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We are in a mini-crisis right now because people are hoarding cleaning supplies. Fortunately, ingredients you already have around the house work just as well. As long as vinegar and bleach are available, you have sanitizer!
This is a recipe for a sanitizing solution suggested by the NIH It is a pH corrected, mild bleach solution. The chemistry is similar to that used to keep pools clean, just stronger.
National Institute of Health (NIH) reports bleach(sodium hypochlorite) is an effective solid surface sanitizer 0.1% solution, as well as high concentration alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
The mixing order is VERY IMPORTANT. Mixing vinegar and chlorine bleach directly can release chlorine gas, which is deadly, hence bad! Follow the directions!
NIH recipe – A Gallon
2 oz/60 ml 5% white vinegar
1 gallon water (4 liters)
2 oz/60 ml 6% bleach
Put vinegar into the mixing container for the sanitizing agent. Mix in 1 gallon water. Mix thoroughly. Add 6% bleach. Mix again.
This is a very strong solution. It should sanitize a surface in less than 30 seconds. It will stain clothing and will damage skin. Use gloves and do not use as a hand sanitizer. Produces 1000 PPM solution.
Home Surface Sanitizer – Light
This is how I make a general sanitizer for hard surfaces. This is only 80 ppm and may not be as effective as the extremely strong NIH solution. Also NOT a cleaner! As with your hands, thoroughly wash with soap first, THEN use hand sanitizer. The same applies here. Clean your solid surface with a regular cleanser (I like the “Simple Green” stuff), then use this sanitizer.
1 quart/liter sprayer bottle (you can re-use a spray bottle or buy an empty one. Make sure it can make a “mist”)
¼ tsp/1.5 ml vinegar
1 quart/liter water
¼ tsp/1.5 ml 6% bleach
Optional: ¼ tsp/1.5 ml “essential oil”, like lemon oil, for a nice smell
Put the vinegar into the bottle first. Add water and mix. Add and mix the bleach. If you are adding an essential oil add it last and mix again. Unscented has virtually no smell and leaves no residue.
The largest cost is the essential oil! I have lots of cheap essential oils from an on-line retailer (San Francisco Herb), which were sitting under a sink in an upstairs bathroom… CVS sells lemon oil, 1/2 oz (15 ml), for about $10. Amazon has 4 oz (120 ml) bottles for $8-9. Add in the cost of the packaging, shipping and advertising and you’ll understand why sanitizing sprays cost so much in the store! If you use the essential oil from San Francisco herb, the total cost is around $0.18/gallon! A Quart is around 5 cents.
Spray bottles can be purchased from most grocery stores. One of mine is from Autozone! And Amazon carries various sizes. I like the little 8oz bottles to keep around the house.
You now have a lemon scent sanitizer. It is ~80 ppm chlorine with a pH of ~8. Like a swimming pool, you need the pH around 7.6-8 to be most effective.
Directions: Clean the surface thoroughly. To sanitize, wet a cloth or paper towel with the sanitizing solution, not soaking wet but damp, making the paper towel a sanitizing cloth. Now spray the solution onto the surface. Wipe/slightly scrub the surface, leaving WET. Either let dry or wipe with a clean paper towel after sitting for 5 minutes. I suggest wearing gloves, since bleach even this diluted may be somewhat drying.
This is not a hand sanitizer. Chlorine is not great for your skin. Do not use for anything other than solid surfaces. Even at this concentration it may affect color clothing.
It can be used for sinks, counters, bathtubs, showers, toilets, laundry equipment, glass, tile floors, etc. Do not use on clothes, wood or anything that will be adversely affected by water or chlorine. The original recipe was “designed for” homebrewing equipment, which are mostly metal, glass and plastic. It may leave streaks on very shiny surfaces (glass, etc).
Read the bleach bottle! Some of the cheaper bleaches are not 6%. Many are 5% or 3%! Home Depot sells pool chlorine in gallon jugs that are 12.5%. If you are using 3% bleach, double the amount of bleach. If you are using 12.5%, cut amount of bleach in half. Also, use regular “White Distilled” 5% vinegar. Other types of vinegar have flavors, sugars and other stuff that will leave a residue.
Use standard plain regular bleach. Do not use the scented kind or the “no splash” thickened kind. Those may lead to a residue on the surface, or cause problems with spraying.
Credit where credit is due. This is a variation of a basic recipe from home brewers at beerliever.com. And they were given it from Charlie Talley of Star San.