natural disinfectant

This or That: Bleach vs. Vinegar to Kill Germs

Chlorine is an effective disinfectant solution, but it's hard on your lungs and bad for the planet. Is vinegar a better alternative?

This or That: Bleach vs. Vinegar to Kill Germs

Fill that spray bottle with a greener cleaner.

Anyone who has, perhaps too eagerly, used chlorine bleach to crucify the germs living on a countertop, a cutting board, bathroom grout, or anywhere else probably knows that the harsh cleaner can singe your nose hairs, if not leave you gasping for breath. However, food-safety experts insist that it's the only material that should be used as a disinfectant solution against foodborne illnesses, and many bathroom-grout scrubbers are convinced that it's the only cleaner that will remove tough mildew stains. Could they be missing an equally effective alternative? Or is vinegar disinfectant best used as a second-string solution?

This: Chlorine Bleach

Pros: Chlorine bleach is an extremely effective germ killer. It's one of the only household cleaning materials regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means that it's been tested and shown to kill microorganisms, such as the E. coli, responsible for many cases of foodborne illness. And it takes just a small amount to do this—1 part bleach to 4 parts water—so you can stretch a bottle for quite some time.

Cons: The production process for chlorine bleach is pretty nasty; it releases cancer-causing dioxin as well as brain-damaging mercury into the air surrounding chlorine plants. If you have kids in the house, you need to take precautions: According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, chlorine bleach poisoned 14,400 children under age 6 in 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

That: Vinegar

Pros: The vinegar you buy in stores, whether apple cider, balsamic, white, or another kind, contains 5 percent acetic acid, which does have antimicrobial properties. Various studies have found that vinegar, usually in combination with table salt or hydrogen peroxide, can inhibit the growth of some strains of E. coli. It's also an effective mold killer. Its production doesn't take such a toll on the environment, and while it can be pungent, a whiff of vinegar cleaning mix won't sear your airways.

Cons:So does vinegar kill germs? The exact science is a little murky. When it comes to food safety, vinegar hasn't been as thoroughly tested as chlorine bleach. Studies that find it kills germs are generally vague in terms of how much of the germs are killed and how much are left behind. While we often recommend it for general cleaning, it would be great to have more specifics on its germ-killing capabilities, especially for people who have someone with a compromised immune system in their home, or some other reason to be extra concerned about germs. Also, some people do have a problem with the smell (though it's odorless once it dries).


Published on: September 28, 2009

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Can anyone tell us which brands of vinegar are made from fermenting with petroleum derivatives? I would like to avoid them. Thank you.

We use vinegar in our professional green maid service

At Planet Hugger in Arizona (and soon to be Calif as well), our cleaning crews have been using Vinegar to clean inside of our client's homes. We find that you can't beat it for being effective at leaving a streak-free finish on certain counter surfaces and floors--- and yes it does kill germs. The germs cannot survive in an acidic environment. For best results, you should leave your vinegar and water solution to sit for a minute or so before wiping to allow it to do its job at killing mold, bacteria and germs. Of course, this is just one of the tools we use. We also have a full range of eco-friendly green household cleaning products that we produce and retail at We are so excited to see people going back to the natural ways of cleaning! So it might smell a bit like your dad's old smelly socks for a short while when you're using the vinegar, but the smell soon dissepates along with any other foul odors (since its good at ridding of odors too), and in its wake leaves a glorius shine! Here's to vinegar!

I use Vinegar!

I have a serious chemical imbalance of the brain a central nervous system and wanted to go "GREEN" in washing my hands, hair, and environment. I make hand cleanser for general use in both the bathroom and the kitchen. I make a cornstarch gel on the stove with water. I add a touch of honey, organic extra virgin olive oil, plenty of apple cider vinegar and rosemary oil. That's the hand cleanser. I bathe first with a cloth and water in the shower and then scrub my whole body with 12 oz. of water and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Rinse well. I smell good and feel very clean. Also I use baking soda on my scalp to cleanse my hair. Rinse with water. Afterwards, I put 12 oz of water and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar into plastic cup and rinse the ends of my hair. Physically, I have been feeling better. I plan to do much more with vinegar for household use, both diluted and full strength.

This or That: Bleach or Vinegar to Kill Germs?

I think this was a really good useful article about using bleach or vinegar. Thanks.

Vinegar as an Disinfectant

There are more concentrated forms of vinegar,used as a safer weed killer. Very hard to find. Would this type be more effective?

Bleach or vinegar to kill germs

This article was helpful but could use a little more detail. Should vinegar and hydrogen peroxide be used full strength? How do you dilute the salt? After the big spinach recall we have learned that E. Coli can be inside your vegetables, so all the cleaning in the world won't help that. Killing too many germs can lead to a weakened immune system and eventually lead to auto-immune disorders, so I'd say don't be too obsessive about sterilizing your home. Caution with meats can't be under rated though! I recently saw that boric acid is good for killing dry rot and that there is a boric acid gel that is supposed to be able to seep below the surface to eradicate the fungus that causes it--don't know if that's true.

exterior mold on deck/house

Will vinegar work as well as bleach on exterior surfaces? To prepare decks, houses etc for painting the mold needs to be killed and the dirt washed off with power washing. My husband uses bleach most of the time. He has used vinegar but he says it is not effective. Is there some technique to make vinegar an effective exterior mold killer?

Bleach or Vinegar to Kill Germs?

This info.was very helpful.I did know that vinegar was a germ killer, but I didn't know it worked well as a surface-mold killer, opt for the natural is always the best way to go. The info. on cutting boards was also helpful. Thank you,

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