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2 French Bull dogs and cleaning products and agar plates to test for bacteria

The 11 Most Popular Natural Cleaners Put to the Test

Did you know that your kitchen floor has more bacteria per square inch than your trash can? It has about 830 per square inch and your trash has about 411 per square inch. It’s pretty shocking to hear to say the least. With cleanliness being so important now a days, I started wondering how effective are we at removing these?

Another interesting fact is that a kitchen sponge holds 60 times more bacteria than a pets bowl. Also, your kitchen counters are more germy than your toilet seat.

So where am I leading with this? Well, I was wondering how effective we have been at keeping our homes meaningfully clean. Personally, I avoid any cleaning chemicals that can be harmful from chlorine to PERC. So like many others, I’ve made a choice to use as many natural cleaning products as possible.

However, how effective are they? Am we using them properly? I decided to put that to the test with my two professional germ makers (pictured above) on my kitchen and living room floor. 

Important

Please note I am not a scientist and this information is just to test what things are like in a home setting. Please refer to the cdc.gov for official information.

What Was Tested?

1. Alcohol

2. Castille Soap & Tea Tree Oil

Resource Used: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/naturally-antibacterial-cleaners

3. Lysol Disinfecting Spray

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

5. Vinegar & Baking Soda

6. Vinegar

7. Lemon

8. Witch Hazel Blend

  • 3/4 Cup Witch Hazel
  • 10 Drops Tea Tree oil
  • 5 Drops Eucalyptus

Resource Used: https://www.tipsbulletin.com/homemade-disinfectant-spray/

9. Vodka Blend

  • 1/2 Cup Vodka
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar
  • 60 Drops Tea Tree Oil

Resource Used: https://livesimply.me/homemade-disinfectant-spray/

10. Hydrogen Peroxide Blend

  • 1 1/2 Cup Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 1/2 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
  • 10-15 Drops Lemon Oil

Resource Used: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/naturally-antibacterial-cleaners

11. Rubbing Alcohol Blend

  • 1 1/2 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • Grapefruit Peel
  • Lemon Peel
  • 10-15 Thyme Spriggs
  • 30 Drops Orange Essential Oil

Resource Used: https://www.junehomesupply.com/recipe-citrus-disinfectant-spray/?v=7516fd43adaa

How & Why Were They Selected?

Screenshot from AHREFS program of top diy natural cleaners

Using a tool called Ahrefs that reveals blog post traffic, I put in several key words: DIY Natural Cleaners, Home Made Cleaners and others. This showed me which blog posts were getting the most traffic and based off that I made the assumption that they were the most popular due to website visits.

From those posts, the cleaners were selected. I did my best to chose ones with the least amount of overlapping ingredients for variations sake. 

Key Points

  • 11 Different solutions were tested and a control.
  • They were picked based on the websites offering DIY home cleaners with the most traffic.

How was the Test Performed?

Taped squares on floor to prepare testing of natural cleaners

To set up my test, I separated 10 squares taped out on my floor (I added 2 more after). Each of these squares were set up to seat a different natural cleaner that I found online. I also added a few name brand traditional cleaners, so that I could compare. Lastly, one box will be the control (yay for actually using & remembering something I learned in school).

So they’d be extra germy I walked my two french bull dogs (Charlie & July) and then had them walk all over the area. It felt very scientific.

Agar plates with tape on them for labeling

I ordered some agar plates off of amazon to test for bacteria. Of course I decided to do this in the middle of a pandemic so it took forever for them to arrive, I digress.

Before this experiment I didn’t know what they were, but when I was doing my research I came across them. They contain a growth medium and nutrients that stimulate bacterial growth. AKA germ heaven. Here they are in the perfect environment to grow into colonies by cloning themselves with the rare exception of a mutation. Pretty weird.

Swabbing the Germs

Water bottle with cotton swab on top of dirty floor

Packaged cotton swabs were used to take a test sample of the separate floor spaces. This prevented them from being contaminated and ruining the experiment. Also, they were dipped in a freshly opened water bottle so the water can help the swab and catch as many germs as possible.

This was repeated for each of the 10 tests. 

Different cleaners lined up on the floor for bacteria test

Next they were lined up by cleaner on the floor next to their testing spot. The agar plates were labeled to keep track of each testing ingredient. 

Bright red gloves on hands by a window

Here is a picture of the only rubber gloves that were available on amazon. Just because.

To avoid any contamination from my hands they were used.

Testing Images

Each square was labeled and as well as each agar plate to keep track of the results. After they were swabbed the agar plates were sealed to prevent them from being opened again. The germs replicating can be dangerous so it’s an important step.

Various squares tape on floor to separate natural cleaner test

Here’s a birds eye view of the test. The top right square is the control that no cleaner was used. On each square the cleaning solution was applied and rubbed in for 30 seconds and left for a total of 60 seconds. This kept it consistent and replicated how most people clean using spray cleaners.

The Incubation Period

These instructions were followed for testing the agar plates. They were kept in a sealed plastic box with a lamp inside. The temperature was kept at about 90 Fahrenheit as recommended. 

Agar plates in plastic box with thermometer

I checked on them on day 3 and then on day 5 and took pictures of the fun stuff that grew. 

Key Points

  • Each of the solutions were prepared and labeled along with there testing square
  • Each cleaning solution was rubbed on for 30 seconds and left for a total of 60 seconds before the sample was taken
  • The agar plates were left to be tested for 5 days total in a temperature controlled space of 90 degrees fahrenheit

The Results

Each of these images were taken in this order

  • 3 Days - Front
  • 3 Days - Back
  • 5 Days - Front
  • 5 Days - Back

1. Vinegar

2. Rubbing Alcohol Blend

  • 1 1/2 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • Peel From Grapefruit
  • Peel From Lemon
  • 10-15 Thyme Spriggs
  • 30 Drops Orange Essential Oil

3. Castille Soap & Tea Tree Oil

4. Lysol

5. Hydrogen Peroxide

6. Hydrogen Peroxide Blend

  • 1 1/2 Cup Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 1/2 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
  • 10-15 Drops Lemon Oil

7. Lemon

8. Baking Soda & Vinegar

9. Control

10. Vodka Blend

  • 1/2 Cup Vodka
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar
  • 60 Drops Tea Tree Oil

11. Witch Hazel Blend

  • 3/4 Cup Witch Hazel
  • 10 Drops Tea Tree Oil
  • 5 Drops Eucalyptus

12. Rubbing Alcohol

After doing this experiment, the key take away for me was that none of the cleaning agents were able to remove all bacteria when left on and cleaned in 1 minute.  It’s definitely important to make sure they are left on for the appropriate amount of time or not removed at all so they can work.

With that being said it does seem like the winners were:

Winners

  • Castile Soap & Tea Tree Oil
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Blend
  • Lemon
  • With Hazel Blend

Interestingly enough it seemed the top cleaners contained lemon and tea tree oil. Based on this information, if you are going to make a DIY natural cleaner for quick clean ups I recommend following a recipe including both of those. It also seems like just traditional soap and water are a good method to clean up.

I’d like to redo this test and leave each one for a longer period of time. Also, I’d like to test how good a steamer is at killing germs. I recently ordered one and need to test it with an agar plate.

Losers (May Need More Data)

On the other hand we have the losers that didn’t perform as well. I will say that this wasn’t in a 100% controlled environment so it may just be slightly skewed data. However, this is in a realistic home setting.

  • Vinegar
  • Rubbing Alcohol Blend
  • Vodka Blend
  • Rubbing Alcohol

Most of these contained vinegar or alcohol in them and performed the worse when being tested in 1 minute. It is said that alcohol takes 30 seconds to disinfect, but I did found that 70%  Isopropyl alcohol is the best for bacterial removal. The one used in this test was 91% or vodka which is about 40%.

If I redo this test I would try to use that alcohol and see if there are any changes in the results. If you’re making a DIY home cleaner I would recommend doing the same to get the maximum benefit. It also produces less vapor and odor, reducing any risk of toxic fumes or combustion.

Keep in mind the agar plates exacerbate the amount of bacteria over time so the amounts left right after are significantly less. 

This test was performed using this method as I see many people just spraying on disinfectants and not leaving them on for the specified amount of time. It’s clear that some do help just being sprayed and wiped but for the max benefit they need to be left wet and allowed to air dry.

According to Lysol, to sanitize the area needs to be left wet for 3 minutes and allowed to air dry. To Disinfect, it needs to remain wet for 10 minutes and allowed to air dry. They are not intended to be wiped. Sanitizing is lowering the number of germs to a safe level. Disinfecting is removing nearly 100% of germ on surfaces or objects according to the cdc.

Key Points

  • There were some clear winners and losers with the common ingredient in winners being lemon and tea tree oil.
  • To sanitize something it is important to leave the surface wet for 3 minutes and let it air dry.
  • To disinfect you need to leave the surface wet for 10 minutes and allow it to air dry.

Final Words & Thoughts

To really see which one of these DIY cleaners work best I will like to redo this test and add the information after leaving them on for 10 minutes and allowing them to air dry. When making a quick spray cleaner it seems like lemon and tea tree oil did the best job after sanitizing at a quick rate.

Are you interested in me redoing this test using a longer time period, with other ingredients or using my new steamer? Please let me know by using this contact form or by leaving a comment below. Thank you for reading.

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