How to Make Your Own Natural Disinfectant Spray

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I’m not big on sanitizing everything all the time, but some situations call for the big guns. This spray is like my homemade disinfecting wipes, but with a longer shelf life. It’s convenient, quick, and combines powerful essential oils with proven recommended disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide or alcohol.

I based this recipe on careful research from the CDC, EPA, Stanford University, and other sources, but of course I cannot make any claims as to its effectiveness on certain viruses or bacteria. This is just a formula that I personally feel comfortable using around my house when I need it. As with everything, I encourage you to do your own research and make sure any product you use meets your own needs and criteria right now.

Why Use Homemade Disinfectant Spray?

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I don’t use antibacterial cleaners unless I absolutely have to (which isn’t often). I do buy certain pre-made natural soaps and detergent, but I also enjoy keeping things simple and mixing up what I need from a few simple staples in my pantry or cleaning closet.

Homemade DIY cleaning recipes also help avoid harsh chemicals because you know exactly what’s going into the formula. According to the American Lung Association, many chemical-laden disinfectant products are linked with asthma, respiratory problems, headaches, and more. Also some people can’t tolerate cleaners with fragrances and other ingredients, or simply want a more natural alternative.

Since I don’t use disinfectants very often, I came up with this disinfectant spray from ingredients and essential oils I already had on hand. It saves a trip to the store or storing another bottle in my cleaning closet.

Does It Really Work Though?

There are a thousand and one cleaning products recipes floating around on the Internet. So how can we know a homemade cleaner actually works and we’re not just getting peppermint-scented, salmonella-covered countertops?

Cleaners at the store are tested to make sure they do what they say they do and are effective. That’s definitely not the case with a homemade formula. However, we do know a lot about effective natural disinfectants from published research. Some natural ingredients are even on CDC-approved lists, with specific guidance about how much and how to use them.

Please, as always, do your own research (I’ve offered links below to mine) and seek your doctor’s advice for the best approach for your family.

Germ-Fighting Essential Oils

Essential oils are amazing little things that can pack a powerful punch. One reason why it’s so important to use them safely! It isn’t enough to say an essential oil is antibacterial or antiviral though and leave it at that.

Certain essential oils are effective against certain pathogens, but not others. For example, a 2020 article in Biomolecules reports clove essential oil works well against salmonella and E. coli bacteria. However, clove doesn’t have any effect on certain pneumonia-causing bacteria.

How Natural Disinfecting Works

Viruses work differently than bacteria because they hijack healthy cells and replicate. Some viruses also have a coating surrounding them, called a viral envelope. If we don’t use the right antiviral, it can’t break down the outside coating and inactivate the virus.

Here are some germ-fighting essential oils and how they work:

  • Oregano essential oil – antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial. Also disrupts the viral envelope according to this study. 
  • Clove essential oil – antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and disrupts the viral envelope
  • Thyme essential oil (thymol chemotype) – kills some viruses and at the time of this post, a product containing thymol is on the list of EPA-approved disinfectants for SARs-related viruses.
  • Tea tree essential oil – antiviral against flu viruses, including H1N1. Antibacterial, including MRSA and other pathogens.
  • Orange essential oil – broad spectrum antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal
  • Red mandarin essential oil – antibacterial and antifungal
  • Lemon essential oil – antibacterial and antifungal

Keeping It Happy

Citrus oils like orange, lime, lemon, bergamot, and grapefruit can uplift the mood. Killing harmful pathogens while we reduce stress and anxiety? Score.

What Are the Best Natural Disinfectants?

Natural disinfectants do exist. Here are some of the options I’ve personally researched and used:


This is one of the most popular disinfectants used for hand sanitizers and hard surfaces. Many homemade products don’t have enough alcohol to work well though. According to the CDC 60-90% alcohol is necessary to make a disinfectant that works. (The reason I updated my hand sanitizer recipe.)

If we start off with 60% alcohol and then dilute it with water… we just killed the efficacy of the cleaner.

What About Vodka?

The average vodka is 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol. Even if we use it straight up that’s well below the recommended 60 percent. If you opt for vodka it needs to be at least 120 proof.

Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)

Rubbing alcohol is available at pharmacies and most grocery stores. It’s cheaper than vodka and ranges from about 70-90% alcohol so it fits the bill for a homemade disinfectant spray.

Note: Sensitive noses may have trouble with the fumes from an alcohol-based spray. If this is you, opt for hydrogen peroxide instead.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This unassuming cleaner is hiding out in bathroom cabinets across the nation. Unlike alcohol, we only need a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. Commercial preparations use .5 -1% total hydrogen peroxide, compared to 60-90% alcohol.

Peroxide attacks pathogens and is one of the few natural EPA-approved disinfectants. This cleaner also works against rhinoviruses, flu, and viruses that cause the common cold. A 1977 article, “Virus Inactivation by Hydrogen Peroxide,” reports it inactivates the viruses and stops them in their tracks.

There’s a catch though… according this article, hydrogen peroxide may not disinfect properly if the area has dirt and dust on it:

If it (hydrogen peroxide) comes into contact with other molecules like organics and soil that haven’t been cleaned before the disinfectant was sprayed, then effectiveness will degrade. Processes that include thorough cleaning before the disinfectant application will need to be a high priority when using hydrogen peroxide disinfectants.

Yes, it’s annoying to clean a surface twice (once for dirt and second for microbes), but that’s how this cleaner works best. Some disinfectants take up to 30 minutes to work, but peroxide can destroy germs in just one minute.


Another EPA-approved natural disinfectant is thymol. Found in high amounts in thyme essential oil, this compound kills both viruses and bacteria. Approved commercial cleaners use a .05% concentration of thymol. That doesn’t mean we can just use .05% thyme oil though, since the thymol content varies.

Some thyme oil brands have as little as 26% thymol, while others can have 50% or more. That’s a huge difference when we’re figuring for only .05 percent! Plant Therapy is one of my favorite essential oil brands and they release the GCMS test reports of all their oils. This makes it easy to know exactly how much thymol is in their essential oil.

According to the EPA, wait 10 minutes before wiping thymol-based cleaners off of surfaces.

Important Note on Essential Oil Choice:

I’ve given several options for how to make this cleaner so you can use what you have on hand. Pick a base (hydrogen peroxide OR alcohol), and choose from the suggested essential oils.

Note: On average, Plant Therapy thyme oil has about 40% thymol. This means we need to use .58 ml or about 12 drops per 16 ounces of cleaning solution to hit that .05% concentration. It’s best to get the thyme thymol chemotype, but thyme linalool can also work. Since the linalool variety has much less thymol you’ll need to triple the amount used in the recipe.

natural sanitizing spray cleaner
3.90 from 74 votes

Homemade Disinfectant Spray Recipe

A tough but natural sanitizing spray cleaner for when I don't have disinfecting wipes on hand
Prep Time15 minutes
Course: Remedy
Author: Katie Wells


Choose one of the following essential oil options:

For alcohol based recipe:

  • 16 oz 120 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol

For hydrogen peroxide based recipe:


  • In a 16-ounce glass spray bottle, add the desired essential oils.
  • Add the alcohol OR the hydrogen peroxide and distilled water. Regular tap water will quickly grow bacteria.
  • Close the top and lightly shake to mix.


How to use: Shake well and spray on surfaces to disinfect. Make sure there’s no dirt, dust, or debris on the surface before using. Wait 1-10 minutes before wiping off.
Use on door knobs, faucets, light switches, and other often used surfaces.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you use a natural disinfecting method? Which brands or recipes do you like best?

  1. A. Garozzo,  R. Timpanaro,  B. Bisignano,  P.M. Furneri,  G. Bisignano,  A. Castro. (2009). In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Letters in Applied Microbiology.
  2. American Lung Association. (2020, Feb 12). Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals. Lung.
  3. Batiha, G. E., Alkazmi, L. M., Wasef, L. G., Beshbishy, A. M., Nadwa, E. H., & Rashwan, E. K. (2020). Syzygium aromaticum L. (Myrtaceae): Traditional Uses, Bioactive Chemical Constituents, Pharmacological and Toxicological Activities. Biomolecules, 10(2), 202.
  4. Buckle, J. (2015). Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Healthcare. Elsevier.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, Feb 27). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), CDC.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, Sept 18). Chemical Disinfectants
  7. Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities (2008). CDC.
  8. Dosoky, N. S., & Setzer, W. N. (2018). Biological Activities and Safety of Citrus spp. Essential Oils. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(7), 1966.
  9. Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, March 26). Pesticide Registration,
  10. G., Kampfa, D.,Todtb, S., Pfaenderb, E., Steinmannb (2020). Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection, 104(3), 246-251.
  11. Leyva-López, N., Gutiérrez-Grijalva, E. P., Vazquez-Olivo, G., & Heredia, J. B. (2017). Essential Oils of Oregano: Biological Activity beyond Their Antimicrobial Properties. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 22(6), 989.
  12. Mentel, R., Shirrmakher, R., Kevich, A., Drezin, R., Shmidt, I.(1977). Virus inactivation by hydrogen peroxide. Vopr Virusol. (6):731-3.
  13. A guide to better understanding active ingredients. Cleaning and Maintenance Management.
  14. Oliva, A., Costantini, S., De Angelis, M., Garzoli, S., Božovi, M., Mascellino, M. T., Vullo, V., & Ragno, R. (2018). High Potency of Melaleuca alternifolia Essential Oil against Multi-Drug Resistant Gram-Negative Bacteria and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(10), 2584.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


47 responses to “How to Make Your Own Natural Disinfectant Spray”

  1. Faith Marie Friedrich Avatar
    Faith Marie Friedrich

    I use a Thymol based cleaner called Benefect, it kills 99.99 percent all germs it comes as a disinfectant and a fabric and carpet cleaner benefect decon there is a multi purpose cleaner the decon Benefect has0.05 percent thymol it is a very safe cleaner I have sensitive skin and have used it without gloves no rash or irritation.

  2. Megan Avatar

    Hi Katie! I’m looking to implement your isopropyl alcohol recipe as the cleaner in my kid’s wing at church, and I was wondering how long this recipe lasts. I’m currently using a bleach solution that has to be mixed up every Sunday and am looking for a more natural, longer lasting cleaning formula. Thank you!

  3. Ann Avatar

    I would like to add some thymol oil to my bathroom cleaner that I make from diluting the concentrated Biokleen All Purpose Cleaner.I bought the Plant Therapy brand,and was wondering how many drops should I use (I have a 26 oz bottle).I used to use Seventh generation bathroom cleaner with thymol and loved it,so I want something like that.They recommend a maximum dilution of 1.3% for topical applications,which is different.
    Any ideas?
    Thank you.

  4. Sara Avatar

    Is the isopropyl alcohol safe to use during pregnancy? Or the essential oils?

  5. Cindy Churchill Avatar
    Cindy Churchill

    4 stars
    I would like to know if this recipe is also useful as a spray room air disinfectant? Thanks, I’ve already made the recipe.

  6. Mary Avatar

    5 stars
    Hi Katie, Will the hydrogen peroxide recipe kill salmonella and e coli on counter tops? Thanks

  7. Delores Topper Avatar
    Delores Topper

    Can I use my alcahol spray on my clothes when I come in from outside, without staining them?

3.90 from 74 votes (70 ratings without comment)

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