Antibacterial wipes have really come into their own lately. With the sudden, intense need to cleanse everything in sight to ensure it doesn’t harbor the dreaded virus, this handy sanitizing product has undoubtedly been featured on many household grocery lists.
The problem is, many manufacturers and grocery suppliers haven’t been able to keep up with unprecedented demand, so shoppers looking for antibacterial wipes, along with many other basic sanitation products, have been met with empty shelves.
Don’t worry though, just because the mainstream brands aren’t available, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck manually cleaning everything with a spray bottle and cloth. You can achieve the cleanliness and convenience afforded by antibacterial wipes with an effective homemade version. Keep reading to discover a few different options for making your own sanitizing wipes at home.
How to make antibacterial wipes that actually work
Some sources out there would have you believe that simply mixing together a few nice-smelling ingredients will produce a wipe that sanitizes your home. In these troubled times, however, we didn’t want to leave anything to chance – so we dove deep into the science to ensure you’re getting an effective antibacterial wipe result.
You see, our homes are rife with opportunistic pathogens, such as P. acnes, Bacteroides, and Staphylococcus, which are commonly found in refrigerators and toilets. A Yale University study analyzed the microbes in 198 homes and reported on the most prolific fungi and bacteria, including L. chartarum and Streptococcal species. The blend of microscopic life in our homes, cars, offices, and classrooms is diverse, so a sanitizing wipe worth its salt needs to combat many different pathogens.
For example, many common disinfectants, including alcohol-based hand sanitizers, are not effective against common viruses like norovirus or adenovirus. Oregano oil is believed to help against this, killing the viruses when they dwell on surfaces, which is why we included this ingredient in our wipes recipe below. It’s vital to include both antibacterial ingredients and antiviral ingredients, plus many of the ingredients we’ve suggested are effective against yeasts, molds, and fungi too.
Naturally effective sanitizing ingredients
Here is a quick primer on natural, non-toxic ingredients that can be used to create effective homemade sanitizing wipes.
- Ethyl alcohol, used in alcohol-based hand sanitizers, is effective against a wide range of bacteria, and also some viruses, namely those known as “enveloped viruses”. These viruses, (including influenza and coronaviruses) are enveloped in a lipid membrane that can be disrupted by alcohol and other disinfectants, which inactivates the virus. A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection suggested that viruses could be “efficiently inactivated” with disinfectants that contain 70-90 percent alcohol and 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide. Alcohol may not be helpful, however, against viruses that lack this envelope, such as norovirus, or other pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and C. difficile. (We have suggested other ingredients which do combat these common microbes)
- Vinegar has been shown to effectively inactivate viruses such as influenza and bacteria, such as Salmonella.
- Regular soap (ie liquid castile soap) has been shown to inactivate viruses such as the flu.
- Black seed oil, myrrh essential oil, and oregano essential oil can naturally inhibit the growth of resistant bacteria such as C. difficile.
- Tea tree essential oil is effective against influenza-type viruses.
- Cinnamon and clove essential oils are effective against a wide range of pathogens, including mold and fungus.
- Thyme essential oil is used as a sanitizing ingredient in Seventh Generation brand eco-friendly wipes and cleaners. It has been studied as an effective agent against pathogens such as K. pneumoniae.
- Oregano essential oil is effective against many viruses, including norovirus.
- Rosemary and grapefruit essential oils were found to be effective against Hepatitis A virus.
- Lemongrass essential oil is a strong antiviral and can fight against things like herpes.
- Eucalyptus essential oil is an effective antiviral and antibacterial.
- Peppermint and orange essential oils were found to be highly effective against fungal and bacterial infections.
- Coriander, lemon balm, and spearmint essential oils were found to kill E. coli bacteria, with peppermint and coriander seed oils being more potent than the antibiotic rifaximin.
Using natural ingredients in your homemade wipes is a smart move since they aren’t as harsh as conventional chemicals used in store-bought cleaners. An interesting study found that many essential oils, including rosemary and manuka, are gentle against protective ‘friendly’ bacteria like lactobacillus but still act strongly against pathogenic bacteria.
While it may not be practical to include all of the suggested essential oils in your DIY wipes, the greater the variety you include, the more effective your final product will be.
Homemade sanitizing wipes recipe
Depending on your needs and preferences, you can make your wipes with disposable materials such as paper towels, quilted napkins, or baby wipes (note that none of these should ever be flushed). You can also save money (and the planet) by choosing reusable cloths or rags for your wipes. Either way, the process is the same – you will choose your wipe material, find a sealed container that will hold them, create your liquid mixture, and pour it over the wipes to soak.
- Paper or reusable wipes of your choice
- Sealed container which will fit the wipes
- 1 cup high proof alcohol, at least 70 percent (or more, depending on how many wipes you want to make)
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- 1 Tbsp hydrogen peroxide
- 2 tsp liquid castile soap
- 2 tsp black cumin seed oil
- 30-50 drops of essential oils. The most powerful options include cinnamon, clove, thyme, oregano, orange, geranium, and lemongrass.
You can either use ethanol (that’s what is in the alcohol that you drink) or isopropyl alcohol (commonly called rubbing alcohol). Both ethanol and isopropyl alcohol are effective disinfectants. The key is to use a product that is at least 70 percent alcohol.
- Place your paper products or cloths in the container where they will be housed.
- In a large bowl, carefully blend the ingredients for the liquid mixture.
- Pour the liquid over the wipes.
- During storage, flip the pile of wipes over occasionally to distribute the liquid.
- If the wipes become dry, mix more liquid and add it to the container. If you have too much liquid, store this separately, sealed and in a cool, dark spot to use for your next batch of wipes.
- Be sure to label the wipes and keep away from pets and children.
One idea is to use reusable homemade antibacterial wipes for most purposes, and make a batch of the disposable variety for cleaning toilets or particularly dirty areas. Whichever type you choose, these wipes are fantastic to have on hand for wiping up spills in the kitchen, doing a quick clean of light switches or doorknobs, or tidying up the refrigerator or microwave. Keep them on hand for car trips, too.
According to scientific research, these wipes should be effective in reducing the presence of the following pathogens:
Bacteria: C. difficile, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, B. subtilis, Bacillus circulans, E. faecalis, P. aeruginosa, H. pylori, Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus, Vibrio cholera, Salmonella typhi, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Shigella, Clostridium perfringens, Aeromonas hydrophila, Enterococcus, Micrococcus luteus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Corynebacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, Bacteroides vulgatus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis
Viruses: norovirus, influenza, hepatitis A, viruses known as “enveloped viruses”, Herpes virus, HIV-1, Rotavirus
Yeast, mold and fungus: Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, S. chartarum (“black mold”), Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Leptosphaerulina chartarum, Epicoccum nigrum, Wallemia sebi
Enjoy your homemade antimicrobial wipes, and remember to keep up with your healthy immune supplements and handwashing too.