Disinfectants: A guide to killing germs the right way | MNN – Mother Nature Network
Alcohol has long been used as an antiseptic. Ethyl alcohol in particular 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, thus inactivating the virus. Alcohol may not be helpful, however, against viruses that lack this envelope, such as norovirus.
For disinfecting surfaces, the CDC advises using an alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol. For hand sanitizers, it suggests using one with at least 60% alcohol, although it notes washing your hands with soap and water is preferable. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the makers of some hand sanitizers against claiming their products can prevent infections like the flu, citing inadequate evidence. If you buy hand sanitizer, avoid products that contain triclosan. As an alternative to buying it, you could also make your own hand sanitizer at home.
Vinegar can be used as a safer bleach alternative for some applications, such as cleaning, and research has shown it can be affective against some bacteria and viruses, including the flu. It is also biodegradable. Vinegar is not a registered disinfectant, however, and does not kill dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus.