Sophia's practically nontoxic disinfecting ingredient

Nontoxic Cleaning & Disinfecting Against Coronavirus

cleaning coronavirus healing healing spaces home detox Oct 19, 2022
Originally published June 15, 2020. Updated October 2022.
Covid-19 inspired me to consider viruses for the first time in my cleaning method. As I've researched Covid-19 and viruses, it's been interesting to notice parallels between key tips for preventing the spread and infection of the coronavirus and my key tips for a practical nontoxic lifestyle. 
Below are my top 5 tips for practical nontoxic cleaning. Grounded in a practical nontoxic value-system, I have also considered our unique threat of the coronavirus and that purchasing household supplies are more restricted now.
Please remember that *practical* should consider the acute concerns from Covid-19; i.e., using more toxic cleaning products can be worthwhile if there are people in your home who are at high risk from contracting Covid-19.

1. Wash your hands often, but with nontoxic soap

Pre-coronavirus, I urged people to wash their hands often but with a special focus on washing hands before eating or handling things that would be ingested. Chemicals and heavy metals are swept up on our fingertips from what we touch. Washing your hands often—especially before you eat—is effective in reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals, heavy metals, germs, bacteria, and viruses.
With Covid-19, it's become extra important to wash your hands frequently to minimize the spread of Covid-19 from your hands to your face, eyes, nose, mouth, and surface areas. However, supporting our immune system is as important as ever too. And frequent use of antibacterial products can undermine our immunity by killing the healthy bacteria in our microbiome.
Furthermore, antibacterial products can render antibiotics less effective. So, the more we use products that promote resistance to antibiotics, the less likely that antibiotics will help us when we're sick with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria; i.e., the antibiotic-resistant bacteria will be more likely to persist, which challenges your recovery. To improve your chances of being healthy, avoid unnecessary antibacterial ingredients. 
Hand-washing with nontoxic soaps is healthy for a number of reasons, including their absence of antibacterial ingredients. The US FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) support this recommendation. According to the CDC:

Studies have not found any added health benefit from using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients when compared with plain soap. Both are equally effective in getting rid of germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

For more information on how toxic chemicals can influence our immune response, listen to world-renowned public health physician, David O. Carpenter, MD, in episode #21 of the Practical Nontoxic Lifestyle podcast. Dr. Carpenter explains simple ways to optimize our immune response. (Click here to listen to episode #21.)


I use Dr. Bronner's Castile soap (you can click on the image above to buy it on Amazon). I use it to wash hands, dishes, and surface areas.

2. Moisturize with a nontoxic moisturizer

Since we will be washing our hands more often than ever, our hands will be drier. Use a nontoxic hand moisturizer. I use ones that are safe enough to eat.

Options that are easy to find in your kitchen include olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil. I have created small jars of coconut oil to leave near every sink so it's easier for my family and me to moisturize our hands. 

My favorite coconut oil to moisturize my hands and body is by Nutiva. You can click on the image above to see it on Amazon.

3. Disinfect

During this coronavirus pandemic—a time during which we don't yet have a vaccine or proven treatments to help those suffering from Covid-19—it's important to follow the guidelines of authoritative organizations like the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control, and/or the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Alcohol at 70-90% can also be used for surface disinfection. Surfaces must be cleaned with water and soap or a detergent first to remove dirt, followed by disinfection. Cleaning should always start from the least soiled (cleanest) area to the most soiled (dirtiest) area in order to not spread the dirty to areas that are less soiled. All disinfectant solutions should be stored in opaque containers, in a well-ventilated, covered area that is not exposed to direct sunlight and ideally should be freshly prepared every day.

—"Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in non-healthcare settings." World Health Organization. March 2022

However, procuring specific cleaning or disinfecting supplies is harder during our stay-at-home efforts. When your preferred cleaning supplies are limited, then consider using hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, and steam cleaning which are described further below. In the video immediately below, you can listen to Ted Schettler, Science Director at the Science and Environmental Health Network, talk about "Antimicrobials in the Time of Coronavirus."

Hydrogen peroxide

An easier, and safer way to disinfect, can be with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient in some disinfectant products recommended by the EPAConsumer Reports reported:

According to the CDC, household (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is effective in deactivating rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Rhinovirus is more difficult to destroy than coronaviruses, so hydrogen peroxide should be able to break down the coronavirus in less time. Pour it undiluted into a spray bottle and spray it on the surface to be cleaned, but let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute.

I let it sit for as long as I can, usually 5-10 minutes, while I clean other areas.

Hydrogen peroxide is generally safe to use on metal and plastic surfaces. Remember that it is often used as a nontoxic replacement to bleach, so it can discolor dark or colored surface areas (like stones and fabrics).

The 12% concentration, which is easier to buy than the 35% concentration, allows me more uses of the hydrogen peroxide. For cleaning, I dilute the 12% down to 3%. I enjoy the measuring cup and glass spray bottle with the measurements below. (You can click on the images to learn more on Amazon.) Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions!


Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol has become one of my favorite new household products. With rubber gloves, I use it to disinfect frequently touched metal and plastic surfaces—like handles (to refrigerators, ovens, doors, and kitchen cabinets), keyboards (to laptops, computers, and telephones), remote controls, and light switches. 

To be effective against the coronavirus on hard surfaces, alcohol solutions should contain at least 70 percent alcohol. Before using alcohol, clean the surface with water and detergent. Apply the alcohol solution (do not dilute it) and let it sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol is generally safe for all surfaces but can discolor some plastics. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions!

Steam cleaning

I approach steam cleaning knowing that it's not clear whether the steam cleaners I use can kill Covid-19. It helps create a wonderful cleaning baseline from which I can target sanitizing.

I love how effectively steam cleaning cleans, and that it reduces toxic chemicals in my home, kills some germs and bacteria (unclear what it might do to viruses), and shortens my shopping list of cleaning products.

I have been using the Bissell steam cleaner for years.

While it's been hard for me to learn whether the steam cleaners I have are hot enough to kill the coronavirus, I have enjoyed cleaning my floors with the Bissell steam cleaner below (you can click to see it on Amazon). It helps address the sticky and oily residues on my kitchen floor, and is reported by the manufacturer to eliminate "99.9 percent of germs and bacteria with the natural power of steam." So using it will help reduce my family's bodies from the number of germs and bacteria to overcome.

Knowing that it's now impossible to buy isopropyl alcohol, I also purchased the smaller steam cleaner below, which is a backup sanitizing approach in case I am not able to procure additional cleaning and disinfecting products in the future. I also love using it to clean grout in the bathrooms and kitchen and sink fixtures. It can also be used to steam clothing, curtains, furniture, pillows, and mattresses.

4. Open your windows regularly

The coronavirus can accumulate in your indoor air, so allowing fresh air flow can help dilute the coronavirus load from your home. I had been recommending this as a basic healthy home habit for years because toxic fumes accumulate in your home. Opening your windows provides an escape route for these toxic chemicals, heavy metals, germs, bacteria, and viruses! Dr. David O. Carpenter and I also discuss this in episode #21 of the Practical Nontoxic Lifestyle podcast. (Click here to listen to episode #21.)

I showed my kids and husband the video below, which was very helpful in helping them understand the importance of sneezing and coughing into a tissue, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, washing hands often, keeping physical distance from others, and opening our windows.

5. Manage your stress

Your stress, anxiety, moods, and thoughts affect your immune response. So experiment with which habits will reduce your stress and anxiety, and improve your moods, mindset, and perspective.
This stay-at-home period offers an excellent opportunity to identify your positive, healing triggers.
I have a beautiful podcast on this topic with Esther Sternberg, MD—author of Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being and The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions

Our podcast conversation explores the simple approaches to help you identify your positive and healing triggers. We also talk about the simple ways you can transform your home into a healing space.

You can listen to it here: Essential Features of a Healing Space or by clicking below.




As someone who has been cleaning with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, Castile soap, white vinegar, and steam, I have an even greater appreciation for this approach during the coronavirus pandemic. During a time that has been complicated by many things (like three kids starting remote learning), I still feel comfortable with my cleaning approach. The additional cleaning ingredient that I have loved is isopropyl alcohol. For guidance on essential ingredients for the most nontoxic cleaning for your health and our planet, download the free and beautiful Ruan Living Nontoxic Cleaning Guide.

To disinfect for germs, bacteria, and viruses, follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization and CDC. 

Shop more nontoxic cleaning and household supplies

If you'd like to see which additional nontoxic cleaning supplies and household staples I use, you can click on my Amazon Nontoxic Living store. Please note: I earn an Amazon affiliate fee if you purchase things from the links in my Amazon Nontoxic Living store or from clicking on the images above.

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


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