Cleaning is in the air! To help stretch the household budget, many families are choosing to prepare their own home cleaners and disinfectants.

You may have seen recommendations to use bleach, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or baking soda as a disinfectant to destroy household germs.

But just how effective are they? And what’s the difference? Let’s take a look.

Cleaning is NOT the Same as Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are different tasks with different goals. House cleaning involves the use of water and detergent and often a healthy dose of elbow grease in order to help remove dirt and grime from surfaces.

The goal of disinfection, on the other hand, is to destroy potentially harmful pathogens that can make your family sick.

That’s why after cleaning food-contact surfaces like the kitchen counter, it’s equally important to disinfect.

What is the Most Effective Disinfectant to Use?

Bonus Benefit: Chlorine bleach solutions can also be used to destroy a wide variety of other common foodborne pathogens on hard surfaces, including norovirus2, Campylobacter3, and Staphylococcus4.

In 2009, a team of scientists designed an experiment to test the performance of five homemade house cleaning and disinfecting products against three common foodborne bacteria1 E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

The scientists noted that these bacteria can survive on food-contact surfaces for hours or even days at a time, and that contaminated surfaces may harbor bacteria that can then cross-contaminate other foods. So they wanted to know what works best to destroy these bacteria.

For this analysis, product effectiveness was compared after one minute of exposure to microbes at room temperature. Of the five products tested, only a diluted solution of chlorine bleach destroyed all three common foodborne bacteria. Baking soda was the least effective in destroying the trio of test microbes.

The charts below summarize the research findings.  

Disinfecting Surfaces with Common Household Solutions

(Based on Yang et. al, 2009; all trials included application at room temperature during which solution was left on surface for one minute.)

Disinfecting Surfaces with Common Household Solutions - Website v3

Disinfection Efficacy of Common Household Products at Room Temperature and One-Minute Exposures

(Based on Yang et. al, 2009)

Disinfection Efficacy

*Yang et. al (2009) found bacterial reductions of Listeria monocytogenes were possible when hydrogen peroxide was applied at an initial temperature of 55C for 1 minute.

**Undiluted white vinegar reduced Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli when applied at an initial temperature of 55C for 1 minute.

***Citric acid (lemon/lime juice) reduced Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli when it was applied at an initial temperature of 55 C for 10 minutes at a time. Citric acid reduced Salmonella typhimurium when it was applied at 55 C for 1 minute.


1Yang, H., Kendall, P.A., Medeiros, L. and Sofos, J.N. (2009).  Inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Salmonella Typhimurium with Compounds Available in Households. Journal of Food Protection, v. 72, No. 6, pp. 1201-1208.

2 CDC, “Prevent the Spread of Norovirus”, Online; Available: https://www.cdc.gov/features/norovirus/

3 Government of Manitoba, Canada, “Facts on Foodborne Pathogens”, Online: Available: https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/food-safety/at-the-food-processor/food-safety-program/pubs/foodborne_pathogens_booklet.pdf

4 Ibid.