Sanitizing is the process of killing bacteria that can potentially cause illness, while regular household cleaning only removes dirt and grime. Both processes are important in maintaining a healthy, clean home. Sanitize bathrooms and kitchens frequently, especially during cold and flu season or if you have very young children or elderly people in your home who are more vulnerable to serious illness. Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar effectively kill bacteria, especially when heated, if you want to avoid chlorine bleach sanitizers.
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To sanitize surfaces, heat undiluted hydrogen peroxide in a saucepan to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the hydrogen peroxide carefully through a funnel into a spray bottle. Spray hard surfaces with hot hydrogen peroxide and wait one minute before wiping with a clean paper towel. Alternatively, spray room temperature hydrogen peroxide on the surface and wait 10 minutes. Heated hydrogen peroxide effectively kills over 99 percent of Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella bacteria. Unheated hydrogen peroxide is effective on E.coli and Salmonella, but does not kill Listeria.
Vinegar, heated and sprayed on hard surfaces, destroys Listeria, E.coli and Listeria after one minute. Room temperature vinegar sprayed on hard surfaces only kills Salmonella, even after 10 minutes. Baking soda is ineffective as a sanitizer.
Sanitizing does not remove dirt and grime. Before sanitizing a surface, wash it with a general all-purpose cleaner or soapy water. To sanitize using chlorine bleach, mix 1 tsp. bleach with 1 qt. water. Make a new solution and store the product in a dark place. Avoid scented chlorine bleach, which is not food-safe, for sanitizing kitchen areas. When deciding whether to use chlorine bleach or another product for sanitizing, weigh out the potential environmental risks of using chlorine bleach against the reduced effectiveness of other products.
Several natural products are extremely effective for everyday cleaning. For a general cleaning product, mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tsp. borax and 1 qt. water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on hard surfaces to remove mold, dirt and grease. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean shower curtains, floors and countertops. Hydrogen peroxide becomes ineffective when exposed to light, so store in a dark bottle.