As the owner of a green-cleaning company, it is my responsibility to determine which products actually work. It is not enough for a product to make things look and smell nice; it must sanitize or disinfect, or it’s just cosmetic.
The term “disinfectant” can only be stated, by law, on the labels of products that have been proven to destroy or irreversibly inactivate 99.999 percent of infectious bacteria and/or fungi of specific microorganisms, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s detailed guidelines. To be registered as a “sanitizer” requires a smaller reduction of 99.9 percent. (From Healthy Clean Buildings website, avl.mx/pl.)
Ensuring that your green-cleaning products sanitize or disinfect is especially important in the kitchen. Researchers say disease-causing bacteria and germs from uncooked eggs, meats and vegetables often work their way onto countertops and cleaning tools, and the dampness of sponges, dish cloths and scrubbers provide san ideal breeding ground for these microbes. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find hard scientific proof of green-cleaning products’ properties, since no one is funding such research. One can find endless claims of the anti-fungal, -bacterial, -microbial properties of various essential oils and other favorite “green” cleansers online, but truly peer-reviewed scientific research on the subject is nonexistent. However, I have been able to find peer-reviewed scientific research in journals directed toward the food-preparation industry that has crossover interest for household cleaning.
And sometimes the greenest solution is also the simplest solution.
To easily kill bacteria on kitchen counters or cutting boards, keep a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a spray bottle of white vinegar on hand. Spray them both on counters or cutting boards to kill bacteria. This is based on a study by a Virginia Polytechnic Institute food scientist who discovered that a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution — the same strength available at the drug store — and plain white or apple cider vinegar, when sprayed one after the other, effectively kill germs. It doesn’t matter which you use first: You can spritz with the vinegar then the hydrogen peroxide, or vice versa. Tests showed that pairing the two mists killed virtually all salmonella, shigella and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion.
Suzanne Wuelfing is the owner of Shine Green Cleaning Co., a home, office and post-construction cleaning company in Asheville that provides high-detail, green-cleaning services with an emphasis on reliability, security and customer service. Shine’s guiding principles are taking pride in a job well done, making a difference in clients’ lives and creating local, living-wage jobs.