Hey friends! As we all adapt to our mostly indoor, socially distanced lives (for the time being), I think we’re all taking a closer look at our homes and the GERMS that reside within in a whole new light. Suddenly our organic, eco-conscious selves are questioning our usual methods of cleaning our spaces. Are those natural products really going to keep us safe from the coronavirus and other potential superbugs? It’s hard to say. There’s still so much to learn about this new virus, how it spreads, and even how it DIES! We’re not experts here, but with the information we have available to us, let’s take a look at what we DO know...
According to the Center for Disease Control, the primary way that the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads is by people who are the most contagious (aka the most symptomatic) sharing their respiratory droplets with the rest of us. And that’s why we’re staying home! Minding the new rules of social distancing, many of us are adjusting to working from home with kids who are out of school. So how do we keep our homes safe without employing every toxic chemical known to man? Great question! We’ve been wondering the same thing.
Although the main way that the virus spreads isn’t necessarily from contaminated surfaces or objects, it’s still best to cover all our bases and take every possible precaution (without completely losing our minds). The good news is that COVID-19 is one of the easiest viruses to kill. The virus is able to merge with and infects other cells because of the permeable coating, or envelope, that surrounds it. If we disrupt that coating, the virus can’t function normally, and we win!
Our Top Picks for All-Natural Cleaners
For those of us who are mindful of sticking to eco-friendly cleaning products whenever possible, we’re in luck. Mother Nature has us covered! Here are some natural ways to clean your dwelling spaces…
Cleaning (almost everything) with Vinegar
If you’re sensitive to chemical cleaners, then I’m guessing you’re already well aware of the cleaning power of plain ol’ vinegar. The vinegar most of us have probably picked up at Costco has a 5% concentration of acetic acid, which kills about 80% of germs. For regular everyday life, this might be enough for you. In this season of battling COVID-19, we want to do better than that. If you’re going to do real cleaning with vinegar, you need to buy actual cleaning vinegar. Cleaning vinegar is 6% acid, upping the disinfecting game by a whopping 20%.
Before you go wiping down and spraying everything with vinegar, make sure that the surface you want to clean can handle it. Vinegar is acidic by nature, which means it’s not the best choice for marble countertops (or countertops made of any natural stone). You CAN, however, use it to wipe down windows, mirrors, walls, baby toys, high chairs, and pretty much anything plastic.
To create your own vinegar cleaning solution, mix 1 part water with 1 part cleaning vinegar, plus an optional drop or two of liquid soap to a glass spray bottle. For more on cleaning with vinegar safely, check out this article by Real Simple: You Can Use Cleaning Vinegar to Clean Everything—Except These 5 Things.
The Pros and Cons of Cleaning with Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most eco-friendly cleaners we can buy. Although “peroxide” sounds like it could be super toxic, it’s made up of only oxygen and water. It’s not acidic or corrosive like vinegar, it won’t damage metal, and it’s kind to the environment. But can it clean? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.” The CDC also notes that 3% hydrogen peroxide effectively wipes out the common cold (rhinovirus) within 6 to 8 minutes.Seeing as how the rhinovirus is harder to kill than the coronavirus, we can safely assume that hydrogen peroxide will knock out the coronavirus even faster.
If hydrogen peroxide is going to be your cleaner of choice, there are a few things you should know...if you don’t already. First of all, keep it away from fabrics. If you can remember bleaching your hair by spraying peroxide in it and laying in the sun, then you can imagine what it will do to your outfit or even your sofa! Secondly, hydrogen peroxide must be kept out of the sunlight… which is why it’s sold in those dark brown bottles. And lastly, to get a thorough cleaning, spray undiluted hydrogen peroxide onto a surface and then let it sit for several minutes before wiping the area down.
Vinegar + Hydrogen Peroxide = Winning
To double-up on your germ-killing superpowers, use BOTH vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your home. While mixing the two ingredients reduces their cleaning abilities, using them one after the other increases their effectiveness beyond that of bleach! For maximum results, spray a surface with either vinegar OR hydrogen peroxide, then immediately follow with whichever one you didn’t use first. Now avoid the temptation to wipe it off and let the surface air dry. Voila! Squeaky clean. I don’t know about you, but this could be my new go-to for toilets, sinks, and countertops! Just be sure to test it out on a small, hidden area first if you’re not sure about vinegar on your counters.
Want to know more about naturally disinfecting your surfaces at home? Check out our friends over at Branch Basics for more information and some really great cleaning products, too!
Essential Oils… do they really work?
Most of us around here are already sold on the benefits of essential oils. We’d opt for a plant-derived natural product (that also smells amazing!) over toxic chemicals any day, right? I don’t want lingering chemicals hanging around and harming the health of my people OR my animals. There are all sorts of claims flying around the internet right now about the ability of things like oregano oil or colloidal silver to kill COVID-19. Is it true? It’s hard to say. We know that pure essential oils definitely reduce unwanted microbes in our lives. But whether or not they can destroy COVID-19 is uncertain because of how new this virus is. (If you know something more about this than we do, please let us know!)
Whether or not essential oils completely annihilate COVID-19, we still see them as a good choice for cleaning. Not only do essential oils give a cleaning boost to our homes, but they also boost our health physically, emotionally, and energetically. Tea tree oil, for example, is well-known as a general-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. The oil is safe enough to be used “neat” (or directly on your skin), it can be added to a spray bottle of water for cleaning, AND it supports respiratory health. While treating coughs and lung ailments, tea tree oil has the added benefit of lifting our spirits. This seems like an all-around great choice for anyone affected by the coronavirus these days!
If you really want to give your DIY cleaners an extra kick, look for potent antiviral essential oils such as oregano oil, thyme oil, cinnamon bark oil, clove bud oil, and more. Just don’t go too crazy with the oils, friends.Too much of a good thing can damage some surfaces, including your own skin. And if you’re one who likes to take essential oils internally, keep in mind that your INSIDE skin is even more sensitive than your OUTSIDE skin. So if an essential oil isn’t safe to be applied topically, you probably shouldn’t be ingesting it, either.
With the wide array of essential oils available, it can seem overwhelming when trying to decide which company to buy from. We’ve found a great resource that lines up perfectly with our values in terms of being eco-friendly and responsibly sourced. Without delving into a whole ‘nother topic, let’s just say that there are too many essential oil distilleries out there who are mass-producing oils with little regard for their effect on the environment and the communities they source from.
You can count on that NOT being the case with anything you buy from Aromatics International. Their site is packed full of information and recipes for making your own essential oil products at home. You can make your own sanitizing spray (or this one) from essential oils you have on hand OR order your own ready-to-go DIY sanitizing kit. And this diffuser blend is perfect for defending you during cold and flu season.
We can’t help but mention our friend Megan at Undecorated Home when we talk about essential oils. Her brand new undecorated_wellness Instagram account provides a constant stream of information and ideas about how to best use doTERRA essential oils to boost the health of our homes and our families. We just love Megan and can’t get enough of her decorating inspo at undecorated_home. Check her out!
What should I clean first?!?
Now that you’ve chosen your favorite natural products and methods for cleaning, it’s time to get busy! Looking at tackling an entire home quickly requires more energy than most of us have right now, so we’d like to suggest target cleaning. No, that doesn’t mean you get to do a Target shopping run (we’re supposed to be staying home, remember?). Target cleaning refers to the cleaning of high traffic areas, the things in our homes that we often touch every single day. And now that your kids are home, too, you can get the whole family involved and knock out your target cleaning in an hour or less! To reduce the risk of transmitting infection within your own home (and even your car), be sure to wipe down the following areas once a day… or up to 3 times per day if someone in your home is showing signs of a respiratory infection.
- House keys
- TV remotes
- Electronic devices
- Cell phones
- Faucet handles
- Drawer and cabinet pulls
- Light switches
- Keyboards & mouses
- Refrigerator & freezer handles
- Door handles (on your car)
- Steering wheel
How to clean your hands without harming your skin!
We can’t talk about cleaning our home spaces without mentioning our hands, the very things that spread all those bad bugs around! (And if you have lots of little hands in your house, then you’ll want to pay attention here.) By now we’ve all seen the videos and graphics showing us how to correctly wash our hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, or long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song. We’re not here to repeat what’s already been said over and over again. But with the push to sanitize our hands, we have to think about the effects of so much cleanliness on our skin!
You’ve probably heard about your gut microbiome. Well, guess what? Your skin ALSO has a natural microbiome, or a home consisting of billions of friendly little organisms that make your skin flora. It’s an invisible eco-system that works hard to keep you and your skin healthy. Well, guess what a dose of commercial hand sanitizer does to that eco-system? It wipes it out. In our efforts to kill all the bad things, we’re also wreaking havoc on our good skin bacteria. When we begin to see dry, cracked hands suffering from dermatitis or eczema, then we know we’ve been too harsh with our sanitizing efforts.
How do we clean our hands without damaging them in the process? Soap and water, people. Soap and water are all we need to safely and gently wash away this novel coronavirus. Water washes things away, and friction (when you rub your hands together) is enough to break the COVID-19 protective coating. Well, as some of us are already beginning to find out, this frequent hand washing might be keeping us from spreading germs around, but it’s also drying out our hands real fast. Be sure to follow up each washing with a clean, dry towel and an application of a reparative moisturizer such as. Dr. esthe Dual Barrier Cream to keep your hands healthy.
During times when we can’t use soap and water to clean our hands, hand sanitizers are there for back-up. The problem is, most commercial sanitizers are based in alcohol or triclosan (which is a possible human carcinogen). And then look at the list of questionable inactive ingredients, and we have to wonder if we’re doing more harm than good. If you want to make your own non-toxic hand sanitizer at home, try this recipe from Organic Authority:
Hand Sanitizer Recipe - for a 4 oz spray bottle
- 3 oz 90-proof alcohol
- 1 oz distilled water
- 10–30 drops of lavender, rosemary, or tea tree oil
- Combine water and alcohol in the spray bottle, then add essential oil to your desired strength and fragrance. Shake well before using.
- Spritz your hands 5-10 times, and rub together until dry.
Remember, not all germs are bad germs!
Although it’s tempting to want to wipe out every microbe in our environment these days, it’s important to remember this: being exposed to germs and bacteria actually improves our gut health, which in turn strengthens our immune system! It really is possible to sterilize our homes to the point of our own demise, or at least the demise of our immune systems. This is why it’s often recommended that kids get outside and play in the dirt, or that us grown-ups plant a garden...we need the interaction with the good bugs for optimal health!
While we’re busy killing every germ in existence, our hyper-cleanliness could be creating something worse. Over-sanitizing our homes with chemical disinfectants causes bacteria and germs to mutate into more resistant versions of themselves. It’s true; we’re creating our own superbugs! Let’s not do that, okay?
Our entire goal here is to both inform you and keep you and your family more healthy through a time of global pandemic. Don’t forget to get LOTS of sleep, drink plenty of water, and be extra kind to others. Our response to the issues we’re facing around the world says a lot about who we are, and the people around us need all the grace we have to give. Spread the love (not the germs)!