Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My New Favorite All-purpose Cleaner/Sanitizer

When I gave up my bottle of bleach water and began working on getting chlorinated cleaners out of my house, I switched to vinegar water.  I hate the smell of vinegar, love the smell of bleach so this was difficult.  Nothing will ever eradicate the cooties in my house like bleach.  It's an amazing substance for sanitizing surfaces, but vinegar does a pretty good job too.

I thought we would all start getting sick when I finally kicked the bleach bottle habit, but after switching I read that too much bleach can lower our immune systems, especially if it enters our bodies.  Well, as much as I was using, it was certainly entering our bodies through respiration. It can also be absorbed into the body through the skin.  We no longer drank or bathed in chlorinated water, as we had moved to the country and were living on water from a deep well, but by spraying it everywhere, I was overexposing my family to what are believed to be its toxic effects. 

Some studies have shown not only a decrease in immune system strength, but a higher incidence of cancer related to daily chlorinated water use.  It's pretty common knowledge that by trying to kill harmful microbials on the skin, we also destroy the beneficial ones, I wonder what it does internally to the beneficial bacteria that we need to survive.

Vinegar is a good sanitizer because, though it doesn't kill microbials as quickly as chlorine, if left on a surface, it creates a hostile environment for these microscopic critters.  It's the high acid level in vinegar and other acidic natural products such as lemon juice that kills them.  Like bleach, vinegar diluted with water is strong enough to clean and sanitize, but without the harsh smell and caustic nature.  Another benefit is that I don't have to worry about someone leaning on a counter or sink that I've just sprayed with bleach and having their clothes ruined by coming into contact with it.  I don't have to worry about my bottle of vinegar sitting on the counter too close to food products.  I don't have to worry about my children using it either, which is nice now that they've reached the age when they can help clean their own bathroom.

But still...the smell.  Vinegar stinks.  I don't mind it in my red cabbage or over a salad, but I enjoy the smell sprayed all over the house about as much as I'd like the smell of mustard or ketchup spread everywhere.  Yuck.  Well I finally, after years of using vinegar water as my sanitizer, started doing something about it.  I started adding lavender essential oil to my vinegar water solution.  Just a few drops in my spray bottle eliminates the strong smell.  Now everyone who believes that natural cleaning products are a good thing recommends this.  I've never tried it because essential oils are so expensive and I never believed that they could overpower the smell of vinegar and thought it would be a complete waste.  But now that I've been trying it, for about two weeks, I have done the math again and reminded myself that I am still saving hundreds of dollars a year by not buying a different cleaning product for every purpose.  Bleach is not expensive and I was using a lot of it, but I can afford to add my few drops a week of oil to my very inexpensive bottle of vinegar water and I like the smell even better than chlorine.  Another benefit...lavender oil is also anti-microbial!  I get to have my cake and eat it too.


  1. I use vinegar and water for our laminate floors that was recommend by lowes when we bought them. I do not like the smell so will have to check into the oils.

  2. Wow. I didn't know that's what was recommended for them. I remember when you used to sell candles and I'd go down to your apt. and smell all the samples. Your house always smelled fabulous! Do you still use them? I have just tried Scentsy and can warm lavender and other oils in the warmer. :)