I admit that my house is lived in. This may sound homey and comforting, but it also means that peanut butter cookie crumbs linger on my countertops longer than I'd like sometimes. Yes, I clean regularly, but I've always had a love-hate relationship with cleaning products. I have pets -- and, well, precious people live in my house, too. I live with a gnawing worry that all that guerilla warfare sanitizing stuff isn't so great for the folks and critters I'm trying to protect.
The green movement comes in very handy here. I'm not talking about those hideously expensive "natural" cleansers that may or may not work. There's actually a very easy way to create an all-purpose cleaner that's effectively, safe and inexpensive. Stick with me for a second, and I'll explain. It's worth the wait.
A One-Two Cleaning Punch to Kill Germs
It turns out that a combination of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar is almost as effective as stronger cleansers like bleach when used in combination. It gets better: When exposed to light or heat, hydrogen peroxide undergoes a chemical change and converts to pure water (that's why HP is sold in a dark bottle). That means it starts out as a powerful disinfectant, but after spraying it around, you end up with simple water. You don't have to rinse surfaces afterward or worry about chemical residue -- because there isn't any. When used in tandem with vinegar, the combination is totally safe and very effective at killing bacteria.
Here's how it works: Hydrogen peroxide is actually a souped up water molecule that contains oxygen. When exposed to light (or heat), the oxygen, a strong antibacterial agent, is released. It produces germ killing bubbles and dissipates completely, leaving a simple (and safe) water residue behind. Vinegar itself is an effective acidic ingredient that has germ busting properties too.
Hydrogen peroxide is odorless and colorless, and the vinegar smell will dissipate a couple of minutes after spraying. Think of these ingredients as the dynamic duo of kitchen cleaning. If you want to do some additional research on the science, take a look at Ellen Sandback's book Green Housekeeping, or check out the Daily Spark Healthy Lifestyle Blog. I've also written about this cleaning solution in a TLC article: 5 Tips for Disinfecting Your Countertops
How to use Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar in Cleaning
To work properly, this cleaning solution requires a two part process:
Spray vinegar (in my case, lavender vinegar) on a surface and follow up with a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution from a separate sprayer. (This is the concentration you'll probably come across in your market).
Placing the two cleaners together in the same bottle won't work. The vinegar will destroy the peroxide. This is a two fisted approach.
You will need to find (or make) a spray bottle that is completely opaque (light resistant) for the HP. You may be able to find a screw on pump sprayer nozzle that will fit the peroxide bottle, though.
How to Make Lavender Vinegar
To keep my kitchen clean and sweet smelling, I go one step further and infuse the vinegar with lavender. Lavender has antibacterial properties of its own and leaves behind a nice fragrance after the vinegar evaporates.
There are two ways to make scented lavender vinegar:
With essential oil (fast)
- Lavender essential oil is inexpensive, and one small bottle goes a long way.
- For lavender scented vinegar, add 8 drops of lavender oil to every cup of distilled white vinegar.
- Combine and shake.
- The preparation is ready to use right away. It will last for months in your cupboard.
The second method uses fresh or dried lavender buds:
- Combine 1/2 cup of dried lavender buds (or 1 cup of fresh buds) with 1-1/2 cups distilled white vinegar.
- Place the buds in a quart jar, bruise them slightly with a wooden spoon and then pour warmed vinegar (not boiling) over them.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with wax paper, add the lid and let the vinegar infuse for three to four weeks, shaking it occasionally.
- The completed infusion should have a vinegary smell with lavender undertones. The vinegar odor will dissipate but the lavender fragrance will linger.
- When the mixture is ready, strain it through cheese cloth or a coffee filter before putting it in a spray bottle.
I've been using HP and vinegar to clean for years. It's effective and inexpensive. I don't use it for heavy-duty bathroom jobs, but I do use it extensively in the kitchen. I also wash the kitchen floor with it. It's good for cleaning:
- Refrigerator Gaskets
- Stovetops and range hoods
- Toys (pet and human)
- Around food bowls
- Around kid play areas
- Door knobs and drawer pulls
- Small appliances
- Faucets and faucet handles
Special note: I use straight vinegar with hydrogen peroxide to clean produce from the garden or market sometimes, and to rinse egg shells. Although I don't use it to clean meats, poultry or fish, it can be used to clean and disinfect most types of food ingredients safely. No kidding. No rinsing necessary.
Sandbeck, Ellen. "Green Housekeeping." Scribner, 2008
Sumner, Susan. Daily Spark. "How to Disinfect Your Home -- Naturally." http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=how_to_disinfect_your_home_naturally
U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "An Ounce of Prevention Keeps the Germs Away." http://www.cdc.gov/ounceofprevention/docs/oop_brochure_eng.pdf
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Food Safety at Home." 2006. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118524.htm?utm_campaign=Google2&utm_source=fdaSearch&utm_medium=website&utm_term=keeping%20kitchen%20clean&utm_content=8
University of Oklahoma. "Can Your Kitchen Pass the FDA's Food Safety Test?" 2004. http://www.ou.edu/oupd/kittest.htm