Disposable disinfectant wipes are handy for quick cleaning jobs, but they’re also pricey. These homemade disinfectant wipes can be made much more affordably – and more eco-friendly.
There are several ways you can make these for yourself at home. These homemade alternatives will save you money.
They’ll also reduce the amount of disposable goods you’re throwing away. You can use any of these solutions with actual cloths instead of disposable ones. Or use them to re-wet lightly used disposables and get more use out of them before throwing them away.
And finally, they help you avoid the harsh chemicals found in most commercial wipes – because you’re going to make your own simple cleaning solution.
Quick note on effectiveness
Commercial products will always be more effective and more stable than what you can make at home. This isn’t what people want to hear, but it’s true.
Companies work hard to create products that can do what they say on the packaging. They know consumer watchdog groups will test them sooner or later and out them if they’re not working.
That said, homemade wipes can be effective enough as long as you follow instructions and don’t take shortcuts.
“Natural” cleaners don’t disinfect
Please note that if you like using natural cleansers like vinegar, vodka or tea tree oil for your household cleaning, these products do not disinfect. They do kill some germs, just not 99%+ of them. They are totally solid for everyday cleaning, and we clean with vinegar ourselves, especially in food prep areas, but there are a lot of germs they can’t eliminate.
You can certainly make a wipe out of a natural cleanser like that using this method. It just won’t be a true disinfectant wipe.
Making homemade disinfectant wipes
There are a couple of ways to go about making these wipes. They both involve soaking paper towels with a cleaning solution you make yourself.
- Paper towels
- Any one of the following: Bleach, 70% Isopropyl Alcohol, or 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
How to clean with wipes
The first thing you should know is how to use wipes – any wipes, store bought or homemade. After cleaning a surface with a disinfectant wipe, you’re supposed to let it sit for 4-10 minutes (depending on the brand, and then you rinse it with water.
(There is one exception to this rule – we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Most of us just wipe and go. But you need to wait a few minutes and come back over the surfaces with a damp paper towel.
The waiting period is called “dwell time.” It’s the time the product needs to actually get rid of the germs.
But once it’s done its work, it creates a sticky surface for new germs to land on. Wiping with water gets rid of that sticky surface and ensures everything is truly clean now.
Note: the exception is hydrogen peroxide. With it, you can just wipe and go.
The cleaning solution
You can use a commercial cleaning solution to make your wipes. If you have some available and just want to turn it into wipes, you can do that by diluting it with water the same way you would if you were about to clean the bathroom with it.
But if you don’t have or don’t want to use a commercial product, you’ll need to make your own cleaning solution out of household products before you can make your wipes. And you need to know which solution is right for different jobs and surfaces.
Please Use Gloves
Some of these solutions can be hard on skin, and all of them are drying. Wear gloves to protect your hands – ordinary dishwashing gloves are fine, or you can treat yourself to some super cute silicone dishwashing gloves, which are especially great if you’re allergic to latex.
There are some pros and cons with using diluted bleach. On the pro side, it will take care of just about any germ or virus.
On the con side, you have to make it as you go because it loses effectiveness over time. You need to use it within a day of making it.
And it gases off fumes that can give irritate your nasal passages and throat. If you do use it, try to ventilate the area if possible.
It’s also corrosive, and will break down even a plastic container over time. And it can corrode metal faucets or some countertops over time.
Washing them with water afterwards will help prevent corrosion or staining. But bleach still isn’t ideal for metal or countertops.
Use it on toilets, tubs and showers. It can also be used on dog bowls, anything plastic, and kids’ toys (be sure to rinse with water afterwards).
The way to make a diluted bleach solution is to mix bleach with water at a 1/10 ratio. The simplest way to do this is to fill a container with 9/10ths water and 1/10th bleach.
If you may not be able to use the whole solution within a day, make it a 1/4 solution – 1/4th bleach, 3/4ths water. That way, as it breaks down over the next few days (and you still need to use it within a few days), it will still have a more than 1/10th effectiveness.
Directions: Wipe surfaces with the diluted bleach wipes; let it sit at least 5 minutes; and then wipe the surfaces with a damp paper towel.
You may use vodka as a natural cleanser, but drinking alcohol isn’t strong enough to disinfect. While grain alcohol does work, it’s not available in every state.
The form of alcohol we know works is rubbing alcohol. Specifically, you want to use 70% Isopropyl Alcohol to make your homemade disinfectant wipes. You don’t even need to dilute it or add anything to it.
But one of the cons with alcohol is that it evaporates quickly. Making wipes with it that will stay wet takes an enormous amount of alcohol.
So the best way to make alcohol wipes is using the “make them as you go” approach, which will be covered below. Just make enough to do the day’s cleaning and store them in a Ziploc bag.
Squeeze out all the air when you close the bag to keep them moist. Carry the wipes around as you clean.
Directions: Wipe the surface with the alcohol wipe; let it sit for a couple of minutes; wipe it down with a damp paper towel.
Alcohol is great for cleaning:
- Glass (mirrors and windows, glass cutting boards)
- Computer screens
- Metal and stainless steel (faucets, sinks)
Do not use it on leather or wood.
This is the one we personally prefer. An undiluted 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide is an effective cleaner that won’t corrode surfaces.
Best of all, it only needs to sit on surfaces for about a minute. And you don’t even have to wipe the surface again with water after using it. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water, so wiping it with water isn’t necessary.
- Any surface bleach can clean
- Door knobs, appliance handles
- Tile floors
- Laminate floors
Do not use hydrogen peroxide to clean granite or marble surfaces. Once in a while it probably won’t hurt, but over time it can break down the surface.
Test before using on wood surfaces. It can have a bleaching effect on colored or stained surfaces.
We actually prefer hydrogen peroxide as a cleaner that’s most effective without being harmful to you, most surfaces, or the environment. But making wipes requires a UV-resistant container.
Hydrogen peroxide breaks down in sunlight – that’s why it comes in those opaque brown bottles. You’ll need to store the wipes in an old commercial wipe tub or a UV-resistant canning jar or something else opaque.
For home use, you might find it easier to skip the wipes altogether. Just get a UV-resistant spray bottle, put the hydrogen peroxide in it, and spray it on surfaces. You don’t even have to wipe it off.
Directions: Store wipes in a UV-resistant plastic or glass jar. Wipe surfaces and don’t touch them for at least a minute. Alternatively, pour 3% hydrogen peroxide into a UV-resistant spray bottle. Spray it on surfaces as you go. Let it sit for one minute to do its work.
Making Homemade Disinfectant Wipes
As we mentioned, there are a couple of ways to go about this.
Make ’em as you go method
My favorite alternative to disposable disinfectant wipes is the simplest one I’ve found:
- Cut up paper towels to the right size(s) for your cleaning jobs. I make two sizes: one is a paper towel cut in quarters (for most jobs) and the other is that size cut in four again, or 1/16 of a paper towel (for very small jobs.
- Store them next to a spray bottle of a cleaner you’ve made. Remember to use a UV-resistant spray bottle if you’re using hydrogen peroxide.
- Whenever you have a cleaning job, grab the appropriate sized paper towel, spray it to saturation with your solution and start cleaning.
The pre-soaking method
You can also pre-soak your towels and keep them in an airtight container (UV-resistant in the case of hydrogen peroxide) so they’re ready the second you need them:
- Put the paper towels into a plastic bag or box that closes up airtight. Remember to use a UV-resistant jar or tub for hydrogen peroxide wipes.
- Pour your homemade cleaning solution over them until they’re saturated.
- Close the box or bag and let them soak for at least an hour before using them.
Whichever method you use, making your own disinfectant wipes is a big money saver and it takes very little time.