With the rise of the green living movement, many moms have tried out “natural” household cleaning products promoted as effective as and healthier than chlorine bleach. The most notable of these alternative products is vinegar. But is vinegar a disinfectant? Is it effective at destroying household germs? Let’s take a look…
What is Vinegar?
Vinegar is a solution of acetic acid and water. Acetic acid is produced by fermenting fruit, grain, or vegetables; depending on what is being fermented, vinegar can be made to have a variety of flavors. But vinegar is more than a food. White vinegar, a clear vinegar made from grain, is helpful for tasks like cleaning coffee makers, brightening coffee and tea cups, and eliminating odors.
The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting
Before comparing household cleaning products, it’s important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and how each process works to help stop germs from spreading:
- Cleaning physically removes germs by using soap or detergent and water to wash away surface dirt and grime.
- Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or stops them from reproducing.
Vinegar vs. Bleach: Which Works Best?
While vinegar is great for cleaning and physically removing dirt and grime, it’s not effective at destroying harmful household germs, including those likely to lurk on surfaces in the kitchen.
In an experiment testing the strength of vinegar and other homemade products against common foodborne illnesses, researchers discovered that vinegar was ineffective in destroying E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria – three serious pathogens that can make your family sick.
The only product that passed the test? You guessed it … bleach. The experiment found that a diluted solution of chlorine bleach (one teaspoon of bleach combined with one quart of water) was effective against all three of these common kitchen germs.
This helpful chart explains how much bleach you need for various household disinfection tasks.
The lesson here is that while vinegar can be a useful, cost-effective cleaning agent, bleach will be your best friend when it comes to fighting off nasty germs.