Zero Waste Cleaning for a Microbiologist's perspective
Did you know that when it comes to home cleaning most of the time there is no real need to really “disinfect”?
Unless you are living in the hygienic conditions of early 1800 ( I doubt you are) you don’t need the level of disinfection store bought chemicals provvide. Ask yourself what you want to achieve. Do you just want to clean or do you really need to disinfect? If you just want to clean, then hot, soapy water is generally enough. If you want to disinfect, clean first, then disinfect with the least toxic, most biodegradable product that does the job.
When US researchers tested commercial cleaning products against alternatives like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, they discovered that neat vinegar killed a range of household pathogens. Vinegar contains something called Acetic Acid, usually around 5% , that has been proven effective as much as store bough chemicals in killing bacteria ( including Staphylococcus Aureus, Salmonella, E.Coli ) and very effective in killing Influenza Virus and majority of indoor molds, including Aspergillus Niger (=black mold) .
Cleaning vinegar is white vinegar with a higher percent of acetic acid usually 6-8%. White table vinegar usually has 5% acetic acid. In most cleaning solutions you can use cleaning vinegar, white vinegar, or distilled white vinegar interchangeably.
Vinegar works by altering the structure of fats and proteins in the bacterial membrane weakening the structure and causing the organism to collapse or literally burst in some cases [ source: I am a microbiologist , I know this stuff ]. Which is FYI the same thing ethanol does . So is like cleaning the house with the same alcohol I use everyday to clean my laboratory. Except that I can also dress my salad with it :)
That said, the use of vinegard should never replace old good elbow grease.
Don’t you expect that spraying vinegar here and there will make dirt disappear.
Vinegar should be use diluted (2 parts water: 1 part vinegar) in combination with water.
If you don’t like the smell you have two options:
infuse it with herbs or citrus peals and let it soak for a couple of weeks
add essential oils ( if you are a pet owner, use eucalyptus oil because is a natural repellent for fleas!)
!!!! Vinegard cannot be used on all surfaces ( natural stone countertops are very delicate) because of is strong acidic content. It always worh to make a quick search online before sperimenting on something that might get ruined forever. I mean, use common sense.!!!
Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda and Castille Soap is all I use to clean my house, clothes and wash dishes.
The difference between these and the cleaning agent I used to buy is that I can name all the ingredients in this containers, they are not toxic, do not make me cough, sneeze or cry when I use them and I feel confident enough to clean without wearing gloves.
Are you starting to consider making the switch to vinegar?
P.S. Vinegar is edible and biodegradable, so it won't harm the environment. However, since it is an acid, it should be disposed of properly. Don’t pour it pure on the lawn, for example. It will kill plants/weeds and can be used as an herbicide.