Cleaners don't have to be pricey or chemical-laden to be effective. In fact, they don't even have to be store-bought.
It's simple to create your own all-purpose cleaner—all you need is some bleach and a spray bottle. Bleach, which is quite a harsh chemical when used directly, is a very effective disinfectant. Bleach has an active ingredient called sodium hypochlorite, which breaks down the protein in micro-organisms like bacteria, fungus, and viruses. At such a low cost and typically wide availability, it's a great natural cleaner for hard, non-porous surfaces, such as countertops and toilets.
If you choose to reuse a bottle from an old store-bought product to make your cleaner, be sure to wash it out extremely well. Choose an opaque bottle to keep light out of the solution.
Though bleach is a fairly common household item, improperly mixing it with certain ingredients can cause dangerous, deadly toxic gases that can also become explosive. Keep yourself and your family safe and do not mix bleach with the following:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Acetone and other solvents
- Other acids, such as lemon juice
In addition, bleach can be corrosive and may damage metals, such as stainless steel and copper. Do not use bleach cleaner on porous surfaces, such as wood, and use it very infrequently on grout. Use bleach sparingly on natural stone surfaces because it is harsh and can dull or otherwise damage the surface if it's used too often.
Always be certain to keep all cleaning supplies, including bleach, out of reach of young children and pets.
Bleach degrades over a six-month period, making it substantially ineffective at killing germs. It then becomes about 20 percent less effective every year it sits in its bottle. Bleach is produced from the electrolysis of saltwater to create a byproduct of sodium hypochlorite, which is made of unstable ions that degrade back to saltwater. Deteriorating bleach will not disinfect surfaces or laundry. Decomposed bleach does not have an odor. Replace a bottle of bleach after a year, even if it remains unopened.
Decoding the Bottle
You can decode a bottle of bleach to make sure you're buying it fresh for adequate disinfecting. There's a stamped code typically near the neck of the bottle to let you know the date the bleach was produced. It takes some sleuthing, but here's how to decode the numbers:
- Find the code that typically begins with a letter and then a string of numbers.
- Look for two numbers that resemble the year (for 2021, you will look for the numbers "21," for example, though you may just find "1" on some production codes).
- The numbers following the year indicate the day in the year the product was produced (if you see "100," it means the bleach was produced the 100th day of the year, which falls in April). Don't worry about anything else after those crucial three to five numbers.
Equipment / Tools
- Opaque spray bottle
- Rags or paper towels
- Protective gloves (optional)
- Old clothing (optional)
- Liquid chlorine bleach
Gather Your Ingredients
Make sure you have a new or well-cleaned spray bottle, bleach, and water at the ready. Wear protective gloves and old clothing when handling the bleach.
Add Bleach Into Water
For a homemade bleach cleaner use one part bleach to 10 parts water. For example, if your spray bottle holds 30 ounces, fill the bottle with water, but leave room for three ounces of liquid bleach.
You can add either bleach or water first into the bottle when making your cleaner. Choose what you feel most comfortable doing so that you avoid splattering the undiluted bleach. Some people prefer to add bleach into the bottle first, others prefer to slowly pour it into water. If undiluted bleach accidentally splashes onto your skin, rinse immediately.
Close the bottle tightly and mix the ingredients well.
Spray, Wipe, and Rinse
Spray your mixture a few inches away from the surface you want to disinfect. Leave the cleaner on the surface for 30 seconds. Then wipe the cleaner on the surface with a clean rag or paper towels. Rinse the surface with plain water and wipe dry.