It’s everywhere. Sprays, soaps, hand-sanitizer, trash bags, cutting boards…
It seems anything and everything can be “anti-bacterial”-ized these days. But what does that actually mean? Are we supposed to be killing any and all traces of bacteria in our everyday lives? What about good bacteria? I think I remember learning a little something about those guys back in high school biology…
So, What’s the Real Story?
The truth is that manufacturers of commercial cleaning products play on our fears of hygiene issues by convincing us that we need the latest and greatest spray that miraculously “kills 99.9% of bacteria” in our home. Umm, excuse me?!? 99.9% of bacteria? No thank you!
The introduction and widespread use of anti-bacterial products for home use has inevitably led to drug-resistant bacteria. That’s right, bacteria that has mutated and become completely immune to antibiotics. Not only that, but these products also kill the good bacteria that are supposed to keep the bad bacteria under control.
Of course, anti-bacterial products have their place in society; they were originally used exclusively in hospitals and other healthcare settings, where risk of infection is very high. However, now that they’ve made their way into ordinary households, their use and overuse is doing much more harm than good.
Lysol is a popular brand of antibacterial spray and I’d venture to guess that your kitchen or bathrooms have been graced with its presence at one point or another. In reality, sprays like Lysol are very hazardous to our health. They contain ingredients like formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and phenylphenol – a skin, respiratory and mucous membrane irritant, according to the CDC.
What Are We Supposed to Use?
Good old soap and water is just as effective at killing germs – and it’s cheaper, less hazardous, and doesn’t require the use of protective gloves or safety goggles.
But when you need to quickly spray down your counters or other surfaces, making a homemade, all-natural “antibacterial” spray is the way to go. Instead of nasty, toxic chemicals, I like to harness the powers of essential oils. The oils I use each have individual properties that make them great choices for an antibacterial spray:
- orange: anti-infectious, anti-septic, anti-viral
- lavender: anti-infectious, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial,
- eucalyptus: anti-infectious, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal
- tea tree: anti-infectious, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal
Below is the recipe that I’ve formulated, but feel free to play around with it to suit your own needs. Some find the strong scent of eucalyptus oil to be a bit strong, so you may want to decrease the amount you use in your spray (or eliminate it completely).
The tea tree oil is a big player in this recipe, so don’t leave it out.
NOTE: The bottle that’s in the picture is a plastic bottle. Ideally, we should be using glass bottles when working with essential oils (or any oils, really!) because the oils can break down the plastic over time. Mountain Rose Herbs carries some great glass bottles and spray pumps (misters) that I’ll be ordering very soon!
- 1 cup water, distilled or filtered
- 1 tbsp. witch hazel
- 5 drops orange essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 7 drops tea tree oil
- Add witch hazel to 8 oz spray bottle.
- Add essential oils, and swirl to combine.
- Fill with water until about 1/2" from the top.
- Shake well before use.
- Spray on countertops and other hard surfaces and let air-dry.
- Store in a cool, dark place.