Non-toxic cleaning ideas to prevent the flu (influenza)!

Everyone is clean­ing up a storm at our office to pre­vent people com­ing in with infec­tions from infect­ing every­one else.

A recent study demon­strates influ­enza (the H1N1 strain more spe­cific­ally) can live for the fol­low­ing lengths of time:

48 hours on wooden surfaces
24 hours on stain­less steel and plastic
8 hours on cloth (fab­rics)

Yikes! Not a huge sur­prise of course, but import­ant to keep in mind that in order to effect­ively pro­tect ourselves from the vir­us, we need to clean our sur­faces reg­u­larly as well as our hands.

I always think it’s import­ant to also con­sider the clean­ing agents you are using — you want to be sure they are not only work­ing to elim­in­ate germs, but that they are not caus­ing harm to you chem­ic­ally while you are cleaning.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of clean­ers that are lis­ted by their abil­ity to pre­vent the flu, or influ­enza (spe­cific­ally H1N1). The chal­lenge of course, is that not all of the items on the list are truly non-tox­ic. Many products have very high con­tent of VOC or volat­ile organ­ic com­pounds, which can be irrit­at­ing to res­pir­at­ory dis­orders and have been linked to car­ci­no­gen­ic or can­cer-caus­ing compounds.

Safe Cleaning

If you are not sure if your clean­ing products are envir­on­ment­ally safe and non-tox­ic be sure to vis­it Good Guide and type into the search engine your clean­ing products at home. There will be a safety, envir­on­ment­al and health rat­ing out of 10 that you can see if your product is con­sidered human and anim­al “friendly”, as well as dis­in­fect­ing. The closer the product to 10/​10, the bet­ter for you and our environment.

On the bottles them­selves, the may have sev­er­al of the fol­low­ing logos or brand representations:

EcoLogo, Canada’s Environmental Logo

Green Seal

To make your life easi­er, here is a list to start you off of clean­ers that do an excel­lent job of pro­tec­tion against influ­enza as well as being health sup­port­ive, see below (note: I am not in any way affil­i­ated with these companies):

Clean Well
Seventh Generation

Homemade Cleaners in a Pinch

Don’t for­get that com­mon house­hold main­stays are also effect­ive at dis­in­fect­ing an area like vin­eg­ar! Everyone has it, it’s non-tox­ic, and easy.

1 spray bottle
Vinegar (95% acet­ic acid is ideal, or pick­ling vin­eg­ar is anoth­er name)
Spray away!

What about your hands, you ask?

Plain old soap and warm water is truly the best way to reduce vir­al load on your hands. Believe it or not, this still renders the vir­us inact­ive and does not con­trib­ute to anti­bac­teri­al res­ist­ance as when anti­bac­teri­al hand soaps are used. This is about healthy usage of anti­bac­teri­al items so that we can in fact still turn to anti­bi­ot­ics when we need to.

If you are in a situ­ation where you can­not wash your hands and anti­bac­teri­al gels or lotions must be used, alco­hol-con­tain­ing gels can be used, but please avoid using Triclosan-con­tain­ing products. Triclosan is still found in products and will actu­ally be banned in 2015 in Canada for usage as a pesticide…but is still con­sidered “safe” for usage in many cos­met­ic products, includ­ing anti­bac­teri­al soaps. Read more about Triclosan here and here. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of liquid soaps that are triclosan-free. So wash your hands as much as pos­sible, keep a hand lotion with you to rehyd­rate your skin, and wipe down your sur­faces! You will be pre­vent­ing the flu from the out­side in.


Oxford et al. The sur­viv­al of influ­enza A (H1N1)pdm09 vir­us on 4 house­hold sur­faces. Am J Infect Control. 2014 Apr;42(4):423 – 5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2013.10.016.

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