14 Bleach-Free Surface Disinfectants

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A mix of chlorine bleach and water is an effective household disinfectant (and it’s cheap too!), but the bleach is pretty harsh on fabrics, skin and the environment (and a bit stinky too). The good news is that you can still make homemade bacteria busters using fresh or dried herbs, essential oils, vinegar and other basic items you likely have in your home already. These will not only fight germs and bacteria, but most also smell a lot fresher too ;).

Bottled Herb InfusionFirst, here are a few notes:

  • Test surfaces first just to make sure the recipe won’t cause any damage or stains (especially on marble/granite).
  • When using fresh or dried herbs, select those that are pesticide free.
  • Unless otherwise noted, use a large spray bottle (16 oz) and shake before each use.
  • Distilled water is ideal but bottled or from the tap is fine too.
  • Unless directed otherwise, use regular white household vinegar.
  • The sprays can be used on countertops, doorknobs, light switches, cutting boards, etc. Avoid using on fabrics or upholstery unless you’re sure the colors won’t be affected (test a hidden spot).

Ready to get started? Here ya go…

Hydrogen Peroxide & Vinegar: (for countertops) Spray surface with hydrogen peroxide then spray a layer of vinegar over top. Wipe clean.

Hydrogen Peroxide & Tea Tree Oil: 3 cups water, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, 2 TBS lemon juice (freshly squeezed), 10 drops tea tree oil.

Tea Tree Oil & Lavender: Fill a 16 oz spray bottle 1/4 full with equal parts tea tree oil and lavender essential oil. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake before each use.

Lavender Spray: For every cup of water add 20 drops lavender essential oil.

Herbal Infusion: Lavender buds, mint, rosemary, sage, apple cider vinegar. Directions: Fill a large mason jar halfway with equal parts of the above herbs (can be fresh or dried). Fill to near the top with apple cider vinegar, seal jar and allow to infuse in a sunny window for 6 weeks before using (strain first).

Borax & Water: Mix 1/2 cup of Borax per gallon of water. Shake before each use.

Borax & Vinegar: Pour 2 tsp Borax and 4 TBS vinegar into bottle then top with water. Shake to mix.

Rosemary: Mix 1 teaspoon rosemary essential oil with 2 cups of water.

Pine: Mix 12 drops of pine essential oil with 1/2 teaspoon denatured alcohol and 2 cups water.

Grapefruit Seed Extract & Lemon: 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 5 drops grapefruit seed extract, liquid castile soap (just a drop will do), 10 drops lemon essential oil.

Citrus Vinegar Infusion: Fill a large, wide mouth jar with citrus peels (such as lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits). Cover the peels with vinegar and allow to infuse for four weeks, shaking the jar occasionally. Strain then fill a spray bottle 1/4 full with the vinegar and top the rest with water. Source.

Thyme: 2 1/2 cups water, 1 handful thyme (fresh or dried), vinegar, liquid castile soap (squirt). Directions: Boil water, add thyme. Simmer for several hours over medium-low heat, covered. Cool, then strain. Pour the water into a spray bottle, top with white vinegar and squirt of soap. Use as needed. Source.

Vodka Mix: Liquid dish soap (just a quick squirt), 2 TBS vodka, 10 drops lavender essential oil, 5 drops oregano essential oil, water.

Vinegar: Mix equal parts water and vinegar (or straight vinegar), spray surface.

Tip: You can substitute the essential oils as you like, here are a few that have good disinfectant qualities: cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, lavender, peppermint, pine, rosemary, thyme.

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Published: January 11, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
24 Comments to “14 Bleach-Free Surface Disinfectants”
  1. lainie says:

    You should do some research on oil of oregano.

  2. Donna says:

    What about granite countertops? Are these items harmful for granite countertops?

  3. Beth Franklin says:

    Wouldn’t the tea tree and lavender one be incredibly expensive? 4 oz of pure essential oil could be upwards of $20! Just wondering.

  4. laura says:

    tea tree oil is very expensive, but it is AMAZING it is good for SO many things, and honestly, you don’t have to use much of it. I actually just ordered two tea tree trees to grow at home because I love and trust tea tree oil so much!

  5. Anna @ Feminine Adventures says:

    Love the list! Like Beth mentioned, some of them may be expensive, but that’s the beauty of having so many options–use what you have on hand or can obtain easily.

  6. Jill says:

    be careful using essential oils on surfaces cats might step on or come into contact with, they’re very sensitive to them – it damages their liver, and the damage can be cumulative over time, too.

  7. Crystal says:

    “Tea Tree Oil & Lavender: Fill a 16 oz spray bottle 1/4 full with equal parts tea tree oil and lavender essential oil. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake before each use.”

    If I’m reading this correctly, that is 2 oz each of tea tree oil and lavender eo…right?

    That’s at least $20 worth of oils? I’m sorry, but how is that even reasonable? Is this recipe correct?

    • Ta Granados says:

      You are probably correct in calculating the appearance of the cost of oils. However, there are different ways to save. If you are buying therapeutic grade oils you would not use them in cleaners. You would use them internally or in a carrier oil to address symptoms (or whatever method you prefer). When those high quality oils you buy get a little old or rancid, retire them for using in cleansers. Be sure you know your source. Maybe contact the guy at the Phytotherapy Institute (Jimm Harrison, I think). You can’t just buy blindly from multi level people, Whole Food or from unknowns. When you calculate the cost savings from not being sick, disabled, etc down the road it is a savings.In my opinion EO’s in these recipes are for minor aromatherapy pleasantries so maybe just buy the cheapest you can find on the internet. The point is to not use toxic chemicals in your home and maybe enjoy the smell at the same time! Works for me!

  8. Bobbie says:

    When I go to big box stores, I buy Listerine, put it in a spray bottle to do counter tops and cutting boards.

  9. lynne says:

    My daughter is an environmental biologist and is quite concerned with people disinfecting everything in sight. When it comes to meat and fish, yes, be careful to clean the prep area and utensils properly but what’s the sense in disinfecting everything in your home then going to the market and picking up a product that’s been handled by 20 other people and their germs? That’s where you’re contacting most illnesses from. Like the old saying ” you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.”

    • Lesli says:

      Gramma used to say, and I say to my kids, “A little dirt doesn’t hurt.”. :)

    • Jenn says:

      So true! We are actually getting sicker as a culture because we aren’t introduced to bacteria at an early age, and therefore aren’t able to fight anything off.

    • Nancy says:

      Thank you Lynne!!! My doctor advised me not to use so much of the liquid antibacterial gel, as I need to develop anti-bodies and germs are always evolving.

  10. Taylor says:

    A few drops (5-10) of tea tree oil into a cup of white vinegar will clean off mold in an instant. The tea tree oil is a natural mold retardant so it will be slow to come back too. Had a problem with mold on the drywall above a shower, but it’s a rental so we can’t replace it. Tried all sorts of products even resorting to chemicals I never use… Nothing worked easier or faster than vinegar and tea tree oil! It’s been 5 weeks and no sign of a speck of mold yet…. :)

  11. Trisha says:

    Ive a question. I just found that the distilled White Vinegar is made with GMO corn. Im bummed. I really dont want any GMOs ending up in my water supply. Whats a good substitute? White wine vinegar wouldnt be cost effective. Help!

  12. candy says:

    you can get essential oils for good prices from ebay, tea tree oil only takes a few drops, i use it for lots of things and 4oz lasts me a year.

  13. D says:

    If you constantly dissenfect ALL THE TIME.. you are doing more harm than good. By eliminating germs, you’ve actually dissabled your body from being able to build up antibodies to FIGHT against them.

    Why do you think so many kids so allergic to so many things today. Because they aren’t allowed to go outside and just play, get dirty and have fun. Their parents are keeping them too clean! It’s good to dissenfect food prep areas often. But not your house all the time. If you do a serious clean maybe twice a month.. that is MORE than enough. Just don’t dissenfect EVERY time you clean. You are really doing more harm than good.

  14. CJ says:

    The only issue I keep running into.. I’m allergic to lavender…

  15. Sue says:

    Here’s an easy one..mix one part vodka (grain alcohol) with 2 parts water in sprayer. Makes a great disinfectant and glass cleaner, kills mold, etc. If you google vodka uses, you will find that it’s not just for drinking. :- ) I don’t drink at all, but find this to be wonderful to use and I buy the cheap stuff, not the high in price and it lasts a long time.

  16. David says:

    I like to use ionic silver for cleaning dills smells and everything nasty .


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