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5 Natural Ways to Clean and Sanitize Kitchen Surfaces

by Tiffany in Green Cleaning

5 Natural Ways to Clean and Sanitize Kitchen Surfaces

Food-borne illnesses often begin in the kitchen. Bacteria that tend to live in kitchens include staphylococcus, salmonella, shigella dysenteriae, and e-coli. These germs tend to proliferate on sponges and cutting boards, but they can be on countertops and other surfaces as well. I am less of a germaphobe since my green journey began and I fear the harsh chemcial cleaners more than most germs. Since meat rarely makes an appearance in our home anymore I don’t have to worry as much either but I still like to keep things sanitized… as long as it is done safely.

You can combat most kitchen germs with natural remedies. Here are some natural substances and their role in kitchen sanitization.

1. Grapefruit seed extract, or GSE

GSE is an extremely broad-spectrum antibiotic substance. It is made from the seeds (and sometimes the peel and leaves) of grapefruits and grapefruit trees. I use it in this natural carpet cleaner recipe.

According to author and herbal scholar Stephen Harrod Buhner, “GSE has been found to be more powerful as a cleaning disinfectant than standard hospital preparations.” In other words, it works better than the disinfectant the hospitals use! GSE is active against a large number of bacteria, including the ones listed above. It is even effective against haemophilus influenzae, which causes ear infections, sinusitis, and meningitis. To make a disinfectant spray, add 30 to 40 drops to 1 quart of water and shake.

2. Vinegar

An acidic solution, vinegar kills some germs and microbes and inhibits their growth – if it didn’t, it would not be used to preserve foods (think pickles). To make a sanitizing spray from white or apple cider vinegar, mix 1/4 – 1/2 cup vinegar per cup of water. You can add some essential oil of bergamot, orange, or lemon to this solution to make it smell good and add even more antibacterial action (bergamot is a citrus fruit and its essential oil has, like all citrus, antibacterial action). I use white vinegar in my own cleaning as well as Vinegar of 4 Thieves which is vinegar with clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus radiata, rosemary. I get the Thieves oil from Young Living. Love that stuff!

3. Hydrogen peroxide

A 1996 study showed that hydrogen peroxide, when combined with an equal amount of vinegar, is a potent bacteria killer. Salmonella, shigella and e-coli were all vanquished by this solution. You can also spray hydrogen peroxide directly onto countertops, or mix it with an equal amount of water.

4. Tea tree oil

Also an anti-fungal, clinical research has shown tea tree oil to be effective against many antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It definitely works to kill staphylococus, e-coli, shigella, and salmonella. In a spray bottle, combine and shake 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp. liquid soap, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 20 drops of tea tree oil.

5. Neem oil

Neem oil comes from the seeds of a tree that is native to India, and is more than a sanitizer. It is also an insect repellent, and keeping insects at bay is an important component to kitchen cleanliness. It does not dissolve well in water without some sort of emulsifier, such as liquid soap. The best way to make a neem cleaner is to mix the neem oil in a vegetable-based, liquid soap such as castile (think Dr. Bronners). Then, use a few drops of this soap to clean your kitchen counters or try mixing the neem-soap mixture with water in a spray bottle. Shake it well. You can also use Neem Oil spray soaps in your garden and in the shower. I love Neem oil!

Don’t let anyone tell you that green means dirty and germy because it just isn’t so! My younger brother likes to call me a dirty hippie to bait me… well he got the hippie part right at least.

Natural Ways to Clean and Sanitize Kitchen Surfaces

  • Jackie @ Lilolu

    We use Four Thieves all the time but never for cleaning. We use a lot of homemade cleaners but a couple you suggested are new to us. Thanks for sharing.

  • Melynda

    Great post. We try to go as natural as possible with the cleaning at our house. There are a couple on here that I hadn’t heard of. I’m going to try the grapefruit extract. Doe it smell like grapefruit? I LOVE citrusy-smelling things!

  • Summer

    I thought I knew all of the natural cleaners, but I did not know about Grapefruit seed extract! Thanks for sharing it!

  • sheri

    I use vinegar but I think the GSE sounds great! I will definitely look for that. It will put my husbands mind at ease about the germs.

  • smilinggreenmom

    Love these suggestions! We use vinegar and baking soda but I am going to try some of these others now too since I was not always sure that it killed harmful kitchen germs! Going now to read your carpet cleaning recipe -we have been using water only since our son’s Eczema. He has been greatly helped by taking the totally natural Bellyboost probiotics but we are still very careful about what we use for all of our health!

  • shulie

    Which of these can be used on granite counters? I used to use homemade vinegar solution with lemon, but recently read that the acid can damage granite. Thanks!

  • Ive read about how GSE isnt all that safe/natural? Im not sure what to think! I still imagine its much better than chemicals though! I loved the rest you listed, and use many of them already. Im so glad to be nearly chem free :) and working my way towards completely free!

  • Great article. I use Shaklee Get Clean. It is safe, chemical free and “Green” great for our environment; best of all… It works!

  • Deb

    Excellent article! Don’t forget that plain soap (without sodium lauryl sulfate, of course) and water is fine for most simple kitchen cleaning. Though it doesn’t kill germs as effectively, it lifts the microbes off of the surfaces, so that they can be washed away. I spray my sponge with the natural disinfectants and allow it to dry out completely, in order to keep it more sanitary. Wooden cutting boards hold microbes more, but I confess to loving my wooden cutting board (don’t like plastics) so I use it anyway and scrub it well. I don’t have meat much, either, but I always make sure to wash hands before/after handling and to clean surfaces well after handling it.

  • Deb

    Oh, I also learned that thyme has some disinfecting properties.

  • Lalala

    I can prove that vinegar just DOES NOT work to clean bacteria on countertops. I helped my daughter with a science fair project on cleaning bacteria and discovered that after incubating vinegar on the bacteria for 24 hours at our local hospitals lab, we found the vinegar killed hardly any bacteria at all. It left behind 53 colonies. If you want to go green, try lemon juice. it killed almost all the bacteria only left 1 colony behind. We use it now because it’s effective and great for the environment. Smells good too. :)

  • Alyssa

    I use these great tea tree oil based cleaners from Melaleuca, and it’s super safe, you could drink it if you wanted!

  • This is a great resource as this is a tricky area for many greenies. I use vinegar everywhere but have read that you shouldn’t use it on granite counter tops. We also sometimes wash the countertops with hot water and dish soap. I’ve read hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice are great for disinfecting wooden cutting boards too.

  • Lori Popkewitz Alper

    I use vinegar for everything-except my granite counter tops. Thanks for the other suggestions. I’ll have to give neem oil a try.

  • 1FlourSackMama1

    Good tips! I admire how economical green cleaning can be, as well, when ingredients like tea tree oil stretch so far.

  • Leigh G

    These are great… I never thought to use neem oil in the kitchen!

  • Lisa

    Great ideas, I use a lot of them. Never thought about neem oil, I use neem on my dog to protect her from fleas but I’ve never used it to clean.