Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

For a while when my son was a toddler, every time my parents were going to visit for a big holiday, he got sick right before they were scheduled to come. And not just any sick – throw-up sick.

Even doting grandparents aren’t usually willing to expose themselves to throw-up sicknesses just to see their grandchild, so I felt it was pretty important to sanitize the house before they came. I used to use bleach water to do the job, but as I’ve transformed into a more “green and crunchy” girl, I’ve learned non-toxic ways to fight the germs.

After I committed to writing on this topic and was thinking about how to organize my thoughts, guess what happened? My son woke up with a throw-up bug. I kid you not. With a 2-month-old infant in the house, you better believe I just practiced what I preach!

Some folks might feel they should sanitize their houses all the time…and maybe that’s why they use bleach-based cleaners…but most of us have probably heard that some exposure to germs is good for you.

So unless you have an immune-compromised person in your house, don’t overdo it. Embrace the dirt at times. But if you’ve got a known stomach virus floating around…unless you really enjoy nasty laundry and carpet stains, it’s time to bring out the big guns!

Choose Your Weapon

Photo by Katie Kimball

You don’t have to go out and buy special natural cleaners just to rid your house of a nasty bug. And you really don’t need to rely on bleach. The following all have antibacterial properties:

  • vinegar (straight is great, or use about 5:1 ratio with water for daily cleaning)
  • hydrogen peroxide (50/50 with water in an opaque spray bottle)
  • boiling water
  • rubbing alcohol

I always have a bottle of vinegar and water solution and another of hydrogen peroxide and water (50/50 ratio) under my kitchen sink for daily cleaning. If you spray one, then the other, onto a hard surface, together they kill a good percentage of the germs.

Of course, if you want to buy something new, some other great options include:

  • tea tree oil (mix a splash in a spray bottle of water)
  • grapefruit seed extract (a few drops in a bottle of water)
  • oil of oregano (diffuse into the air with a vaporizer or diffuser)
  • Biokleen’s Bac-Out (mix 1:3 with water in a spray bottle)

Seek the Target

Photo by Sarah Reid

To really have success in ousting the bad guys, you need to make sure your cleaning job is thorough. Hit some places that you wouldn’t normally clean on a daily basis:

  • handrails
  • light switches
  • doorknobs
  • backs of chairs
  • cupboard handles, especially to the garbage

And of course, take some time on the obvious places:

  • faucets and sinks, especially handles
  • countertops
  • kitchen table
  • kitchen counters
  • toilets
  • bathroom floors

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Here’s your battle plan for making a sick house into a welcoming house:

  • Run the dishwasher on “sanitize” or the hottest setting you have, with heated dry (I usually use the basics without heated dry to save energy); run the dishwasher on super hot the whole time folks are sick.
  • Switch out all your hand towels regularly
  • Give everyone’s toothbrush a bath in hydrogen peroxide
  • Grab your spray bottles – either of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (two bottles, not mixed), tea tree oil, Bac-Out or grapefruit seed extract – and a towel and spray/wipe all the lightswitch plates, doorknobs and railings. Best to let the solution dry on the surface, but bring the rag for drips.
  • Use your spray of choice on bathroom counters, especially faucets, toilets, and floors. I sanitize the bathtub, too, since that’s the staging ground for our sick clothes.
  • Embrace the opportunity to really clean your kitchen counters – you know, take everything off for a rare moment, spray down the whole place, and allow to air dry. Not that I like people beings sick, but it’s good to have inspiration to deep clean my kitchen when it probably needs it anyway.
  • Wipe your computer keyboard down with a paper towel and a little rubbing alcohol.
  • Run the washing machine with sick clothes/clean-up rags on hot, and toss in a splash of vinegar for good measure, either right away or in the rinse cycle.
  • Depending on how sick the victim was and if they share a room with other kiddos, this might be a good opportunity to wash not only their sheets, but blankets too.
  • Cloth or disposables? As an eco-friendly person, you probably don’t use as many paper towels as the average Joe or Jane. Vomit is one place I often draw the line – being able to throw away the sick bugs, at least from the actual spill site and the toilet – is a good thing. Then sanitize your wastebasket!
  • Tip: I use holey socks to clean my toilet regularly, then toss them.

Although no visitors have caught our bugs after I implement this battle plan, we’re no strangers to illness. Here are a few tips for the sick people in your house:

This will probably be one of those posts where I learn as much in the comments as I shared in the article:

What do you use to naturally fight germs?