What Is a Sterilizing Solution?


To sanitize a surface, the number of harmful microorganisms must be reduced to levels that will not make someone sick. A sterilizing solution is a cleaning product that will reduce the number of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms on household surfaces and objects. In contrast, disinfecting a surface is killing 99.9 percent of all microorganisms. Many commercial cleaning products can sterilize objects and surfaces, but you can also make sterilizing solutions at home.

Commercial Sanitizing Solutions

  • Many household cleaners that can be found in the grocery store can also be called sanitizing solutions. These cleaners usually physically remove harmful microbes through cleaning, and cleaning products called "antibacterial" or "disinfecting" can also kill harmful microbes. Many of these commercial cleaning products kill germs with chemicals such as bleach, chlorine or ammonia.


  • Household chlorine bleach is a great way to kill harmful microbes on household surfaces. Most sterilizing solutions use bleach diluted with water. To make a simple sterilizing solution, mix one part bleach to four parts water. For this solution to work best, it needs to stay in contact with the surface or object being sterilized for at least 20 minutes.


  • Surfaces and objects in the home can also be sterilized with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution. To sanitize a room such as a bathroom, wipe down surfaces that people touch frequently, such as toilet and sink handles, with an alcohol solution and allow to dry. Because alcohol evaporates, it can be an effective sanitizing solution for objects such as thermometers that will be put in someone's mouth.


  • Vinegar is a non-toxic acid that has been used as a household cleaner and disinfecting agent for thousands of years. Because vinegar is non-toxic, it can be used to sanitize food preparation areas or utensils. For sanitizing, spray a 5 percent solution of vinegar onto surfaces such as cutting boards, kitchen counters and even bathroom surfaces. Vinegar can even be sprayed onto produce to sanitize it.

Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Many people know that hydrogen peroxide can kill germs on skin, but it can also be an effective sterilizing solution for the home. The bubbles in hydrogen peroxide release oxygen, which kills germs through a process called oxidation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizing solution for fruits and vegetables.

Disinfecting or Sanitizing?

  • Most sanitizing solutions reduce bacteria to levels that are safe for most healthy people, so those with compromised immune systems might need to use a disinfecting product. In order to be classified as a disinfectant, the cleaning product must kill 99.9 percent of all microorganisms on a surface. Most disinfectant products contain chemicals that can be toxic if ingested.

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