Does Ammonia in Cleaning Products Kill Germs?


Ammonia is a toxic gas common in Earth's atmosphere as well as the atmospheres of other planets, including Jupiter, but you would never use it for cleaning. Instead, you would use ammonium hydroxide, which is ammonia mixed with water. This compound is alkaline, which makes it caustic, and its cleaning action is that of a strong detergent. It's tough on germs, but it isn't listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a disinfectant and isn't a substitute for chlorine bleach.

How Ammonia Works

Because it's alkaline, like lye, ammonia has the ability to combine with fats and oils and turn them into soap. When you clean with ammonia -- or more properly, ammonium hydroxide -- you effectively create a layer of soap on the surface that, because it's wet, easily wipes away with a cloth. Any ammonium hydroxide left on the surface evaporates quickly without leaving streaks, which is why ammonia-based cleaners are recommended for smooth, polished surfaces, such as glass.

Ammonia Isn't a Disinfectant

The question of whether ammonia-based cleaners kill germs is a complex one. Some household disinfecting cleaners contain ammonia, and cleaners sometimes recommend it as an alternative to bleach. The fact that the EPA does not recognize it as a disinfectant, however, means that you shouldn't rely on it for this purpose. It may kill salmonella and e. Coli, for example, while being ineffective against the staphylococcus bacteria. The same can be said for vinegar, which is also often recommended as a disinfectant.


  • Never mix ammonia with bleach. The combination produces dangerous toxic fumes.

Even So ...

Reputable sources, such as Utah State University Extension, recommend mixing ammonia with detergent or with vinegar and baking soda to make an all-purpose household cleaner. Such cleaners may be effective disinfectants simply by virtue of their ability to physically remove microbes from nonporous surfaces.

Got Mold?

The EPA and other government agencies no longer recommend bleach for mold cleanup. Instead, they advise physically scrubbing the mold with detergent. Adding ammonia to a detergent solution increases the cleaning potential of the detergent and makes scrubbing more effective. It won't prevent the mold from growing back, though.

The Bottom Line

Don't rely on ammonia as a disinfectant. It's a strong cleaner that can make cleaning easier, and it may kill some germs, but if you need sterile conditions, use a registered disinfectant, such as bleach. If you have a product containing ammonia that claims to be a disinfectant, it probably contains other disinfecting ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide.

Related Searches

Promoted By Zergnet


You May Also Like

  • How Does Lysol & Bleach Kill Microorganisms?

    Not all household cleaners are created equal. Cleaners, such as bleach and Lysol, contain microorganism-killing properties. There are many cleaners on the...

  • Does Lemon Juice Kill Germs?

    Germs need an alkaline environment in which to thrive and multiply, making lemon juice a natural enemy due to its rich acid...

  • How to Clean with Ammonia

    Ammonia is an active ingredient in many of the expensive cleaning supplies found on store shelves. Save yourself some money and grab...

  • How to Disinfect With Rubbing Alcohol

    Rubbing alcohol usually refers isopropyl alcohol, a chemical substance that is diluted with water to create an effective cleaning substance. Rubbing alcohol...

  • Does Ammonia Kill Mites?

    The powerful chemical ammonia releases harsh scents that clean and disinfect. When working with ammonia, you should leave the windows open and...

  • Ammonia for Cleaning

    Ammonia is a versatile chemical found in many commercial cleaning products. The inexpensive price tag of ammonia makes it an economical way...

  • Quaternary Ammonium: Advantages & Disadvantages

    Quaternary ammonium compounds are nitrogenous organic compounds used as disinfectants in restaurants, hospitals and homes. The basic chemical structure of ammonium is...

  • Does Ammonia Kill Grass?

    Ammonia provides a readily available source of nitrogen, a necessary nutrient for grasses to develop a healthy green color and produce new...

  • Homemade Disinfectant Cleaner for Laundry

    Sometimes it's not enough to get a stain out of a pair of pants or a smell out of the laundry. On...

  • What Germs Does Lysol Kill?

    Germs are microscopic, infection- and disease-spreading organisms that can live in the body and air and on the majority of household surfaces....

Related Searches

Check It Out

22 DIY Ways to Update Your Home on a Small Budget

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!