Natural Cleaners vs. Chemical Cleaners: The Scientific Differences

By Marilee Nelson |

Natural Cleaners vs. Chemical Cleaners: The Scientific Differences

This is a time we are collectively called to make wise choices to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing, and fortify our family’s immune systems against contagious disease. In times like these, it is critical to understand the facts that matter most.

If we think disinfectants and sanitizers that contain harmful chemicals are the way to clean our homes, hands, bodies, cars, pets, toys, etc. to avoid catching a virus, we are misled and are missing the most salient point! The use of disinfectants and sanitizers with EPA registered pesticides and other toxic chemicals actually weaken our immune system and lungs…the very allies we need to protect us from pathogens.

This isn’t “news” exactly as these conventional disinfectants have always been poisonous. However, word about the superiority of safe, non-toxic options has been spreading fast. Articles and new research are being published almost daily establishing their efficacy over sanitizers and disinfectants with EPA registered pesticides, not just for our hands but also on surfaces. 

In this article, we present the key differences between natural cleaners vs. chemical cleaners, backed by science, so that you can feel confident in the health of your home and body.

Recent Publications Support the Superiority of Natural Soap-Based Cleaners

On April 20, 2020 CNN released this video featuring Dr. Sanjay Gupta demonstrating how cleaning your countertops with just soap and water is even better than using disinfectants or wipes. Another example comes from a March National Geographic article titled “Why Soap is Preferable to Bleach in the Fight Against Coronavirus”, where experts recommend using milder soaps to sanitize surfaces indoors and outdoors.

Poisonings From Use of Harmful Disinfectants and Cleaners

One of the tips we share in #TossTheToxins and other articles, is that if a cleaner has the words: “Hazardous,” “Warning,” or “Danger,” that product is not safe for human use. Yet (somehow) it is legal for companies to sell these products, without disclosing their ingredients to consumers.


Sadly, reports show that poisonings related to overuse of harmful disinfectants and cleaners have dramatically increased in the United States as people strive to be as germ-free as possible. A Yahoo! article dated April 20, 2020, reports accidental poisonings from cleaners and disinfectants are up this year and coincide with our coronavirus shelter in place status.


An article published in National Post dated April 22, 2020 shares of accidental poisonings of Americans attempting to protect themselves by disinfecting against COVID-19. And an official report from the Centers for Disease Control titled: “Cleaning and Disinfectant Chemical Exposures and Temporal Associations with COVID-19 — National Poison Data System, United States, January 1, 2020–March 31, 2020”, details reports of a woman poisoning herself while disinfecting groceries and a toddler losing consciousness after ingesting an entire bottle of hand sanitizer that was left on the counter.1

This is so unfortunate and unnecessary when there are safer and more effective non-toxic options available.

The Science-Based Case for Non-Toxic, Soap-Based Cleaners

As dedicated parents and business owners, we deeply understand the desire to keep those around you safe at all costs. The fact of the matter is, most of us have been programmed since childhood to believe things like bleach, alcohol, and other harsh-smelling disinfectant cleansers are the way to germ-proof our environments. And when times become uncertain it’s oh-so-tempting to default to doing what we’ve always done because it makes us feel safe.


However, natural soap has been humankind’s most loyal ally against unwanted germs for centuries—long before chemical disinfectants came along. It is now scientifically recognized as one of the most effective defenses against invisible pathogens, like coronavirus, even more so than the most aggressively marketed chemical cleaners.


As reported in The Guardian: “The Science of Soap: Here’s How it Kills Coronavirus ”2 and the New York Times: “Why Soap Works”,3 soap works to dismantle viruses (including COVID-19) by dissolving the lipid membrane that surrounds and protects the virus, after which the virus becomes inactive and harmless. Here’s a direct quote from the New York Times article, featuring Professor Pall Thordarson, acting head of chemistry at the University of New South Wales:


“A drop of ordinary soap diluted in water is sufficient to rupture and kill many types of bacteria and viruses*, including the new coronavirus that is currently circling the globe…pathogens wrapped in lipid membranes include coronaviruses, the viruses that cause hepatitis B and C, herpes, Ebola, Zika, dengue, and numerous bacteria that attack the intestines and respiratory tract.”

Related Reading: 3 Tools You Need to Become Your Own Product Advocate

How Toxic Chemical Cleaners Lower Immunity

Now that you understand why harmful disinfectants are less effective against viruses than soap, let’s look at how they actually lower our immunity making us more vulnerable to disease and contagious illness.


First off, many of the ingredients found in these products, like bleach for example, are lung-irritants which means they degrade the strength and health of your lungs every time you breathe them in (and if you’re doing laundry with bleach you’re breathing that in the entire time you wear your clothes, sleep in your sheets, put on your face mask, etc.). Even “natural” disinfectants like isopropyl alcohol, commonly found in conventional and “natural” hand sanitizer, have been associated with respiratory illness.4 The fumes from these chemicals, found lurking in cabinets, cupboards, bathrooms, etc. seep out of their containers (even if they’re sealed shut) and create an invisible toxic soup which pollutes your indoor air and creates optimal conditions for asthma and other respiratory diseases.


Secondly, disinfectants and sanitizers with EPA registered pesticides act like antibacterial bombs—killing all the bad germs and beneficial germs—on surfaces, yes, but also in the humans who ingest them via inhalation, skin application, etc. This is a big problem because the human microbiome, which makes up a good portion of our immune system5, relies on a diverse mix of beneficial bacteria to protect us from unwanted pathogens.


Plus, since chemical disinfectants are designed to kill germs—instead of remove them completely, like soap6, they leave behind clever bacteria which mutate into resistant bacteria7, which is what has gotten us into this emerging superbug crisis we now find ourselves in. This is why leading health authorities like Harvard University and even the EPA, now warn against using harmful products l”8,9 in favor of natural cleansers.


Finally, the chemicals in these cleaners, personal care products, laundry products, etc. contain ingredients associated with cancers, autoimmune disease, inflammatory disease, impaired development, hormonal imbalances…the list goes on and on, yet the reasons to use them are nearly non-existent.


The CDC does recommend a disinfecting procedure on frequently touched surfaces when someone in the house is ill. Remember to always first pre clean surfaces with Branch Basics or a plain soap preferably applied with a microfiber. Then spray the surface with a safe disinfectant and let dry.

Related Reading: How to Navigate Personal Products: Ingredients to Use & Avoid

Products with a Purpose

Our Branch Basics Concentrate and Oxygen Boost are “Products with a Purpose”! They facilitate the removal of all harmful cleaning and laundry products from the home which simplifies your life immensely. Learn more about how to use Branch Basics as a household cleaning weapon in our recent blog, Is Branch Basics a Sanitizer or Disinfectant?


Our simple, step by step process called #TosstheToxins removes products that pollute the home, category by category. And the first step, the removal of pesticides, cleaning, and laundry products, can immediately and dramatically improve your home’s air quality and reduce immune stress on your family. We just don’t realize how much materials and products with harmful chemicals impact our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing until we completely remove them.

It could be life-changing and possibly even lifesaving! Your kids may get smarter, calmer, more obedient, and more resistant to colds and flu. Hormonal issues may resolve, headaches go, brain fog disappears, depression may lift, allergies and asthma go, and even chronic illnesses may turn around, and on and on…we’ve seen it all before. These chemicals are undermining our health, immune systems, and hijacking the healing process. #TossingTheToxins is a win-win for everyone!

To learn how to create a healthier home and stronger immune system (without chemical sanitizers and disinfectants), visit our #TossTheToxins and Create A Healthy Home pages. To see the power of tossing the toxins first hand, watch Lindsey’s video here.

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.