Interior Cleaning

7 Natural Disinfectants You Probably Already Own

Try a few of these great alternatives to harsh, potentially toxic cleaning agents.

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Use What You Already Have

If your stash of cleaning supplies is running low, you may be able to skip your next trip to the store by turning to items you already have in your pantry or medicine cabinet. A number of common household products have disinfecting or sanitizing properties that can help you kill germs and keep your house tidy. Note that there are differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting: Cleaning removes dirt and debris, sanitizing reduces the number of germs, and disinfecting kills germs. It’s best to first clean surfaces with soap and water, and then give disinfectants time to sit and soak in so they can effectively do their job. Keep reading to discover the seven best natural cleaning supplies you probably already have on hand.

Rubbing Alcohol

Certain types of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, are effective disinfectants at 70 percent concentration, the typical concentration of rubbing alcohol. Mix these alcohols with aloe vera gel for a homemade hand sanitizer, or use undiluted to kill germs, including influenza viruses and coronavirus. Keep in mind that most drinkable alcohols, such as vodka and gin, do not have a high enough alcohol concentration to serve as disinfectants, but they can be used to polish metal faucets and deodorize fabrics and smelly shoes.

White Vinegar

This pantry staple makes a fine multipurpose cleaner because of its high acidity. Made from a mixture of about 5 percent acetic acid and water, this versatile liquid is safe for sanitizing most surfaces and can kill various food-borne pathogens such as E. coli. It’s effective at cutting through mildew and can be mixed with baking soda to create a foaming solution that is great for scrubbing away tough stains, but it is not strong enough to kill most viruses and is not a defense against coronaviruses like COVID-19.


When life gives you lemons, clean the bathroom! The juice from these highly acidic fruits has antimicrobial properties, and while not strong enough to be classified as a true disinfectant, it can clean hard surfaces and shine faucets and copper pots and pans while leaving behind a pleasant scent. Cut a lemon in half and use it like a scrubber on nonporous surfaces, or mix with vinegar to create a spray.

Related: 12 Ways to Clean House with Citrus

Steam and Hot Water

Yes, just the steam from hot water can be a powerful disinfectant when reaching temperatures above 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam cleaners can kill as much as 99% of dust mites, and bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest that it is an effective defense against viruses. Boiling water can also be used to disinfect objects and fabrics that can withstand both the moisture and the heat, but be careful not to burn yourself!

Related: 10 Times Boiling Water Can Help Around the House

Hydrogen Peroxide

While the name may sound scientific, this compound is essentially just water with an extra oxygen molecule. It can be used an an antiseptic for minor cuts and can break down bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It can also be used to remove stains from fabric, but it will lift off color as well, similar to the way bleach does, so use it carefully.

Related: 12 Surprising Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

Essential Oils

Distilled from plants, essential oils, such as lavender, tea tree, and peppermint, have antibacterial or antiseptic properties on their own and can also be added to homemade cleaning solutions. There is evidence that lavender essential oil in particular can kill antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like MRSA. Mix lavender oil and water for a great linen spray, or vinegar and tea tree oil for a multipurpose cleaner.


Borax is a natural mineral mined from the earth that is a common ingredient in many household cleaners. Dissoluble in water, borax is great for killing mold, bacteria, and removing stains, and it can also be used as a pesticide and insect repellent.

All Natural Disinfectants

Don’t go out to buy cleaners. You likely have what you need already in the house.