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Make your own disinfecting spray

This might be a little off-topic, but I think it’s actually very on-topic. With most of my readers probably working from home due to the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, we are all very focused on sanitizing everything possible.

Commercial sprays are expensive, and, well… you might run out. I want to share something I’ve used for years in my kitchen that might help you.

Microbes of all kinds have a very bad reaction to household bleach—it pretty effectively destroys them on contact. But bleach will have the safe effect on many surfaces, nearly all textiles, and eventually your skin. Oh yeah, and if you mix it with the wrong thing you can die from the chlorine gas it produces.

But with minimal “science-ing” you can make your own disinfectant that is at least as effective as anything you can buy.

Here’s what you do:

  • Get standard, basic household bleach. (Make sure it’s sodium hypochlorite bleach, and ideally unscented.) Basic Clorox is reliable.
  • Get a good spray bottle. I use a large commercial spray bottle like in the picture.
  • Put 1 liquid oz of bleach in the bottle. Be careful and use common sense with the straight bleach. It’s not going to eat through your skin, but it will likely eat a hole in anything you drip if on… and if you get it on your skin, rinse it off immediately.
  • Add 19 oz of cold water to the bottle and cap it. Give it a good shake and swirl and you’re good to go.

What you’re looking for here is a 5% dilution of bleach (which is in itself a 5%-6% solution of sodium hypochlorite and some stabilizers. If you want, you can add a fraction of a drop (literally) of household dishwashing detergent to the mix, but technically adding anything to bleach is a bad idea… so I won’t tell you to do that! You can make this in different quantities, just stick to the ratio. There’s no need to go stronger than this because you’ll just create a more reactive (caustic) and potentially dangerous solution that really isn’t any more effective.

You’ll notice a light chlorine smell when you use this. That’s ok. (Because of my time in professional foodservice, that’s the smell of clean in my mind anyway.) Be advised it will bleach fabrics pretty quickly, and you probably don’t want to get it in your eyes or mouth. Use common sense.

I use this as a spray to clean basically every surface and tool in my kitchen. Recently, we’ve started spraying bags and wiping down other containers that come in from delivery services. This is probably an unnecessary level of paranoia, but, if it makes you feel better, do it.

Most state foodservice guidelines say you can use this dilution on food contact surfaces and let it dry without wiping. In other words, this is a pretty benign level of bleach and not terribly dangerous. But it is a remarkably effective, and cheap disinfectant if you leave it in contact for a few minutes.

Also, a bottle of bleach will last you a very long time, so you aren’t likely to run out.

The chlorine will evaporate from this over time, so if you have some leftover after a few weeks, dump it out and remix.

Just thought this might help some of you, so I thought I would share what’s long been the practice in my kitchen.

Stay well, everyone!


Adam Grimes has over two decades of experience in the industry as a trader, analyst and system developer. The author of a best-selling trading book, he has traded for his own account, for a top prop firm, and spent several years at the New York Mercantile Exchange. He focuses on the intersection of quantitative analysis and discretionary trading, and has a talent for teaching and helping traders find their own way in the market.