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Which Cleaning Solution is the Best?

When considering cleaning supplies, there are many different concerns that people have. Is it safe for the environment? How effective is it? What about these DIY mixtures online? Given all these concerns, it can be hard to know if what you’re using really is safe and effective. Luckily, scientists have already looked into this.

Based on multiple studies, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar solutions were the most effective at disinfecting surfaces, with bleach being the most effective against all the bacteria tested. It was effective at room temperature (Yang, Kendall, Medeiros, & Sofos, 2009) in as little as 30 seconds (Rutala, Barbee, Aguiar, Sobsey, & Weber, 2000). According to Rutala et al., (2000), a 1:10 solution of bleach was one of the only solutions effective against the poliovirus. If you don’t want to use bleach, hydrogen peroxide was the second best cleaner to disinfect surfaces (Yang et al., 2009). It may even be safer for the environment because it breaks down into hydrogen and water. However, it was most effective when heated to 55°C (131°F) and breaks down quickly when exposed to light.

If you were looking for a non-commercial, alternative solution, vinegar was the best when compared to other alternative cleaners (Olson, Vesley, Bode, Dubbel, & Bauer, 1994). However, it was most effective when heated to 55°C (131°F) (Yang et al., 2009). Olson et al. (1994) also mention that something that may help with cleaning is disinfecting the sponge when cleaning multiple surfaces. This will limit any cross-contamination.

It would seem that bleach is the most effective cleaner, especially at a 1:10 bleach solution (which can be made by mixing ¼ cup of bleach with 2 ¼ cups of water). Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar may be safer for the environment and to use around pets. However, these are most effective when heated before cleaning. So, pick your cleaner and let your home be germ-free!


Further Reading:

Olson, W., Vesley, D., Bode, M., Dubbel, P., & Bauer, T. (1994). Hard surface cleaning performance of six alternative household cleaners under laboratory conditions. Journal of Environmental Health, 56(6), 27+.

Rutala, W. A., Barbee, S. L., Aguiar, N. C., Sobsey, M. D., & Weber, D. J. (2000). Antimicrobial Activity of Home Disinfectants and Natural Products Against Potential Human Pathogens. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 21(01), 33–38.

Yang, H., Kendall, P. A., Medeiros, L., & Sofos, J. N. (2009). Inactivation of listeria monocytogenes, escherichia coli O157:H7, and salmonella typhimurium with compounds available in households. Journal of Food Protection, 72(6), 1201–8.

By Amanda C. Mirando


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