I was recently asked about adding essential oils to vinegar to make a more effective cleaning solution. My response was that it's not a good idea to add essential oils to vinegar, and that the vinegar by itself is enough. Then I began to wonder about adding herbs to the vinegar - would they enhance the antibacterial/antiviral properties of vinegar? Let's find out. We'll start with why it's not a good idea to add EOs to vinegar, discuss just how good vinegar is for cleaning, and finally discover the effects of infusing herbs into vinegar.
If you've ever made an oil and vinegar salad dressing, you know that oils separate from vinegar. The two do not stay mixed. The same thing happens when you mix essential oils and vinegar. The EOs are not diluted by the vinegar, so surfaces sprayed with such a mix would get undiluted oils on them. Often, DIY recipes that recommend using EOs in this way suggest using oils like oregano, sage, and basil. These are great disinfecting EOs, but they're very harsh on the skin (they actually damage skin cells) - both yours and your pets. To dilute the EOs sufficiently, you would need to mix them in a liquid soap (like Dawn) first, then add that to the vinegar. But, in that case, why not just use the soap? Soap is great at killing germs.
Vinegar, by itself, is pretty good at killing germs too. It kills about 80 - 83% of viruses and about 90% of bacteria. If you spray the vinegar, wash it off with a clean, wet cloth, then spray with 70% isopropyl alcohol and allow the surface to air dry, you will have killed nearly all of the germs. There are a couple of difficulties with this right now. Lots of people are cleaning surfaces frequently throughout the day because of COVID-19 -- this makes rubbing alcohol hard to find in the stores, and breathing in too much rubbing alcohol can damage our lungs. Well, what is a simple, safe way (other than soap and water) to disinfect surfaces? Will vinegar be more effective if it's been infused with herbs?
It turns out that the answer is yes. So, instead of adding harsh essential oils, you can infuse herbs into vinegar. Thyme, oregano, peels from citrus fruits, lavender, rosemary, and sage are all great herbs to infuse into vinegar. Once infused, the vinegar is augmented with the antibacterial and antiviral properties of the herb(s) used! An herb-infused vinegar, imho, makes a great household cleaner!
Next week, under 'Monthly Tidbits', I'll give directions and a video tutorial for making your own herb-infused vinegar.