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Originally published Monday, March 26, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Disinfect without polluting your home

Do Your Part: Tips on making and using natural cleaners at home.

McClatchy Newspapers

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When it comes to cleaning our homes, most of us want to make sure of one thing — that we are doing a deep clean and actually disinfecting the rooms and surfaces in our house. Here's the thing. You don't need chemical-based cleaners to kill germs. Find safer and just as effective disinfecting options that will work for every spot in your home.

Vinegar is my favorite all natural disinfectant. Put equal parts vinegar and hot water in a spray bottle and get to work. This acidic solution eats away at most germs on everything from counter tops to toilet bowls. The exception is marble and other porous surfaces. Vinegar will damage those. Use it full strength for tough germs. And don't worry about smelling the vinegar for long. It dissipates as the vinegar dries leaving a natural clean scent that's way better than inhaling synthetic fragrances that are known contributors to indoor air pollution.

Hydrogen peroxide is another natural and nontoxic option that I recommend for cleaning and disinfecting. It quickly kills bacteria, mold, and mildew. You can use it full strength on things like cutting boards or dilute it with water for the perfect cleaner for finished surfaces such as painted walls. Mix only what you need as water and exposure to light reduces the solutions cleaning properties.

If you don't want to make your own disinfectants at home, you have more store bought options than ever. Some of my go to and ready-made options include Seventh Generation. Their cleaners and disinfectants are made using plant extracts. And, new Proxi products use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect surfaces throughout your home.

Of course bleach works great too but the fumes can be dangerous, especially for little ones at home. I do use it sparingly in my home and always diluted with water. A little bit of bleach goes a long way. A quarter teaspoon of bleach mixed with 12 oz. of water makes a powerful disinfectant but again, mix as needed because it loses effectiveness with time. This is a great solution for porous surfaces where you can't use vinegar.

The last thing any of us want to do when disinfecting at home is to leave a trail of toxic chemicals in our wake. Do Your Part to seek out safer options that will save you money and won't pollute your home.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of "Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living" available at DoYourPart.com.

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