7 Effective & Natural Alternatives to Lysol

By Marilee Nelson |

If you’ve been re-thinking your relationship with Lysol, and other chemical cleaners, you are not alone. 

Strong disinfectants, like the ingredients in Lysol, have been associated with various health and environmental concerns, including the spread of superbugs.

Fortunately, experts are starting to speak out about the dangers of chemical disinfectants. In our homes, they recommend the use of soap and water for cleaning. If someone in the household is ill, then the use of safer disinfectants on frequently used surfaces would be advised. This is progress towards empowered consumer decision-making for a healthier home and planet.

However, it leaves consumers unsure of how to replace their favorite disinfectant cleaners…or when and where disinfecting is even advisable.

In this article, we’ll explain why Lysol is so toxic and share the best non-toxic alternatives for a cleaner and healthier home.

The Dirt On How And Why Lysol Is So Harmful

Lysol is so prevalent in homes, workplaces, and schools that it may be hard to believe it’s harmful.

However, like many beloved household cleaners and products, its toxicity level (and the marketing used to cover it up) is absolutely shocking.

Part of the problem is Lysol is made with quats.

What are quats?

Quats, which stands for quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as QACs, are ammonia-based disinfectants used in cleaning products, dishwashing soap, hand soap, laundry products, wood products, water purification (algaecides, for example), textile production, and in other household products 1 .

They are also EPA-registered pesticides.

Although the EPA tells us any products containing quats are held to rigorous safety and testing standards, the truth is very little research has been done on quat safety.

However, there is evidence exposure to quats may cause: 2

  • Birth defects
  • Respiratory issues
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Inflammation
  • Decreased mitochondrial function
  • Disruption of cholesterol
  • Neurodevelopmental issues
  • Proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria
  • Toxicity to certain aquatic life

Quats have received a “F” rating from the Environmental Working Group, and many experts have warned against their pervasive use and the potential damage it may cause to people, animals, and the environment.

But quats aren’t the only ingredient of concern in Lysol.

Here’s a brief overview of the other concerning ingredients in Lysol: 3

  • Ethanol: Increases risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and multiple forms of cancer. 4
  • Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium saccharinate: A quat that may cause developmental, reproductive, and respiratory.5
  • Water: Inert.
  • Butane: A poisonous neurotoxin that can cause organ damage. 6
  • Propane: A neurotoxin that can cause cardiac, respiratory, and behavioral problems that can be fatal. 7
  • Ethanolamine: A hazardous toxin that can cause skin, eye, lung, liver, kidney, and respiratory damage, dangerous increases in blood pressure, shortness of breath, nervous system damage, shock, collapse, or death. 8
  • Fragrance/Parfum: Nicknamed “the new secondhand smoke” fragrance contains endocrine-disrupting phthalates, asthmagens, and potentially carcinogenic compounds.
  • MEA-Borate: Serious skin, eye, and respiratory irritant. 9
  • MIA-Borate: Skin, eye, and lung irritant linked to possible developmental and reproductive toxicity. 10 11
  •  Ammonium Hydroxide: A quat, asthmagen, respiratory irritant, and immune toxin. It can cause severe skin burns, eye damage, vomiting, and abdominal pain and is highly toxic to aquatic life. 12 13
  • t-Butyl-Alcohol: Harmful to the eyes, skin, respiratory and central nervous system. Possible carcinogen and toxic to aquatic life. 14

In the interest of time, we did not break down the questionable synthetic fragrance ingredients in various Lysol products (which you can find here), but you get the picture.

Lysol also contains VOCs, which are known to cause “sick building syndrome” and symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, allergies, asthma, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and more.

Learn more in: What Are VOCs And How Do They Affect Your Health?

The bottom line is Lysol is highly toxic to humans, animals, and the environment—whether inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.

It’s also entirely unnecessary to use Lysol when you have these non-toxic disinfectant alternatives.

1. Vodka

If you’re in the habit of using Lysol to deodorize and/or disinfect, you’ll love vodka as an alternative! Since alcohol qualifies as an EPA registered disinfectant if it is 70% (140 proof) drinkable grain alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol, vodka makes a great non-toxic, fragrance free, natural disinfectant. 

Fill a 16 oz glass spray bottle with your chosen high-proof alcohol. You can use it “neat” (straight vodka) to disinfect frequently touched surfaces when someone in the family is ill, and also on surfaces such as sinks, toilets, cutting boards, etc. Remember, disinfectants do not clean surfaces so first clean with soap and water (or a surfactant based cleaner like Branch Basics) to remove dirt, grease, grime and germs.  Then vodka is sprayed on the cleaned area and left to dwell and dry..  

Also, plain, inexpensive vodka can be added to a spray bottle and sprayed on almost anything to deodorize and freshen. Combine with lemon slices and baking soda for an all-natural disinfectant cleaner.

You can also put a dish of vodka in a room (away from children and pets please!) to naturally absorb odors.

Learn more in: 7 Non-Toxic Air Fresheners That Remove Odors Naturally

2. Hydrogen Peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful, fragrance free, non-toxic bleaching, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting agent.*  Attach a trigger sprayer directly to the brown bottle for ease of use.

Here’s how it works.

Hydrogen peroxide is very similar to water (H2o) in its composition except it has an extra oxygen molecule (H2O2).15

This extra oxygen molecule allows it to oxidize and kill germs, making it a great disinfectant for surfaces, sinks, tubs, and more. 

Check out these tips on using hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant.

*Don’t forget to always clean the surface you plan to disinfect with soap and water first to remove dirt, grime, and germs. This prepares the surface for disinfecting. The disinfectant is then sprayed on the cleaned surface and left to dwell and dry!

3. Vinegar 

 Vinegar is used as a DIY cleaner and has been shown to have some germ killing ability. The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar has been shown to kill  a variety of food borne germs such as: 16

  • E. Coli
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria monocytogenes

For disinfecting, pair vinegar with hydrogen peroxide to upgrade vinegar’s disinfecting power. For example: For serious jobs, like cutting boards where raw meat is cut, toilets, or cleaning up after someone who is sick,consider a combination of vinegar and peroxide. See below for how to use vinegar and peroxide safely to disinfect surfaces

4. Hydrogen Peroxide + Distilled White Vinegar 

For non-toxic disinfecting , try this combination of distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide (stored in separate bottles) on surfaces. 

Please read the following before using vinegar and peroxide:

Even though they’re non-toxic, vinegar and peroxide can create harmful and irritating fumes when mixed and stored together. Thus, they must be stored and used in separate bottles. 

We like to attach a trigger sprayer directly to our hydrogen peroxide bottles (3% in the brown bottle), then designate a spray bottle for vinegar.

  1. To use, clean and wipe down the surface with Branch Basics All-Purpose
  2. Next, spray the surface liberally with either vinegar or peroxide (the order doesn’t matter). Let it sit for 5-30 minutes. Wipe with a microfiber cloth before spraying the next product.Repeat the same step with the other bottle.

5. Dry Steam Cleaning

Dry vapor steam cleaners use superheated low moisture steam for disinfecting, sanitizing, and cleaning surfaces. It  is an amazing way to mechanically disinfect* your home without harmful chemicals.  We specifically recommend the Ladybug Dry Steam Cleaner as it is unique from other dry steam cleaners and steam cleaners:

  • The Ladybug qualifies as a disinfection device* for the EPA. It disinfects virtually any hard surface (through proprietary TANCS® technology) thousands of times better than the standard that chemical disinfectants must meet to qualify as an EPA registered disinfectant. 
  • Unlike chemical disinfectants that require dwell times where surfaces must remain visibly wet for minutes in order to kill germs, the Ladybug kills a very broad range of bacteria and viruses like MRSA, C. diff, norovirus, C. parvo, and COVID-19 in seven seconds or less while leaving no residue behind that promotes new microbial growth. 
  • It is also proven by scientific studies to eradicate hard-to-kill biofilms in three seconds. Strong chemical disinfectants such as bleach are no match!

* How is mechanical disinfection different from chemical disinfecting? We have known for years that the overuse of chemical sanitizers and disinfectants has created a superbug issue where the germs become resistant both to the cleansers and to antibiotics. Mechanical disinfection with the Ladybug does not create superbugs as there is no chance for a germ to mutate to the point that it can resist the heat!

The Ladybug Dry Steam Cleaner works well with Branch Basics or the other non-toxic cleaners listed.

6. Steam Cleaning

Natural steam cleaners are another way to mechanically disinfect using the power of heat. Steam cleaners will kill many viruses and bacteria, but the steam needs to be between 175 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit with at least three minutes of sustained contact. 

You can find steam mops from various vendors. 

Here are some tips for safe and effective steam cleaning:

  • Always use distilled water in your steam cleaners. Hard water can clog and ruin the steamer.
  • Keep out of reach of children! Steam cleaners are fascinating to most children but can cause severe burns, so use and store them with caution.
  • Read reviews carefully when selecting a steam cleaner. Typically, it’s worth paying a little more for a model that will last longer.

Steam cleaners also work well with Branch Basics or the other non-toxic cleaners listed here.

7. Hot Water + Soap or Branch Basics To Remove Germs

Despite the topic at hand, we are not big fans of sanitizing around here.

That’s because the safest way to take care of everyday germs is to remove them versus killing them.

How can we be so sure?

The Centers for Disease Control and FDA have done testing that shows cleaning with soap, or cleaner removes all germs without leaving behind resistant bacteria.20 21

The problem with over-sanitizing or sanitizing too often, is you’ll always leave a small percentage of germs behind.

Case in point, even Lysol can’t claim to kill 100% of germs.

These left-over germs can then adapt and mutate, creating (you guessed it) stronger superbugs.

So, for everyday cleaning, natural soap or cleaner like Branch Basics, plus some hot water and a microfiber, is all you need to remove (not kill) germs safely and effectively.

For extra germ insurance, you can also use Branch Basics with a natural sanitizer, such as vodka, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar and peroxide.

Learn more in How To Naturally Disinfect Surfaces.

Branch Basics Starter Kit

Branch Basics was created as a natural, non-toxic cleaning system to replace all cleaning products in your home.

Our basic cleaning line consists of just two products:

1: Branch Basics Concentrate: An all-in-one, non-toxic concentrate designed to replace every household cleaner. Just add water to make your own All-Purpose, Bathroom, Foaming Wash, Streak-Free, Laundry Soap, produce wash, floor cleaner, and much more!
2: Oxygen Boost: A mineral-based brightener, stain remover, and bleach alternative. Great for laundry, bathrooms, mold, mildew, stains, and more.
Browse our Premium Starter Kits, available in glass or plastic, to learn more.

Is Branch Basics a Disinfectant? 

No. As discussed previously, Branch Basics is designed to remove germs versus kill them.

This is intentional, as germ removal is generally preferable to sanitizing because it does the job without increasing the spread of superbugs.

However, when sanitizing is appropriate, you can use Branch Basics in combination with the natural sanitizing methods in this article. 

Learn more in: Is Branch Basics A Sanitizer Or Disinfectant? 

Get Started With Branch Basics 

With so many safe and effective natural cleaners and disinfectants available, there’s no reason to continue exposing yourself to the toxic ingredients in Lysol or other cleaners.

For more information on natural sanitizing and disinfecting, including when germ removal versus disinfecting is appropriate, check out: 

Click here to shop Branch Basics Starter Kits for natural cleaning, laundry, and germ removal.

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.