Photo: Non-toxic disinfecting

Add infusions or essential oils to your vinegar to cut the acidic smell. (Credit: Chiot's Run via Flickr)

With flu season upon us, toxic cleaners can seem tempting. But natural alternatives like vinegar will usually do the trick.

Of course, there are exceptions. (Pseudomonas, for example, is a strain of bacteria that doesn't react to vinegar and that can be problematic for folks with cystic fibrosis.) If you're concerned about the nitty-gritty, do consult a health-care professional.

Assuming you are in good overall health, natural cleaning agents are a great choice, even when the flu bug strikes.

The two most effective natural disinfectants are vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

White vinegar found in most supermarkets is a five per cent concentration and kills about 80 per cent of germs. It's increasingly effective at higher concentrations, so look for seven per cent pickling vinegar. Buy a couple of bottles and stock up!

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Hydrogen peroxide is simply water with an extra oxygen molecule (H2O2). Unlike chlorine bleach, it breaks down into oxygen and water and is kind to the environment. For most applications, hydrogen peroxide should be diluted to a three per cent concentration, which is how it is usually sold in pharmacies. Store hydrogen peroxide in a dark bottle out of direct sunlight.

On their own, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are each strong germ killers. Used in combination, they're even better!

According to research published in Science News, this pairing is 10 times more effective than disinfecting with either substance alone and more effective than bleach in the kitchen.

Here's the catch: mixing them together cuts their germ-killing power, but using one after the other works well.

So when flu season hits, take a one-two approach:

  1. Wash hard surfaces with vinegar.
  2. Spray the same surfaces with a three per cent hydrogen peroxide.

It doesn't actually matter which disinfectant is used first, but for best results apply one immediately after the other and let the surface dry. (Don't wipe the vinegar or the hydrogen peroxide away.)

Flu season is never fun, but at least disinfecting to keep the germs at bay doesn't have to be toxic!

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