6 Natural Cleaning Supplies to Safely Disinfect Your Home

Skip the harsh chemical sprays in favor of these safer alternatives. Bonus: They're probably already in your pantry.

Can natural, non-toxic cleaners disinfect your home just as well as traditional ones? In a word, yes. Not only that, the majority of naturally antibacterial disinfectants can be found right in your kitchen and at a fraction of the cost of those harsh chemical cleaners. Natural cleaners are better for your health and safer for children, animals, and the environment. Keep your home spick-and-span with these hardworking ingredients found right in your pantry.

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White Vinegar

Natural Cleaners lemon, vinegar
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White vinegar is made from acetic acid and water, and it's a power cleaner—easily cutting through grease and removing mildew, odors, stains, and wax buildup. Thanks to its high acidity, white vinegar reduces surface bacteria, making it a safe (though slightly less effective) alternative to bleach. Vinegar will work for those who value a safe cleaning method and want to rid their homes of harmful chemicals, but it won't leave surfaces completely bacteria-free.

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Vodka

Because most vodka is 80-proof, or 40% alcohol by volume, it can be used as a disinfectant to remove mold and mildew. Like vinegar, vodka degreases, removes stains, shines fixtures, and refreshes fabric—but without the lingering sour odor. For the most antibacterial power, look for 100-proof vodka (as most store-bought hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol), and let it sit for a few minutes so the alcohol can do its job.

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Lemon

The citric acid in lemons works wonderfully on alkaline stains like soap scum found in bathrooms and kitchens. Lemons can also be used to sanitize non-porous surfaces and shine oxidized metal (hint: use it to make old copper pots and pans sparkle). Lemon also works to reduce bacteria on hard surfaces, though it's less effective than vinegar and commercial cleaners. (It certainly wins in the scent department, though.)

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Hydrogen Peroxide

If you ever got a cut on the playground as a kid, you may already know the familiar sting of hydrogen peroxide in action. Since the 1920s, hydrogen peroxide has been used as an antiseptic on cuts because of its abilities to kill bacteria by breaking down cell walls. It can also kill mold and remove stains on white clothing. But use caution when cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, as it will bleach colorful fibers and etch the surface of stone over time.

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Essential Oils

Essential oils don't just smell great; they also have a wide range of medicinal and healing properties that fight against bacteria and fungus. When added to vodka or a solution of soap and water, some essential oils can enhance the cleaning properties, helping rid your home of mold, mildew, and musty smells. There are a bunch of bacteria-fighting essential oils to choose from, particularly tea tree, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, and patchouli. Scientists continue to study their bacteria-fighting abilities, including their potential use as an antibiotic.

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Steam

The simple combination of water and heat makes for the ultimate economical and chemical-free disinfectant. When heated to at least 200 F, steam eliminates tough stuck-on stains and grease and sanitizes both hard and soft surfaces. Steaming is a slower process—sometimes taking up to 20 seconds to fully sanitize one area. If used properly, though, steam is capable of removing bacteria, germs, dust mites, and other pathogens.

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Honorable Mention: Castile Soap

Castile soap has its roots in the Castile region of Spain. Once made from olive oil, it's now often made from a blend of vegetable oils. Quick to lather, a drop of Castile soap is all that's needed to get dishes, bathtubs, or just about any surface squeaky clean. While the soap generally isn't antibacterial on its own, Dr. Bronner's recommends a homemade solution: Add tea tree essential oil to make your own naturally bacteria-fighting cleanser.

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