Healthy Holiday Cleaning

December 2012
The holidays are here and gifts aren’t the only things we are bringing home to our families…
 …dirt, germs, colds, viruses, and anything else that lingers in those crowded stores and on those crowded lines are coming home with us!
Whether we like it or not, it’s true, which is why I cannot think of a better time to start cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting my home. But what is the difference between the three?   
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three levels of cleaning:
Cleaning a surface removes soil, dirt, dust, organic matter, and germs (bacteria, fungi, viruses). Cleaners work by lifting dirt and germs off surfaces so they can be rinsed away by water. The same concept applies when washing dishes or washing hands with soap and water. Rinsing is an important part of this cleaning process. I use natural, homemade cleaners to clean my home.  I have many green cleaning tips and recipes on my blog that you can use to help keep your home healthy and clean. 
Here is my favorite recipe for an all-purpose cleaner:
  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid Castile soap
  • 1 teaspoon Borax
  • 1 teaspoon of washing soda
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 25-30 drops of essential oil (Tea Tree, Grapefruit, and Eucalyptus)
  • 24 ounce spray bottle
Mix the castile soap, Borax, washing soda, and vinegar in a large bowl or measuring cup. Add water. Allow to cool. Add essential oils. Pour into spray bottle using a funnel. Spray. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe area.  
Sanitizing reduces germs from surfaces but does not get rid of them completely. Sanitizers reduce the germs from surfaces to levels that are considered safe. 
Try this recipe to sanitize food preparation areas:
·         A spray bottle filled with undiluted white vinegar
·         A dark colored or opaque spray bottle filled with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide degrades if it is exposed to light or heat. 
Spray the area to be sanitized with one bottle, then the other. The order doesn’t matter. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide cannot be kept in the same bottle because hydrogen peroxide breaks down to water easily. Spray. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe area.
Disinfecting destroys (or inactivates) germs which prevents them from growing. Disinfectants have no effect on dirt, soil, or dust. 
When disinfecting, always clean first. An unclean surface cannot be disinfected. Thoroughly clean all surfaces to remove soil and stains before applying a disinfectant. Most disinfectants require a dwell time between one minute and ten minutes, all depending upon the product. 
Here are some great homemade disinfectant recipes that I use at home:
·         Mix 50 ml of eucalyptus oil with a quart of water. Shake well. Pour into an opaque container. Spray. Wipe with a microfiber cloth. Be careful when handling eucalyptus oil. It can cause skin irritation in its undiluted form.
·         If you are not fond of eucalyptus oil, try this recipe: Mix 10-20 drops of grapefruit seed extract with one gallon water. Pour into a spray bottle and spray.
·         Another useful disinfectant can be made by mixing 2 cups distilled water with 1 ½ - 3 teaspoons liquid castile soap and 1 teaspoon tea tree oil. 
·         For larger areas in your home, mix ½ cup borax with 1 gallon hot water and 3% hydrogen peroxide.
Cleaning our homes is a great way to reduce germs, but don’t forget about washing your hands. Proper handwashing is the single, most important way to prevent infection. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Soap doesn’t kill germs. The friction of rubbing your hands (top, bottom, and in between fingers) loosens bacteria so it washes away. 
Washing hands with soap that contains essential oils that have natural antibacterial properties, like lavender or tea tree, make every scrub work even harder.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and germ-free holiday season!
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