127: Alternative Disinfectants + Sanitizers That Won't Dry Your Skin

If you’re like me, the idea of using commercial disinfectants makes you cringe.

As a follow up to last week’s article on handwashing, this was the next on my list of critical information that many of you have asked for.

In the midst of there being a shortage of disinfectants at the grocery store, there are claims being made about certain products (like essential oils) that aren’t appropriate.

It’s my hope in sharing this with you that you’ll be able to take a step back from feeling stressed and panicked.

The panic is why the grocery store shelves are bare of cleaning products right now.

So let’s take a step back and have a grounded, practical conversation about alternative disinfectants and sanitizers you can use that ARE effective.

And some of them are easily found in your home (or locally in your community).


Remember… to get the most accurate information, consult the CDC, FDA and your local government’s website. This information is to help support you, but does not supersede or replace what’s best for you based on your doctor’s recommendations.


Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In this episode:

  • Are natural products like vinegar + essential oils effective disinfectants
  • Caution about DIY hand sanitizer recipes
  • Creative source for ethyl alcohol in your local community
  • #1 best option for disinfecting that’s already in your home
  • “Cleaner” alternatives to bleach + other caustic products


Anti-bacterial products are for bacteria. These types of products are not effective on viruses which are very easily destroyed in the presence of soap.

Beware of people making assumptions, or worse making claims, that products like vinegar and even some essential oils are effective. There is no testing to support that in this climate right now.

Essential oils and natural ingredients

Alternative Disinfectants + Sanitizers That Won't Dry Your Skin (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #127 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today's episode, I want to talk about ingredients both natural as well as more commercial that a lot of people are using to sanitize and disinfect surfaces in their home and in their life.

Given this kind of virus pandemic environment that we're living in, there also tends to be a heck of a lot of misinformation out there.

And there are many people promoting the use of certain natural substances claiming that they will disinfect your countertop or your handles… and yet that's not really the case.

I want to give you some straightforward information that you'll be able to use that's really practical.

To help you, I brought on a guest because this is not my area of expertise.

You may remember Lara Adler. She's an environmental toxins expert and educator who teaches nutritionists, nurses, doctors and other holistic health practitioners how to eliminate the number one big thing, holding their clients back from seeing result — unaddressed link between chemicals and chronic health problems.

She also trains practitioners to understand how these everyday toxic exposures can really cause issues.

I had Lara on the show recently to talk about chlorine and how it can impact your skin.

And she's very practical, which is what I love about her!

So I'd like to dive into that conversation to make sure that you guys can get access to this and start putting this stuff into practice.

Whatever I can do to help you stress and worry less about what you're doing at home and whether it's actually working.

This conversation is even more poignant because a lot of store shelves are completely empty right now of cleansers and disinfectants.

Woman using vinegar and other natural ingredients

Are Natural Products Like White Vinegar Effective Disinfectants?

JENNIFER: Lara, you are what I consider one of the experts on all things, chemicals, environmental exposures, that kind of thing. 

And I figured you were a good person to ask because everybody is scared. They are super scared right now and they do not know what to do. 

Two weeks ago, I went to the grocery store to shop. As I entered the Cleaning Aisle, this lady slides her arm into the shelf with all of the Clorox and Lysol wipes and pulls a whole slew of them into her cart.

At this point, the shelves are totally empty at my grocery store of these products. 

I've seen people say online, “just continue using our natural products like distilled vinegar or white vinegar or whatever to clean your home because that should be effective enough.” 

What do you think? Do you think that these natural options are effective enough?

LARA: Like everything, my answer is typically it depends.

In my community, I have a lot of people obviously that are really conscious about avoiding endocrine disruptors or certain types of chemicals in household cleaning products that everybody is scrambling for right now in light of this coronavirus situation.

And so they don't really use those products. They tend to use the more natural cleaners.

So I kind of look at this situation from two perspectives.

One is that those natural cleaners have a time and place.

If somebody is not symptomatic. If they've not been around people and if they've been practicing their social distancing and haven't been going out and they've been doing that for a week or two, then okay.

I think in those types of instances where the likelihood of you being around coronavirus in the home where people aren't coming and going….

I think in those types of situations, something like vinegar which is not effective against coronavirus is probably sufficient.

What I don't want to see is people making assumptions, or worse making claims, that products like vinegar and even some essential oils are effective.

Yes, they certainly might be antimicrobial, antibacterial, even antiviral, but I don't know if they've been tested against these types of novel viruses.

And so unless we have that information because of the seriousness of this pandemic, we want to err on the side of caution and use products that we know are going to be effective.

That doesn't necessarily mean that those products need to be toxic.

There are natural, safe, nontoxic products that we can use that can be effective.

But like, I really just want to caution people against going, “Oh, we have to use everything natural and nontoxic.” 

What I like to say in this whole conversation around environmental toxin exposures is that it's what we do every day that matters. Not what we do every once in a while.

And knock on wood, this is a once in a while situation. This is not something that's going to last forever and ever and ever.

That's my take on those super natural vinegar-based cleaning products or even, you know, vinegar and a couple of drops of essential oils.

Vinegar and essential oils in lieu of other cleaning products may provide a false sense of security against exposure.

And you know, while we're being so focused on this topic of cleanliness and making sure that we're not transmitting viruses unknowingly to people, let's make sure that we're doing it right.

I’ve seen a lot of dialogue around vinegar and essential oils. While I think they're great, I don't know if they're great in this situation.

Woman making DIY hand sanitizer

Before You Make DIY Hand Sanitizer…

JENNIFER: Yeah. From a more official sense, what read is that it's ethyl alcohol 70%…

LARA: It has to be 60% by volume of the product.

And that's typical for hand sanitizers, but it really applies to anything else. It just has to be at least 60% by volume in order for it to be effective as an antiviral.

Again, there's pros and cons here…

For people going the route of ethyl alcohol, hand sanitizers, or even ethyl alcohol based cleaning products, first of all, it's hard to get alcohol right now.

As soon as hand sanitizer started disappearing off the shelves, all the DIY hand sanitizer recipes started showing up online. That caused people to start buying those ingredients.

I’m similarly cautious about a lot of the DIY recipes because the majority of us are not scientists and we don't necessarily know about formulation.

I do have concerns about people making a mixture that's going to be harmful in that it’s not going to be effective and then proceeding as if it's effective.

JENNIFER: Recently I saw that a local distillery near me is actually going to start distilling that type of alcohol that they are willing to share with my local community. 

So if you can't find ethyl alcohol in stores, look for a local distillery. See if they can produce it or sell it or even some are giving it away in your community. That may be a good tip for you.

Is bleach effective in this situation that you know of?

LARA: It is. I think it's a 10% bleach solution.

But the caution here is that bleach is also very caustic.

And for people that do have skin issues and respiratory issues, that is certainly a concern for people that might be dealing with Coronavirus.

Or maybe it's not coronavirus and they just have some respiratory issue due to the seasonal flu or a cold or something like that.

Those types of bleach at even a low concentration is a respiratory irritant and we don't need respiratory irritation in the midst of a virulent, lower respiratory disease.

So yes, it is effective, but I also think there's some downsides.

I very much feel like if we have a choice, and certainly not everyone has a choice, let's use what's safer while still being effective.

If all that somebody has access to is products like the Clorox wipes and bleaches and all those things…

Fine. Use them… just don't use them long term.

They are a short term solution that is effective, but they're not personally my favorite.

Woman washing hands with soap and water

“Cleaner” Alternatives To Disinfectants + Sanitizers

JENNIFER: So what would be some better options then or are there better options or other options? I don't even know if better is even the right word to be honest with you at this point.

LARA: Yeah, there definitely are better “cleaner” options out there for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces.

I like to remind people, first of all, that soap and water is more effective than alcohol-based hand sanitizers or any of these others.

It is the most effective… period, end of story.

You can make a mixture of soapy water and wash down all your hard surfaces.

You do not need to go out and buy a Clorox product or any other antibacterial antimicrobial product.

You might think that soap and water is just for your hands and body, but that’s not the case. You can use soap and water on hard surfaces that you would normally be cleaning anyway.

That includes kitchen counters, TV remotes, your phone, doorknobs, all of those things.

And that's actually what I've been doing in my home — make a little bowl of hot soapy water and take a microfiber cloth, soak it, and then wipe everything down once a day.

Now to be fair, I'm not really leaving my house very much right now. So I'm not really too concerned.

And I also want to remind people too, anti-bacterial products are for bacteria. These types of products are not effective on viruses and they’re just not necessary in this instance.

Viruses are very easily destroyed in the presence of soap. Let's use that.

You can take a bar of soap, rub it on a wet cloth, and wipe stuff down. That will work. It's easy, it's cheap.

Everybody hopefully has some soap in their house, even if it's what's in your showe.

That's the best recommendation that I can make. It doesn't require you to go out and panic shop like the lady that you saw in the store selfishly taking all of these products.

We can proceed with a level head when we have this information at our disposal that, like soap, works fast.

If for whatever reason we don't feel comfortable and we want to find something that works a little bit better. There are companies that produce products that are made with what's called hypochlorous acid.

Bars of saop

Hypochlorous acid is what our white blood cells produce when they are trying to fight an infection including viruses.

Our defense mechanism inside our own body is hypochlorous acid.

In these commercial products, the hypochlorous acid is made with tap water with a very precise amount of salt, and in some cases salt and vinegar. Then electricity is introduced and there is a chemical reaction that produces what's called hypochlorous acid.

It is in the chlorine family, but it is like 0.00001… basically a lot of zeros weaker than a Clorox-chlorine type mixture.

It's totally safe to use on your hands and on objects in your home.

AND it has been approved by the CDC for Coronavirus on hard surfaces.

So hospitals use it to disinfect rooms. They pump hypochlorous acid into the air.

It’s used for wound care.

Tattoo artists will sometimes use it for tattoo aftercare.

And I've even seen some products for acne-prone skin to eliminate some of that bad bacteria that's on the skin.

And there are companies that manufacture these products…

Force Of Nature is a commercial household cleaning product (and device) to make hypoclorous acid. So you basically get an empty bottle, a stand or a base that provides the electricity and these little ampules of precisely measured salt and vinegar.

This allows you to produce your own hypochlorous acid and you can use it to spray down everything in your house just like anything else.

And it's effective.

There is a company called Briotech and they make a topical skin spray.

That would be a great alternative to hand sanitizers. It's not drying like alcohol is drying.

I don't want people to rush out and buy this stuff right now because again, water will work in the interim.

If you want to have these things on hand for the future, great!

BUT I know as of our recording this today (3/20/2020), those companies are really being slammed with orders.

So that's really what I'm recommending as a “cleaner option”!

Now hypochlorous acid with one small asterick.

There is an assumption that hypochlorous acid is safe just because it's natural and nontoxic. 

But it also does kill 99.99% of viruses, bacteria, and germs.

We don't want to become so hyper obsessive that we end up creating these sterile environments. This is an important reminder because we do see in the literature that there are associations between the overuse of products like this. It can cause increased issues like asthma or other respiratory or even immune issues because we don't have that exposure to train our immune system to become responsive.

So I just use caution on fixating on excessive sanitization unless it’s absolutely necessary given your own personal health situation.

I wouldn't use Force Of Nature products every single day. I would use them when somebody was sick or in instances like this.

JENNIFER: And naturally if you're quarantined at home or you're under lockdown and you've not been out, you haven't been exposed to anyone…it may not be necessary. 

But Lara and I are not doctors and that's an important point here. We always want to make sure that if you have any concerns, speak with your doctor about what is appropriate for you.

Especially given that some of you may be on immunosuppressants and other medications. It's important to always take this information and put it in context with where you are with your unique situation. 

And there are a range of potential exposures as some of the folks that listen to the show are working in hospitals right now while other folks like myself do not have that great of an exposure. 

You have to keep all of this in context. And be conscious of how you can take this and mindfully use it so that you’re respectful of what other people may need, right?

We don't take and hoard access to some of these things like that woman in the grocery store who cleared the shelf of these cleaning products. 

Probably not the best thing to do, but then again, how do I know she doesn't work in a facility that does have a lot of exposure. Maybe she worked in the senior center. I have no idea. 

But we are seeing people that are just taking everything and we want to be mindful of that.

Lara, I'm so appreciative that you're able to share these resources with my audience. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. 

LARA: You're welcome and I know too you've got some great posts over on Instagram (HERE and HERE). And you can check lots of great info over at my website — www.laraadler.com.

JENNIFER: Perfect! Thanks so much for joining us. 

LARA: Yeah, thank you!


Disinfecting a laptop

I hope you found this information helpful!

If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them below so we can continue the conversation.

This is a great episode to share with pretty much everyone you know because we're all in the same boat on this.

Everyone I know is struggling to find cleansers and disinfectants and even this rubbing alcohol that they need in order to disinfect surfaces that are commonly shared or touched.

Make sure to pass along this information to everyone so that way we can get these simple tips in the hands of our friends and family who need them most.

Thank you so much for tuning in!

I wish you much health in these strange times and I'll look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Anti-bacterial products are for bacteria. These types of products are not effective on viruses which are very easily destroyed in the presence of soap.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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