Let's quash for good the notion that only harsh and harmful chemicals can kill germs and bacteria.
Scientists fear that antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan actually may encourage drug-resistant stains by selecting bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics. “After years of overuse and misuse…bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance, which has become a global health crisis,” Tufts University School of Medicine researcher Stuart B. Levy reports in “Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern.” “The relatively recent increase of surface antibacterial agents or biocides into healthy households may contribute to the resistance problem.”
Registered as a pesticide, triclosan has a chemical formulation and molecular structure similar to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth—including dioxins and PCBs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that it is a health and environmental risk. And you don’t need it.
Common rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide can be used to safely disinfect utensils and cutting boards—even those used for raw meat. A 1996 study found that hydrogen peroxide, when combined with an equal amount of vinegar, kills salmonella and e-coli. These liquids evaporate quickly so they don’t stick around to kill benign bacteria or promote resistance.
I use hydrogen peroxide to remove mold from the grout between the shower tiles (it’s miraculous!) and to clean my counters and tabletops. Just put some on a warm wet dishrag to wipe down surfaces or put it into a spray bottle. I also like to add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to my whites when I wash them, as a safe alternative to bleach—the most common poison for children under 6—which has been banned from my home for decades. Hydrogen peroxide is also a great spot cleaner for clothes that have been soiled with blood or other proteins. Rub it directly on the spot, let it sit for a minute, rub again and rinse with cold water.
Tea tree oil is a bit expensive, but it’s your big gun when it comes to fighting bacteria, funguses and some viruses. Clinical research has found that it is also effective against many antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To use it, I add 20 drops to 2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap and 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a spray bottle. This is great to have on hand in the bathroom and kitchen, where germs tend to congregate.
And finally, consider grapefruit seed extract when you need some germ-fighting muscle. Generally considered a health supplement that’s taken internally, this broad-spectrum antibiotic substance made from seeds (and sometimes the peel and leaves) of grapefruits and grapefruit trees is more powerful as a cleaning disinfectant than standard hospital preparations. To make a disinfectant spray, add 30 to 40 drops of grapefruit seed extract to 1 quart of water and shake.
Next week we’ll talk about making your cleaning experience divine by adding essential oils.