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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