfect only when you need to is because disinfecting too often can promote the growth and spread of superbugs. How you ask? Well, you know how pretty much every bottle of disinfectant you buy says it kills 99.9% of germs? Think about that 0.01% that it doesn't kill. Those are the strongest of the strong bacteria, viruses, and germs. When you disinfect regularly (without a real need to) you are regularly killing off the weak and only leaving the biggest, baddest germs to reproduce. That means that over time, we are just getting stronger and stronger germs that are able to withstand the most powerful cleaners we have (2, 3). [This is the same thing that is happening because of the overuse of antibiotics, too. Just in case you were wondering.]
If you need to disinfect and you don't have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide around, plain ol' white vinegar will also do the trick. Yes, your whole house may smell like vinegar for a couple of minutes, but it will be clean, disinfected, and the smell will disappear quickly, we promise. Check out our whole DIY cleaning guide and recipes for more.
So, next time you really have to disinfect something, don't reach for the bleach or a strong "magic ingredient" cleaner that claims to kill even the harshest germs. Instead, find that bottle from the depths of your bathroom cabinet. If that feels like too much work (or you don't have any hydrogen peroxide), add it to your list for next time you are at the store. It costs next to nothing, disinfects extremely well, and won't bring any dangerous chemicals into your home.